Thursday, December 18, 2008

How little we know this big, old world

After years of surveying a huge area of pristine rain forest in Asia, scientists reported on their discoveries of over a thousand new species of animals, including one they believed extinct.

From The Telegraph:
The Greater Mekong, which is made up of 600,000 square kilometers of wetlands and rainforest along the Mekong River in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and China, is also home to striped rabbits, bright pink millipedes laced with cyanide and a rat that was believed to have become extinct 11 million years ago.

A host of new species has been found in the area, which is so full of life that previously unknown animals and plants have been turning up at a rate of two a week for a decade.

At least 1,068 new species were identified in the Greater Mekong from 1997 to 2007 along with several thousand tiny invertebrates, the Times reports.
Among the most bizarre to be discovered was a hot-pink, spiny dragon millipede, Desmoxytes purpurosea..

The millipedes have glands that produce cyanide to protect them from predators.

Scientists believe that the shocking-pink colouration is a warning that they would make a fatal snack. "They would do well to heed this warning," concluded a WWF report on the Greater Mekong discoveries.

A huntsman spider, named Heteropoda maxima, measured 30cm across and was found in caves in Laos. It was described as the "most remarkable" of 88 new species of spider located in Laos, Thailand and the Yunnan province of China.
This is truly amazing, and worrisome, if you think of all the rain forest we destroy daily in South America and other areas of the world. Besides their fundamental right to live their lives, countless of these creatures and organisms could deliver cures for our worst diseases, but we might never know it.

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