Phnom Penh, June 5 :
A giant flying squirrel, a skydiving gecko and an eyeless cave-dwelling spider are among the 367 new species that have been discovered in the Greater Mekong region in the past two years, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said Thursday.
The Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China’s southwestern Yunnan province is one of the world’s five biodiversity hotspots, according to the WWF.
One of the 15 species highlighted in its report, ‘Mysterious Mekong’, is a new species of flying squirrel (biswamoyopterus laoensis), discovered on the basis of a single animal collected from a bush meat market in Laos, Xinhua reported citing a WWF statement as saying.
“The discoveries of the species affirm the Greater Mekong as one of the world’s richest and most biodiverse regions,” said Thomas Gray, manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Programme.
“If we’re to prevent these new species from disappearing into extinction, and to keep alive the hope of finding other fascinating creatures in years to come, it’s critical that governments invest in conservation and green growth strategies.”
A new species of parachute gecko (ptychozoon kaengkrachanense), was discovered in the montane evergreen forest in western Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan National Park. The camouflage-patterned gecko extends the flaps of skin on its flanks and between its toes to help it glide down from branch to tree trunk.
Another new species, the Cambodian tailorbird, was described in 2013 by scientists after it was discovered in plain sight, living in dense shrub on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
In Vietnam, a new species discovered is a tiny, almost transparent, fish with a very complex anatomy. Phallostethus cuulong bears its sex organs just behind its mouth. It mates head-to-head, with the male using its “priapium” to hook onto the female.
Also discovered in Vietnam is Helen’s Flying Frog (rhacophorus helenae), which was found in a patch of forest surrounded by agricultural land, highlighting the urgent need for conservation in lowland forests, said Gray.
“Lowland tropical forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world due to human pressures, such as logging and degradation,” he said. “While Helen’s Tree Frog has only just been discovered, this species, like many others, is already under threat in its fast shrinking habitat.”
In a cave in Laos, a scientist discovered a new species of huntsman spider (sinopoda scurion), the first of its kind in the world without any eyes. The regression of the spider’s eyes is attributable to living permanently without daylight.
Since 1997, an incredible 2,077 new species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong region, the WWF said.