Newly Spotted in the Himalayas: A Sneezing Monkey, a Blue-Eyed Frog and a Walking Snakehead Fish
More than 200 new species of animals and plants have been discovered in the eastern Himalayas since 2009, according to a report published by the World Wildlife Fund earlier this week that indicates the age of zoological and botanical discovery is far from over.
On average, between 2009 and 2014, new species have been discovered at a rate of 34 a year.
The finds include more than a 100 species of plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, a reptile, a bird and a mammal.
The eastern Himalayas span Bhutan, northern Myanmar, Nepal, southern Tibet, and Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim, states in India’s northeast. Asia’s largest carnivore, the Bengal tiger, and the one-horned rhino, which have both been brought back from the brink of extinction in the past few years, as well as the endangered snow leopard, all find a home in this vast region.
Although the difficult terrain makes expeditions tricky, scientists say large swaths of unexplored habitats are an Aladdin’s cave for finding new species.
As recently as July 2014, for instance, scientists explored further into the habitats of the Bhutan-Manas landscape, that spans over a 1000 square miles to include national parks in India and Bhutan, and found 55 species, including 20 amphibians and 35 reptiles, which had never been formally recorded.
While these species have missed scientific recognition, their existence may already be threatened. According to Conservation International, a U.S.-based environmental nonprofit, only 25% of original habitats in the region – one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world – remain intact.
The only new mammal discovered is perhaps the most interesting, or cute, of all the new finds. The “sneezing monkey” was discovered in Myanmar in early 2010 after hunters in the Himalayan mountains informed scientists of a sighting of a “snubby,” a black and white snub-nosed monkey.
The animal’s sneeze, caused by water entering the monkey’s snub-nose, makes them easy to spot during the monsoon. This “evolutionary inconvenience,” as the report describes it, means the monkeys prefer to sit with their heads tucked between their knees when it’s raining, the report said.
Below are some of the first photographs of the sneezing monkey, whose existence is already endangered because of habitat loss and hunting practices.
In 2013, a new species of snakehead, a type of freshwater fish, was discovered, different in color and number of vertebrae, from other species of snakeheads. The newly discovered fish is a dwarf snakehead, one which prefers to swim in the clear water of shallow streams, pools and swamps. Some of its traits make it more like a snake than a fish. For instance, it can it survive on land for up to four days breathing atmospheric air. It has been dubbed the “vibrant blue dwarf walking snakehead fish” because it can manage to wriggle on wet land for almost a quarter of a mile.
In Nepal, a new species of millipede was discovered in 2014. The 19 body segments of the koponenius unicornis, are unique among the millipede species. The Latin name unicornis translates to “single horn” and describes a protrusion found underneath the species, as seen in the photo below.
In total, 39 new species of invertebrates – from flies to wasps, beetles and moths and seven new species of mosquitoes were discovered by a single Finnish taxonomist in 2013.
A new species of the spotted wren-babbler, a bird measuring 10 centimeters from its head to its short tail was found last year. It is the only new bird to have been discovered in the past six years. Its has been found throughout the subcontinent- in India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh — and China.
Professor Per Alstrom, who led the team of scientists that discovered the species, said that the bird is “extremely secretive,” by nature.
It typically sits quietly under dense foliage but during breeding season, the males come out to sing a distinctive high-pitched song, which doesn’t resemble any other Asian bird song, Mr. Alstrom said.
Take a look at the reticent elachura formosa, dark brown in color with white flecks all over its body apart from on its the wings and tail.
A blue-eyed frog was observed for the first time by a pair of scientists in India’s Arunachal Pradesh. It’s called the leptobrachium bompu and it is unlike the other 27 species of leptobrachium whose eyes combine two shades: a bright yellow, scarlet, green or blue and a contrasting darker hue.
The Bompu has “a striking greyish-blue iris with a vertically oriented black pupil,” according to Sanjay Sondhi, founder of “Titli Trust,” an environmental non-profit based in India’s north, and one of the scientists who found it.
The frogs were found under a leaf litter during heavy showers in Arunachal’s Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary. The males happen to be enthusiastic singers sounding “a loud croaking kek-kek-kek-kek call, which continued even after they had been captured and kept in a bag,” the report said.
A new species of the pit viper snake with striking red and brown bands running along its 1.5 meter-long body is the only reptile discovery in the region in the past few years. It was found winding through certain areas in southern Tibet, northern Sikkim in India and also in the Haa Valley in western Bhutan in 2013.