October 26, 2010

WWF Announces New Amazon Discoveries

From 1999 to 2009, an average of one new species of plant or animal was discovered every three days in the Amazon region, according to a report released Tuesday by environmental watchdog WWF.

The report, which was entitled "Amazon Alive: A Decade of Discoveries 1999-2009" and compiled as part of the group's Living Amazon Initiative, "clearly shows the incredible diversity of life in the Amazon," Francisco Ruiz, the head of the project, said in a statement.

As part of the Living Amazon Initiative, the WWF reported the discovery of 637 new plant species, 257 new fish, 216 new amphibians, 55 new reptiles, 16 new birds, and 39 new mammals in the Amazon biome. Among the new species discovered were the first new type of anaconda identified in more than 60 years, a frog with "an incredible burst of flames on its head," a pink river dolphin and a bald parrot.

In addition, according to AFP reporter Karl Malakunas, scientists working on the project also discovered two new types of Elapidae, the most venomous snakes in the world; two dozen new poison dart frogs, including one that was translucent; a 70-pound catfish which reportedly had been found with bits of monkeys in its digestive tract; a second species of catfish that were exceptionally small, blind, and red in color; and a new breed of spider that sported fluorescent blue fangs.

As part of the Living Amazon Initiative, the WWF is working to try to preserve the habitat of these newly discovered plants and animals. According to the organization's statistics, 17 percent of the region's rainforest have been destroyed over the past half-century--due largely to the increase in demand for meat, soy and biofuel, as well as soaring energy demands, rapid economic growth in the area, and the lack of sustainable models of development.

Furthermore, according to Ruiz, "urgent and immediate action" is needed to protect the massive amounts of carbon reserves in the Amazon. Additional forest loss could "accelerate global warming significantly compromising life on Earth as we know it," according to the WWF website.


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