A Record Surge in New Species Discovery in the Amazon

A new report finds that scientists described 381 new species of wildlife from the Amazon in peer-reviewed scientific journals between January of 2014 and December of 2015. Some, however, are already on the brink of extinction.
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A new report finds that scientists described 381 new species of wildlife from the Amazon in peer-reviewed scientific journals between January of 2014 and December of 2015. Some, however, are already on the brink of extinction.
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A new species of wild animal or plant is reported from the Amazon once every two days, concludes a new report by the World Wildlife Fund and Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development, an environmental group based in Mamirauá, Brazil.

The report found that, between January of 2014 and December of 2015, scientists described 381 new species of wildlife from the Amazon in peer-reviewed scientific journals. These include 216 new species of plants, 93 fish, 32 amphibians, 20 mammals (two of which are fossils), 19 reptiles, and one bird.

With a new species being described almost every two days, this is the highest rate of discovery yet, the WWF said in a statement. The WWF's previous report, which had looked at species discoveries between 2010 and 2013, had found that about 441 new species were described from the Amazon in the four-year period, which is about one new species every 3.3 days.

"We're in 2017, verifying the existence of new species and even though resources are scarce, we are seeing an immense variety and richness of biodiversity. This is a signal that we still have much to learn about the Amazon," Ricardo Mello, coordinator of the WWF-Brazil Amazon program, said in a statement.

Many of the newly described species are already on the brink of extinction, the report says.

The habitat of the fire-tailed titi monkey in southern Brazil's Mato Grosso, for example, is threatened by rapid deforestation. The reddish-orange tailed monkey, also called Milton's titi monkey, was formally described in 2015. The Araguaian river dolphin or Araguaian boto, first suspected to be a new species in 2014, is also under threat from hydroelectric dams, and industrial, agricultural, and cattle ranching activities, the report notes.

"The discovery of 381 new species is a wake-up call for the governments of Amazon countries that they must halt the ongoing and relentless deforestation and work to preserve its unparalleled biodiversity," said Sarah Hutchison, the WWF head of programs for Brazil and the Amazon. "If they don't, there will continue to be irreversible impacts on the Amazon's much loved wildlife, undiscovered species, and the indigenous people that call it home."

"We are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unveiling the incredible species that live in the Amazon, yet instead of this precious area being safeguarded, it is under greater threat than ever before," Hutchinson added. "There is a real risk that, at the rate at which the Amazon is changing, many species may become extinct before we have had a chance to find them."

This story originally appeared at the website of global conservation news service Mongabay.com. Get updates on their stories delivered to your inbox, or follow @Mongabay on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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