Hundreds of new species discovered in the Amazon

  • Written by  Lottie Watters
  • Published in Wildlife
Hundreds of new species discovered in the Amazon WWF
05 Sep
2017
Over a two-year period, a new species of plant or animal was identified every other day

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), research carried out between 2014-2015 has revealed 381 new species of plants and animals discovered in the Amazon. In the third of a series of reports conducted since 1999, researchers have seen a significant total of 2,000 new species discovered. Even so, Sarah Hutchison, WWF’s Head of Programmes for Brazil and the Amazon, said in a statement, ‘We are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unveiling the incredible species that live in the Amazon.’

The species uncovered ranged from plants to fish, reptiles and mammals. They included a new species of pink river dolphin, the aptly-named Fire-Tailed Titi monkey (so called because of its long, orange tail), and a bright yellow ‘blind’ snake that likes to bury itself in soil or under rocks. The majority of the species discovered were 216 new plants, but there were also 93 fish, 32 amphibians, 20 mammals (of which two are fossils), 19 reptiles and one bird – the Chico’s Tyrannulet, discovered after its unknown call attracted attention.

The new species of bird discovered in the Amazon because of its unknown callThe new species of bird discovered in the Amazon because of its unknown call (Image: WWF)

The report estimates there are 1,000 individuals of the newly-found dolphin bringing the number of different subspecies of pink river dolphins known to inhabit the Amazon rivers to four. There are many myths and legends surrounding the dolphins among Amazonian residents, some of which have helped to prevent people killing them, contributing to their stability and longevity. However, in 2011 they were listed by the IUCN as being a ‘threatened species’ and are under increasing danger from the expanding mining industry in the region which contaminates its rivers with mercury, as well as from the construction of hydroelectric dams.

New subspecies of Pink River Dolphins discovered. It is believed there are a thousand of these individualsNew subspecies of Pink River Dolphins discovered. It is believed there are a thousand of these individuals (Image: WWF)

Despite the exciting new discoveries, researchers warn that the species were all found in areas under threat from human activity and it is feared that many more species will become extinct before they are even discovered. Brazilian President, Michel Temer, recently granted permission for gold and other commercial mining to begin in the Renca National Reserve, a vast protected area the size of Switzerland to the north of the country, abolishing its protected status in the process. Though a court has since suspended the government's decision, the Attorney General’s Office has said it will appeal the decision and the government seems determined to go ahead.

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