Dragon Millipede, Giant Huntsman Spider discovered in Mekong Delta (photos and videos)Breaking News, Sci/Tech, Video — By Mary Joah on December 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm
Over 1,000 new species of animals have been discovered in the Greater Mekong area of Asia from 1997 to 2007. Those species include some interesting specimens, such as the pink dragon millipede, the giant huntsman spider, the Gumbrechts green pit viper, and the Laotian rock rat.
A rat thought to have become extinct 11 million years ago and a cyanide-laced, shocking pink millipede were among creatures found in what the group called a “biological treasure trove”.
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The species were all found in the rainforests and wetlands along the Mekong River, which flows through Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.
This bright green snake was among the 22 snake species discovered. The Gumbrechts green pit viper (Trimeresurus gumprechti) could be a deadly one for prey to encounter. Pitvipers strike very quickly and have sensors (pits) that let them know when warm-blooded creatures are nearby.
The dragon millipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea) has been found on rocks in the Greater Mekong area. It was first described in 2007 by scientists in Thailand. Researchers suggest the bright colouring acts as a warning to would-be predators, as the millipede has glands that produce cyanide as a defence mechanism.
The new species, documented between 1997 and 2007, include least 88 new species of spiders. One of the most significant finds was the Heteropoda maxima, a spider with a leg span of up to 30 cm, considered one of the largest huntsman spiders in the world.
Not all species were found hiding in remote jungles — the Laotian rock rat was first encountered by scientists in a local food market in 2005, it said. Remarkably, researchers say this species is the sole survivor of an ancient group of rodents understood to have died out 11 million years ago.
The new species highlighted in the report include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad — an average of two previously undiscovered species a week for the past 10 years.
The report warned, however, that many of the species could be at risk from development, and called for a cross-border agreement between the countries in the Greater Mekong area to protect it.