WASHINGTON - Scientists have discovered over 350 new species including the world’s smallest deer, a “flying frog” and a 100 million-year old gecko in the Eastern Himalayas.
The new species include 244 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, 2 birds, 2 mammals and at least 60 new invertebrates.
A decade of research carried out by scientists in remote mountain areas endangered by rising global temperatures brought exciting discoveries such as a bright green frog that uses its red and long webbed feet to glide in the air.
One of the most significant findings was not exactly “new” in the classic sense.
A 100-million year-old gecko, the oldest fossil gecko species known to science, was discovered in an amber mine in the Hukawng Valley in the northern Myanmar.
The report mentions the miniature muntjac, also called the “leaf deer,” which is the world’s oldest and smallest deer species.
Scientists initially believed the small creature found in the world’s largest mountain range was a juvenile of another species, but DNA tests confirmed the light brown animal with innocent dark eyes was a distinct and new species.
The Eastern Himalayas harbor a staggering 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 types of freshwater fish.
The region also has the highest density of Bengal tigers in the world and is the last bastion of the charismatic greater one-horned rhino.
“The good news of this explosion in species discoveries is tempered by the increasing threats to the Himalayas’ cultural and biological diversity,” said Jon Miceler, Director of WWF’s Eastern Himalayas Program.
“This rugged and remarkable landscape is already seeing direct, measurable impacts from climate change and risks being lost forever,” he added.
Historically, the rugged and largely inaccessible landscape of the Eastern Himalayas has made biological surveys in the region extremely difficult.
As a result, wildlife has remained poorly surveyed and there are large areas that are still biologically unexplored.
Today further species continue to be unearthed and many more species of amphibians, reptiles and fish are currently in the process of being officially named by scientists. (ANI)