224 New Species Discovered in Asia and Some Are Already Threatened

There's a devilish newt, a stinky plant, and a monkey named for a volcano.

Megophrys frigida
The Mount Ky Quan San horned frog (Megophrys frigida) was discovered in Vietnam.

Benjamin Tapley / WWF

There’s a newt with devil horns and a racing stripe, a plant that can be substituted for a stink bug in cooking, and a monkey named for an extinct volcano

These are just some of the more than 200 new species recently found in the Greater Mekong region, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The report catalogs the work of hundreds of researchers who discovered 155 plants, 35 reptiles, 17 amphibians, 16 fish, and one mammal in the Greater Mekong region, which encompasses Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Many of the species are already threatened with extinction because of habitat loss, deforestation, and the illegal wildlife trade, according to the WWF.

These species were discovered in 2020, but scientists waited to announce their findings until they were officially described as new species. The total number of species described in the Greater Mekong since 1997 is now 3,007.

“WWF’s role was to conduct desktop research and analysis for the report and then verify, review, write and produce the report. This is a significant annual undertaking for us involving several months of work,” K. Yoganand, WWF-Greater Mekong’s regional wildlife lead, tells Treehugger.

“The new species discoveries themselves involve hundreds of researchers conducting strenuous field surveys, painstaking measurements, meticulous lab analysis, worldwide collaboration and rigorous publishing in peer-reviewed journals. This is a massive undertaking for the researchers involving several years of work.”

Some New Species

Popa langur at North Zamari Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar
Popa langur at North Zamari Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar.

WWF – Myanmar

The one mammal discovered is a langur called Trachypithecus popa. This leaf-eating monkey was named after Myanmar’s extinct volcano, Mount Popa. It was first identified as a 100-year-old specimen from the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom.

There were several geckos including the San Phueng rock gecko (Cnemaspis selenolagus) in Thailand which Yoganand describes as having a “half-finished paint job.” It has yellow-orange coloration on its upper body which unexpectedly switches to gray about halfway down its back. The two-tone configuration helps it stay camouflaged against lichen and moss while it's on trees and rocks.

Also in Thailand is an orange-brown knobby newt (Tylototriton phukhaensis) which has distinctive racing stripes and devil-like horns. It was first noted in a 20-year-old photograph in a travel magazine, making researchers curious about whether it still exists.

Amomum foetidum, Stink bug plant
Amomum foetidum, Stink bug plant.

Thawatphong Boonma / WWF

Researchers also discovered a plant from the ginger family (Amomum foetidum) in a plant shop in eastern Thailand. The plant, which has a very strong smell, is sometimes used in place of stink bugs in a popular chili paste.

Diversity and Conservation

Tylototriton phukhaensis, Doi Phu Kha newt
The Doi Phu Kha newt has devil horns and a racing stripe.

Porrawee Pomchote

The discoveries highlight the rich diversity of the region, but as the WWF points out, many species are under “intense threat.”

“Many species go extinct before they are even discovered, driven by habitat destruction, pollution and diseases spread by human activities, predation and competition brought by invasive species, and the devastating impacts of illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade,” says Yoganand. “It is important to document the species diversity before they are lost. These discoveries are likely to inspire and stimulate conservation actions.”

Researchers say that these discoveries highlight the importance of conservation.

Yoganand says, “These new discoveries underline the need for governments, management agencies and the larger public to recognize and respond quickly to the discoveries, take greater responsibility for the protection of their habitats and ensure the persistence of these species.”

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View Article Sources
  1. WWF, "New Species Discovered in the Greater Mekong 2020."

  2. WWF Asia, "New Species Discoveries in the Greater Mekong 2020."

  3. K. Yoganand, WWF-Greater Mekong’s regional wildlife lead