New Mekong region animal discoveries


This video is called New Species Thrive in Mekong.

From Wildlife Extra:

126 new species identified in Mekong region in 2011 – Including Beelzebub bat

Extraordinary new species discoveries in the Greater Mekong
December 2012. A new bat named after its devilish appearance, a subterranean blind fish, a ruby-eyed pit viper, and a frog that sings like a bird are among the 126 species newly identified by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2011, and described in a new WWF report, Extra Terrestrial.

Bats

Among the ten species highlighted in the report is the aptly named Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, a diminutive but demonic-looking creature known only from Vietnam. Beelzebub’s bat, like two other tube-nosed bats discovered in 2011, depends on tropical forest for its survival and is especially vulnerable to deforestation. In just four decades, 30 per cent of the Greater Mekong’s forests have disappeared.

“While the 2011 discoveries affirm the Mekong as a region of astonishing biodiversity, many new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats,” said Nick Cox, Manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Programme. “Only by investing in nature conservation, especially protected areas, and developing greener economies, will we see these new species protected and keep alive the hope of finding other intriguing species in years to come.”

Walking fish

A new ‘walking’ catfish species (Clarias gracilentus), discovered in freshwater streams on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, can move across land using its pectoral fins to stay upright while it wiggles forward with snake-like movements. And a dazzling miniature fish (Boraras naevus), just 2cm in length, was found in southern Thailand and named after the large dark blotch on its golden body (naevus is Latin for blemish).

A pearly, rose-tinted fish from the carp family was found in the Xe Bangfai catchment, a Mekong River tributary in Central Laos that runs 7km underground through limestone karst. The cave-dwelling Bangana musaei is totally blind and was immediately assessed as vulnerable due to its restricted range.

The Mekong River supports around 850 fish species and the world’s most intensive inland fishery. Laos’ determination to construct the Xayaburi dam on the mainstream of the Mekong River is a significant threat to the Mekong’s extraordinary biodiversity and the productivity of this lifeline through Southeast Asia that supports the livelihoods of over 60 million people.

“The Mekong River supports levels of aquatic biodiversity second only to the Amazon River,” added Cox. “The Xayaburi dam would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signalling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered.”

Frogs

A new species of tree frog discovered in the high-altitude forests of northern Vietnam has a complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. While most male frogs attract females with repetitive croaks, Quang’s tree frog spins a new tune each time. No two calls are the same, and each individual mixes clicks, whistles and chirps in a unique order.

When it comes to frogs in the genus Leptobrachium, the eyes have it. Among its more than 20 species, there is a remarkable variety of eye colouration. Leptobrachium leucops, discovered in 2011 in the wet evergreen and cloud forest in Southern Vietnam, is distinguished by its striking black and white eyes.

21 reptiles

A staggering array of 21 reptiles was also newly discovered in 2011, including the ruby-eyed green pit viper (Trimeresurus rubeus) in forests near Ho Chi Minh City. This new jewel of the jungle also winds its way along the low hills of southern Vietnam and through eastern Cambodia’s Lang Bian Plateau.

Pygmy python

A short-tailed python species was found in a streambed in the Kyaiktiyo Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar. The elusive pygmy python (Python kyaiktiyo) has not been found again despite repeated surveys, so little is known of its ecology, distribution or threats. However, the 1.5 metre-long python is likely at risk from threats faced by other pythons, including habitat loss, and illegal hunting for meat, skins, and the exotic pet trade.

Poaching

“Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of many species across Southeast Asia,” added Cox. “To tackle this threat, WWF and TRAFFIC launched a global campaign this year to increase law enforcement, impose strict deterrents and reduce demand for endangered species products.”

1,710 new species since 1997!

Extra Terrestrial spotlights 10 species newly identified by science, among the 82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 5 mammals all discovered in 2011 within the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan. Since 1997, an incredible 1,710 new species were newly described by science in the Greater Mekong.

Big harvestman discovery in Laos


This video is about wildlife in Laos.

From ScienceDaily:

Giant Harvestman Yet to Be Named: Arachnologist Discovers Another Giant of the Animal World in Laos

(Oct. 16, 2012) — A scientist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt has discovered a harvestman with a leg span of more than 33 centimetres. The creature found during a research trip to Laos is one of the largest representatives of the entire order worldwide. Experts have so far failed to properly identify it to species level.

