October 6, 2010

Fanged Fish Among New Species Found In Greater Mekong

Scientists discovered an average of three new biological species each week in the Greater Mekong region of Asia, including such unique life forms as a fish with vampire-like fangs and a 22-foot tall carnivorous plant, international conservation group WWF announced on Wednesday.

According to WWF officials, a total of 145 new species were found in 2009 in the area near the Mekong River, which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China's Yunnan Province. Joining the fanged minnow and the massive meat-eating vegetation as the more intriguing discoveries are the only bald songbird in Asia, a sucker-fish that uses its body to stick to rocks in order to move upstream in quickly-moving waters, and a completely new genus of fangless snakes.

"This rate of discovery is simply staggering in modern times," Stuart Chapman, the Conservation Director of WWF Greater Mekong, said in a statement. "Each year, the new species count keeps going up, and with it, so too does the responsibility to ensure this region's unique biodiversity is conserved"¦ These new species are a timely reminder of the extraordinary biodiversity in the Greater Mekong."

In an interview with AFP, Chapman attributed the rate of discovery "to the enormous geographical and climatic range within the region, going from high altitude to dense tropical forests through to some of the richest freshwater in the world"¦ Undoubtedly this region is one of the richest in terms of its biodiversity, but it's also one of the most threatened."

According to the WWF, the Greater Mekong houses some of the most endangered species of wildlife on Earth, including tigers, the Asian elephant, the Mekong dolphin, and the Mekong giant catfish--one of the largest freshwater fish in the world which the WWF says is threatened by proposed hydropower dams along the river. The conservation group also points to the now-extinct Javan rhino of Vietnam as "one tragic indicator" of the threats facing animal life in the Mekong valley.

"We need to keep one of the treasure troves of the world properly conserved," Chapman told AFP.


Image Caption: Dracula fish (Danionella dracula). Credit: Natural History Musuem London


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