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Tiny deer, gliding frog among 100s of newfound species

Aug. 10, 2009
Courtesy WWF
and World Science staff

O­ver 350 new spe­cies in­clud­ing the world’s small­est deer, a “fly­ing frog” and a 100-million-year-old geck­o have turned up in the East­ern Him­a­la­yas, a bi­o­log­i­cal treas­ure trove threat­ened by cli­mate change, re­search­ers say.

The frog Rha­copho­rus suf­fry, which uses its long webbed feet to glide when fall­ing. (© To­tul Bor­ta­muli/WWF Ne­pal)


The find­ings were an­nounced Aug. 10 by the World Wild­life Fund, an en­vi­ron­men­tal group based in Gland, Switz­er­land, which sup­ported the re­search and is­sued a re­port on the re­sults on its web­site.

One fruit of the decade-long proj­ect: the dis­cov­ery of the bright green frog Rha­co­pho­rus suf­fry, which uses its long, red and webbed feet to glide while fall­ing. 

Al­so found was a 100-million year-old geck­o, the old­est fos­sil geck­o spe­cies known to sci­ence, in an am­ber mine in the Hukawng Val­ley in Him­a­la­yan re­gions of far north­ern Myan­mar, sci­en­tists said.

The re­port al­so notes the min­ia­ture munt­jac, or “leaf deer” Mun­ti­a­cus pu­ta­o­en­sis, as the world’s old­est and small­est deer spe­cies. Sci­en­tists in­i­tially thought the small crea­ture found in the world’s larg­est moun­tain range was a ju­ve­nile of an­oth­er spe­cies. But DNA tests per­suaded re­search­ers that the light brown an­i­mal with in­no­cent dark eyes was a dis­tinct, new spe­cies.

Among the new finds are also 244 plant spe­cies.

The min­ia­ture munt­jac, al­so called the “leaf deer,” Munti­a­cus putaoen­sis, 60 to 80 cm (24 to 32 inches) tall. (© Al­an Ra­bi­now­itz/WWF Ne­pal)


“This enor­mous cul­tur­al and bi­o­log­i­cal di­vers­ity un­der­scores the frag­ile na­ture of an en­vi­ronment which risks be­ing lost for­ev­er un­less the im­pacts of cli­mate change are re­versed,” said Tariq Aziz, lead­er of the fund’s Liv­ing Him­a­la­yas In­i­ti­a­tive. He called the re­gion “a­mong the most vul­ner­a­ble to glob­al cli­mate change.” 

In De­cem­ber world lead­ers plan to gath­er in Co­pen­ha­gen to try to re­solve dif­fer­ences over a new cli­mate deal, which would re­place the ex­ist­ing Kyo­to Pro­to­col.

The East­ern Him­a­la­yas are known to har­bour a stag­ger­ing 10,000 plant spe­cies, 300 mam­mal spe­cies, 977 bird spe­cies, 176 rep­tiles, 105 am­phib­ians and 269 types of fresh­wa­ter fish. The re­gion al­so has the high­est dens­ity of the Ben­gal ti­ger and is the last bas­tion of the char­is­mat­ic great­er one-horned rhi­no.

Fund of­fi­cials said the group aims to con­serve the hab­i­tat of en­dan­gered Him­a­la­yan spe­cies such as the ma­jes­tic snow leop­ard, Ben­gal ti­gers, Asian ele­phants, red pan­das, takins, gold­en lan­gurs, rare Gan­get­ic dol­phins and one-horned rhi­nos.

The tough land­scape of the East­ern Him­a­la­yas has led it to be poorly sur­veyed in terms of bi­o­log­i­cal di­vers­ity, sci­en­tists say. New spe­cies con­tin­ue to be un­earthed.


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Over 350 new species including the world’s smallest deer, a “flying frog” and a 100 million-year old gecko have turned up in the Eastern Himalayas, a biological treasure trove threatened by climate change, researchers say. The findings were announced Monday by the World Wildlife Fund, an environmental group based in Gland, Switzerland, which supported the research and issued a report on the results on its website. One fruit of the decade-long project: the discovery of the bright green frog Rhacophorus suffry, which uses its long, red and webbed feet to glide while falling. Also found was a 100-million year-old gecko, the oldest fossil gecko species known to science, in an amber mine in the Hukawng Valley in Himalayan regions of far northern Myanmar, scientists said. The report also notes the miniature muntjac, or “leaf deer” Muntiacus putaoensis, as the world’s oldest and smallest deer species. Scientists initially thought the small creature found in the world’s largest mountain range was a juvenile of another species but DNA tests indicated the light brown animal with innocent dark eyes was a distinct, new species. The newfound species include 244 plant types. “This enormous cultural and biological diversity underscores the fragile nature of an environment which risks being lost forever unless the impacts of climate change are reversed,” said Tariq Aziz, leader of the fund’s Living Himalayas Initiative. He called the region “among the most vulnerable to global climate change.” In December world leaders plan to gather in Copenhagen to try to resolve differences over a new climate deal, which would replace the existing Kyoto Protocol. The Eastern Himalayas are known to harbour a staggering 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 types of freshwater fish. The region also has the highest density of the Bengal tiger and is the last bastion of the charismatic greater one-horned rhino. Fund officials said the group aims to conserve the habitat of endangered Himalayan species such as the majestic snow leopard, Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, red pandas, takins, golden langurs, rare Gangetic dolphins and one-horned rhinos. The tough landscape of the Eastern Himalayas has made it poorly surveyed in terms of biological diversity, scientists say. Further species continue to be unearthed.