Bat resembling Lance Bass among new species discovered in the Greater Mekong

Scientists also found a skywalker gibbon and toad from Middle-earth in the region

Greater Mekong WW140150

A new report describes 157 new species found in the Greater Mekong—a region spanning Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The newly discovered species may look more familiar than you would expect. 

A bat that could be a member of *NSYNC, a gibbon named after Luke Skywalker, and a toad from Middle Earth are among the species found by scientists. Take a look at a few of these new and endearing species. 

Lance Bass Bat
Scientists discovered a bat whose hair resembles the frosted tips of *NSYNC’s Lance Bass. The bat is likely a very rare species and was quickly identified as a new species because of its long, golden hairs.

Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon

The Toad from Middle Earth

The First Gibbon Jedi Master, Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon
The Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon was originally discovered in 2007. It took ten years to confirm it was a new species. Rightfully dubbed the ‘skywalker’ because of the animal’s ability to move through the forest canopy. The Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon is listed as one of the top 25 most endangered primates on the planet.

The Toad from Middle Earth
Asian mountain toads are masters of camouflage. Scientists must listen for the birdlike call males make when they are in the forest. Because these amphibians have small ‘horns’ on their eyelids and an 'elfin-like' habitat, scientists likened it to the elves of Middle Earth.

Pancake catfish

Leaf-toed Gecko

Pancake catfish
Scientists discovered this elusive species in fast-flowing cold water in a high remote location in the mountains of Myanmar. Not much is known about the pancake catfish and scientists believe it may be highly susceptible to environmental change in the future.

Leaf-toed Gecko
The leaf-toed gecko has two prominent ‘racing stripes’ the full length of its body, from snout to tail. These limestone dwelling geckos have an incredibly unique coloring that has not been characterized in other geckos.

“There are many more species out there waiting to be discovered and tragically, many more that will be lost before that happens. Ensuring that large reserves are designated for wildlife, along with increased efforts to close illegal wildlife trade markets, will go a long way to conserving the extraordinary wildlife diversity in the Mekong region,” says Stuart Chapman, WWF’s Asia-Pacific regional director for conservation impact. 

According to WWF’s recent Living Planet Report, there has been a 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years. This decline is likely worse in the Greater Mekong region due to destruction of wild habitats and poaching. World Wildlife Fund is working to stop wildlife trade, assess the impact of dams and hydropower, and taking steps to protect the Greater Mekong Region.