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At least 441 new species of animals and plants have been discovered over the past four years in the vast, underexplored rainforest of the Amazon. The discoveries from 2010 to 2013, include a flame-patterned lizard, a vegetarian piranha, a thumbnail-sized frogand a monkey that purrs like a cat.
Discovered by a diverse number of dedicated scientists and compiled for the first time by WWF, the new species add up to at an astounding 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 18 birds and 1 mammal. This doesn’t even include the countless discoveries of insects and other invertebrates.
“The more scientists look, the more they find” said Damian Fleming, Head of Programmes for Brazil and the Amazon at WWF-UK. “With an average of two new species identified every week for the past four years, it’s clear that the extraordinary Amazon remains one of the most important centres of global biodiversity.”
All new to science, the recently discovered plants and animals have something else in common too. With very restricted ranges, many of the new discoveries are thought to be endemic to small parts of the Amazon rainforest – and found nowhere else in the world. This makes them even more vulnerable to the threat of deforestation that’s currently destroying three football pitches of rainforest every minute across the Amazon.
“The richness of the Amazon’s forests and freshwater habitats continues to amaze the world,” added Fleming. “But these same habitats are also under growing threat. The discovery of these new species reaffirms the importance of stepping-up commitments to conserve and sustainably manage the unique biodiversity and also the goods and services provided by the rainforests to the people and businesses of the region.”
Some of the most remarkable species discovered:
• “New monkey is purrrfect” – the Caqueta titi monkey or Callicebus caquetensis, is one of about 20 species of titi monkey, which all live in the Amazon basin. And the babies have an endearing trait. “When they feel very content they purr towards each other,” explained scientist Thomas Defler, who helped discover the species.
• “Warpaint lizard too shy for battle” – Gonatodes timidus was discovered in the part of the Amazon that extends into Guyana. Despite the extraordinary “warpaint” colouring, this lizard is very shy and has a tendency to avoid being seen by humans - (top two lizards are male, the third is female).
• “Thimble frog” – despite only just being discovered, this thumbnail-sized frog is already thought to be highly endangered. In fact, its Latin name (Allobates amissibilis) means “that may be lost” because it thrives in an area that could soon be opened to tourism.
• “Veggie piranha losing main food source” – strictly herbivorous, the Tometes camunani inhabit rocky rapids where their main source of food is found – namely, Podostemaceae aquatic herbs (river weed family). Sadly, damming projects and mining activity is threatening the health and flow of their river habitat.
• “minimal oxygen for this fish” – scientists observed that this new fish species (Apistogramma cinilabra), is adapted to extremely low oxygen levels. Found nowhere else in the world, it is thought to be unique to one small lake in the Loreto region of Peru.
Through our Living Amazon Initiative, WWF is working towards a comprehensive approach with governments, civil society, and the private sector to promote the transformational process needed to bring about an alternative scenario to better preserve the Amazon’s biodiversity.
As part of Sky Rainforest Rescue, we’re helping to save one billion trees in the Brazilian state of Acre, a region that’s threatened by a new road. Working together with local people and the state government, we’re finding alternatives to deforestation that can make the trees worth more standing than cut down. To date, over 5,000 people have committed to keeping the rainforest standing on their land.
How the public can help: As part of I Love Amazon Week (21-27 October), we’re asking people to do their bit to help keep rainforests standing by pledging to be forest-friendly. Pledge today and we’ll send you all the tips you need to make the positive choices that can have a big impact on the rainforest.