The reason Dr. Peter Jäger from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt (Germany) originally flew to Laos in April was to film a major TV production. “In between takes I collected spiders from the caves in the southern province of Khammouan,” the Frankfurt arachnologist explains. In doing so, he made a sensational discovery. “In one of the caves I discovered a harvestman that was absolutely huge.” The leg span of the gigantic male harvestman was more than 33 centimetres and therefore one of the world’s largest. The current record is just over 34 centimetres leg span for a species from South America.

Initially the discovery lay hidden among other organisms and was only recognised as unique when sorted and labelled. “In attempting to categorise the creature properly, however, and give it a scientific name, I soon reached my limits,” says Jäger. The Frankfurt scientist deals mainly with huntsman spiders — harvestmen are not his particular field. Even the specialist he consulted, Ana Lucia Tourinho from the National Institute for Research of the Amazon (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil, who is currently a visiting academic at the Senckenberg Arachnology lab, could only conclude that it is probably the genus Gagrella in the Sclerosomatidae family.

“It’s a shame we can’t identify such an exceptional discovery correctly, i.e. its species,” says Jäger, “we haven’t dealt with these and related genera from China and neighbouring South East Asia before. Specialists are also unavailable due to the fact that descriptive taxonomy is no longer the main focus of research funding”.

As such, the harvestmen of the Sclerosomatidae family have invaluable potential. Specimens can be found in virtually every habitat and they constitute an ecologically very important predator group in the natural food chain.

They could serve as an indicator of the ecological state of the natural and cultural scenery. These long-legged creatures are also of interest to behavioural scientists and evolutionary biologists. For example, during courtship the male presents a nuptial gift to the female, which is intended to demonstrate his fitness. Only when the female accepts it do they mate.

The Senckenberg arachnologist would now like to investigate the Sclerosomatidae family in a detailed case study using conventional and molecular methods along with his Brazilian colleague and in collaboration with other scientists in Germany, China and Japan. The findings should then be applicable to other groups and regions. “We want to avoid a situation in future where we again lack the experts to classify such unique creatures,” says Jäger.

Meanwhile, Laos has turned out to be a veritable land of giants. Other arthropods with similar huge dimensions have been found in the same region — the Laotian huntsman spider Heteropoda maxima with a leg span of up to 30 centimetres, the whip scorpion Typopeltis magnificus with a span of 26 centimetres and the predatory centipede Thereuopoda longicornis with a total span of almost 40 centimetres.

All these organisms are more or less closely linked to caves in these karst areas. “What mechanisms or factors are responsible for this frequency of gigantism is still unclear,” says Jäger. One possible explanation is the potentially slower rate of growth in the caves. But the only thing that seems certain is that there is a limit to growth — either due to the lack of oxygen supply to the long appendages or because when fleeing or catching prey long legs can no longer be moved quickly enough.

Whatever the case, Laos offers enough potential to discover great things!

South African huntsman spider: here.

New Asian snake species discovery


Oligodon nagao

From Wildlife Extra:

A new species of snake found in northern Vietnam, southern China and central Laos

Nagao Kukri snake

October 2012. A new species of snake, Oligodon nagao or the Nagao Kukri Snake, has been discovered in in South East Asia. With about 75 currently recognized species the genus, Oligodon remains one of the largest genera of Asiatic snakes. It is widespread throughout tropical Asia but is especially speciose in the large area known as the Indochinese Peninsula.

Laos, Vietnam & China

Three specimens recently collected in Lang Son and Cao Bang provinces, extreme northern Vietnam, one specimen found in Khammouane Province, central Laos, and the fifth one from extreme southwest Guangxi Autonomous Region, southern China, proved to be morphologically distinct from all other species known from this region. Especially noteworthy is the fact that all these specimens were collected in karst hills. Oligodon nagao is currently known from a small area straddling over Vietnam and China, and from central Laos.

Karst scenery

This species has been found only in karst environment. The Vietnamese and Chinese specimens were all collected at night in karst forests. The specimen from Cao Bang was found at night near the limestone cliff surrounded by secondary forest made of short hardwood, shrubs and vines. No water was observed in the vicinity. The Laotian specimen was collected in a large cave of a karst massif located in the corridor connecting Phou Hin Boun National Park to Nakai Nam Theu National Park. The Oligodon specimen did not attempt to bite when it was collected but it showed the usual behaviour of many species of the genus Oligodon when they feel threatened, i.e. showing the bright colour of the ventral side of its tail curled in a spiral.

The paper was published in Zootaxa.