Amazon Rainforest Teeming With Undiscovered Life

Photo: WWF

The Amazon rainforest, one of the largest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet, has been a virtual treasure-trove for ambitious biologists aiming to uncover new species. In the last ten years alone, scientists have identified 1,200 remarkable organisms which were previously unknown -- at the rate of three new discoveries being made every day. But for all the species recorded recently, and the untold diversity that has yet to be discovered, immediate action to preserve the Amazon is as important as ever. According to a report presented earlier today by the WWF at a conference on biological diversity held in Nagoya Japan, in the decade between 1999 and 2009 the Amazon rainforest yielded an abundance of new species. All told, the discoveries included 637 new species of plants, 257 fishes, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 16 birds and 39 mammals -- the lion's share being found in the rainforests of Brazil.

"Brazil is the country with the largest number of species discovered in that decade," WWF-Brazil's Claudio Maretti told Globo Amazonia. She also noted that six of the new mammals were primates. "We must continue to protect the Amazon and conserve the great treasure of this country."

Among the new organisms newly identified by biologists over the last decade was the first new anaconda identified in over 70 years, a previously unknown species of pink dolphin, and a colorful new bald parrot. Hundreds of new insect species were discovered as well -- "almost too numerous to count," says the WWF.

But for as much as wildlife lovers rejoice in the unveiling of fascinating and exotic new species, for the biologists who work in this part of the world, such discoveries are a race against time. Over the course of the last 50 years, no less than 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed. Only recently have strong environmental regulations managed to reduce the rate at which the forest was being lost, offering a reprieve to the myriad of organisms that call this region 'home' -- at least for now.

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Tags: Amazonia | Animals | Biodiversity | Brazil