Rainbow-headed snake, dragon-like lizard among 163 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong

A rainbow-headed snake resembling David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, a dragon-like lizard and a newt that looks like Klingon from Star Trek are among the 163 new species recently discovered by scientists in the Greater Mekong Region, according to a report released by WWF.

The report, Species Oddity, documents the work of hundreds of scientists who discovered nine amphibians, 11 fish, 14 reptiles, 126 plants and three mammals in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. These discoveries bring the total new species of plants, bird mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians discovered in the Greater Mekong Region to 2,409 since WWF began compiling new species reports in 1997. “These scientists, the unsung heroes of conservation, know they are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected,” said Jimmy Borah, Wildlife Program Manager for WWF-Greater Mekong.

The Greater Mekong is also home to some of the planet’s most endangered wild species, including the tiger, saola, Asian elephant, Mekong dolphin and Mekong giant catfish. The region is under intense development pressure that threatens the survival of the natural landscapes that make it so unique. Poaching puts additional pressure on the region’s wildlife, meaning many species could be lost before they are even discovered.

Take a look at some of these newly discovered creatures:
PHUKET HORNED TREE AGAMID
The Phuket Horned Tree Agamid, Acanthosaura phuketensis, has a fearsome set of horns on its head and spine and was found among the few remaining forest patches on the popular Thai tourist island of Phuket. It is threatened by rapid habitat loss and collection for the pet trade.

RAINBOW-HEADED SNAKE
A rainbow-headed snake, Parafimbrios lao, that has been likened to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character was found among steep karst cliffs in Northern Laos and while originally thought to exist in only one location, it has since been seen in a second one, increasing its chances of survival.

NORTHERN THAILAND BANANA
A rare banana species discovered in Northern Thailand, Musa nanensis, is already considered critically endangered due to increasing deforestation and the fact that only a handful of individual plants have been seen. However, the recent discovery of another small population has given researchers hope for the species.
MINUSCULE FROG
A new frog species from Cambodia and Vietnam, Leptolalax isos, has a name that is about as long as its body. At 3 cm, this diminutive amphibian is threatened by some major forces – logging, agricultural expansion and hydroelectric projects.
STAR TREK NEWT
A newt discovered in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province, Tylototriton anguliceps, has stunning red and black markings that resemble a Klingon from the movie Star Trek. Its porous skin makes it especially sensitive to pesticides, the main threat alongside deforestation of its habitat.

CAVE-DWELLING GECKO
A gecko discovered in the remote karst mountains of Laos by a team of scientists who often had to rely on water dripping off stalactites in caves. Gekko bonkowskii is believed to be the discovery that may hold the key to understanding lizard evolution in the Annamite Mountain Range.

MOUSE-EARED IMPATIENS
A plant from the Chin Hills of North-western Myanmar that has two petal coverings (sepals) resembling mouse ears. Discovered on Mount Victoria, Impatiens kingdon-wardii is a reminder that Myanmar’s rich biodiversity needs protection as the country rapidly opens up to development.

WOOLLY BAT
A bat, Murina kontumensis, found in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with thick and woolly fur on its head and forearms.