Scientists record 110 new species in Greater Mekong

A close up of a lizard's face.

Imagine a flower that resembles the claw of an arcade toy machine. Now add hairs and a musty odor. It’s Ceropegia Foetidiflora, a plant recently identified in the forested hills of northeastern Thailand.

The plant is just one of the 110 species that were recorded by scientists in 2018 and 2019 throughout Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. A new WWF report details a vibrant diversity of plants and vertebrate animals—the report excludes insects, fungi, and mollusks—which have never been scientifically identified.

Check out five species from the report:

A photo of a plant with a woody stalk and long, waxy leaves.

1) Rohdea Harderi

Identified by researchers exploring northwestern Viet Nam, Rohdea Harderi yields smooth, bright red or orange fruits. It’s even able to fertilize itself! The plant’s habitat is threatened by illegal logging and unsustainable agriculture.

A snake with irregular yellow and purplish-black spots.

2) Calamaria Dominici

Identified on a forest path in the central highlands of Viet Nam, Dominic’s reed snake (Calamaria Dominici) can be recognized by its uneven yellow and purplish-black spots. The snake’s only home continues to be threatened by illegal logging and mining as well as the illegal wildlife trade.

A plant that resembles the claw of an arcade toy machine.

3) Ceropegia Foetidiflora 

Identified in the sandy soil and evergreen forest hills of northeastern Thailand, the plant Ceropegia Foetidiflora emits a musty stench and is covered with hair.

A fish with an irregularly shaped body, including a pelvic fin and a bony flap beneath the eye.

4) Rhyacoschistura Larreci 

Identified in the Mekong River drainage basin in Laos, the freshwater fish Rhyacoschistura Larreci can be recognized by its erratically shaped body. It sports a pelvic fin and a bony flap under its eye. The fish’s air bladder, a gas-filled sac that helps to regulate its depth, is divided into two halves.

A crocodile newt walks on top of pebbles.

5) Tylototriton Ngarsuensis

Identified in western Myanmar, researchers came across the Ywangan crocodile newt (Tylototriton Ngarsuensis) while they were studying frogs. Locals have known about the newt for generations, but it had yet to be scientifically cataloged. The newts’ forest home is under threat from illegal mining and logging, while the illegal wildlife trade poses additional risk.

With the species’ charm comes a solemn reminder of the unprecedented threats that they face. In Southeast Asia and around the world, species are becoming extinct at a startling rate. Dangers include the worsening impacts of the climate crisis, the illegal wildlife trade, and habitat destruction due to logging, mining, and dam building.

Imagine how many more species remain unknown. Take action below to help ensure that they survive.