Celebrating the Discovery of 224 New Species

These newly-found plants and animals are unique and important.

Celebrating the Discovery of 224 New Species | These newly-found plants and animals are unique and important.

Chances are that you have never heard of cardamom leaf-litter frogs, bent-toed geckos, or ghostly monkeys. Until now. 

The exciting news in the wildlife kingdom is the discovery of 224 new species in the Mekong area,  Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar, which was announced in The World Wildlife Fund’s latest report

This report is proof that there still exists a frontline for scientific exploration in the natural world. The discoveries include one mammal, 35 reptiles, 17 amphibians, 16 fish, and 155 plants. And some of these species are so new, they require a whole new genus!

Using creativity helps uncover species
Researchers worked hard to identify the new species using some rather creative methods. To find the Popa langur, a ghostly, white-faced monkey, they genetically matched bones with 100-year-old samples from Britain’s Natural History Museum, according to CBS News. This monkey was originally spotted in 2018 using a camera trap, and now that it has finally been located, biologists estimate there are only 200 to 250 such wild monkeys alive.

As for the cardamom leaf-litter frog that hides under leaves way up in the mountains, scientists used recorded frog calls to lure it out. On the other hand, the distinctive “waaaah” sound of the crescent moon spadefoot frog, made it easy to find this big-headed amphibian with orange irises. 

And one of the plants, a ginger called “stink bug,” was actually found at a plant shop in Thailand. It is popularly used to make a chili paste, but has never been scientifically recorded.

These new discoveries inspire a renewed awareness
In a world where most of the terrain has been carefully combed by scientists, these discoveries are exciting. However many of these new species are already on the endangered list, according to Reuters. This is because of a threat to their habitat by deforestation, mining, and disease brought by humans. In addition, the illegal wildlife trade is threatening their very existence.

“These species are extraordinary, beautiful products of millions of years of evolution, but are under intense threat, with many species going extinct even before they are described,” K. Yoganand, WWF-Greater Mekong's regional lead for wildlife and wildlife crime, told Reuters.

Yet, the publication of this report offers the world a renewed awareness of the environment. It is a wake-up call to protect these species and their habitats. When people understand how precious they are, they may change their attitudes and behavior towards nature. 

“If we learn to use natural resources more carefully and sustainably, then this current crisis may help us make critical progress in conserving wildlife and wild places,” Dr. Thomas Ziegler, Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Zoology from the University of Cologne, wrote in the report. 

Be it a devil-horned newt, drought-resistant bamboo, or slug snake, every species, including humans, form intrinsic parts of nature. Understanding and learning their complexities and contributions to delicate ecosystems may bring us closer to respecting and protecting the other.

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