Greater Mekong: 10 years, 1068 new species discovered

For over ten years, researchers have toiled away in the Greater Mekong region, uncovering its secrets. A WWF report describes the region as the "richest waterway for biodiversity on the planet, fostering more species per unit area than the Amazon". Quantitatively speaking, in number of species, that's 20,000 plants, 1,200 birds, 800 reptiles and amphibians, 430 mammals and at least 1,300 fish. Of these, the new discoveries include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. And to imagine that most of them lay unknown to science until a decade ago. This funky chap (above) is the Dragon Millipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea), and it has a bodily function that will greatly interest terrorist groups. Our pink friend secretes cyanide, and if you have the guts to pop one of these bubblegum-coloured critters and chew well, you will soon be history. And this tempting resident of the Garden of Eden (above) is the Gumprecht's green pitviper (Trimeresurus gumprechti). The yellow spots are the eyes, and the dark pits below them are used as heat-sensing devices. Much meaner than meets the eye, the Burmese Spitting Cobra (Naja mandalayensis) (below), discovered in 2000, is another venomous customer. Among the new species of birds is this Naung Mung Scimitar Babbler (Jabouilleia naungmungensis) (above). The Woolly Bat (above), the Laotian Rock Rat (below), and the Annamite Striped Rabbit (bottom) are the most intriguing mammalian finds. The rock rat, believed to have been extinct for millions of years, was found in a local food market! WWF has more