Not every newly-discovered species becomes a cartoon character. But the Vietnamese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis) has achieved such fame as "Shini," a lizard who teaches the importance of protecting his species to local schoolchildren.
The lizard is just one of 115 species—including a snail-eating turtle and a horseshoe bat—discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2016. That's an average of more than two new species found each week. A new WWF Report, Stranger Species, documents the work of hundreds of scientists around the world who have discovered previously unknown amphibians, fish, reptiles, plants and mammals in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
A rainbow-headed snake resembling David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust character, a dragon-like lizard and a newt that looks like a Klingon from the movie Star Trek are three of the 163 new species discovered recently in the Greater Mekong region, according to a report released today by World Wildlife Fund (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.
The discoveries also include a rare banana species from Thailand, a tiny frog from Cambodia and a gecko with pale blue spotted skin and piercing dark eyes that was found hiding among the remote mountains of Laos. This brings the total new species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians discovered in the region to 2,409 since WWF began compiling new species reports in 1997.
"The Greater Mekong region is a magnet for the world's conservation scientists because of the incredible diversity of species that continue to be discovered here," said Jimmy Borah, Wildlife Programme manager for WWF-Greater Mekong. "These scientists, the unsung heroes of conservation, know they are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected."
Here's are six of the 163 new species:
1. Orange-Eyed Litter Frog, Leptolalax isos, Cambodia & Vietnam
© Jodi Rowley / Australian Museum
A new species of frog which is less than 3 cm long, lives in forest from ~650–1100 m elevation and breeds in small rocky streams of northeastern Cambodia and adjacent Vietnam. Its distinctive markings, toe webbing and call set this frog apart from the thousands of species that call Southeast Asia home.