Dozens of strange and fascinating new species were recently discovered in a Southeast Asia jungle

caption
The crew at the WWF believes this fellow’s shiny head bears a resemblance to Ziggy Stardust.
source
Alexander Teynié

The world is still full of mysterious and fascinating creatures.

While many of us might think we’ve seen most of what’s alive on this planet – or at least on land – the majority of global species are still unknown and uncategorized.

In 2015 alone, at least 163 new species were discovered in the biodiversity hotspot of the Greater Mekong region, a part of Southeast Asia that includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a report released by the World Wildlife Fund today. This biological treasure trove includes a “rainbow-headed snake, a dragon-like lizard, and a newt that looks like a Klingon from Star Trek,” according to the report.

Unfortunately, many of these species are threatened by both the unprecedented pressure for development in the region and by the illegal wildlife trade, one of the largest criminal enterprises on the planet.

With WWF’s permission, we’ve published some of our favorite photos of these strange and recently discovered species here – a glimpse into what we’re finding now and the sorts of things that still remain completely undiscovered out there.


This Phuket Horned Tree Agamid (Acanthosaura phuketensis) looks kind of like a mini-dragon.

source
Montri Sumontha

This little gekko (Gekko bonkowskii) hides inside remote karst cliffs in Laos.

source
Thomas Calame

The crew at the WWF believes this rainbow-headed snake’s (Parafimbrios lao) shiny head bears a resemblance to Ziggy Stardust.

source
Alexander Teynié

They originally thought it was found only in certain karst limestone cliffs, but managed to find a specimen in a nearby forest on another expedition. “If the spirit of the forest exists, it is at these times that one feels humbly crossed,” one of the discovers said upon that sighting.

source
Alexander Teynié

This rare banana (Musa nanensis) species was spotted in Nan Province in Thailand.

source
Wande Inta

Unseen mysteries abound in these packed hills.

source
Nobuyuki Tanaka

This wooly-headed bat (Murina kontumensis) is one of three new mammal species described in the report.

source
Nguyen Truong Son

Here’s a female Phuket Horned Tree Agamid.

source
Montri Sumontha

This ‘Klingon newt” (Tylototriton anguliceps) is only the fourth newt species ever found in Thailand.

source
Nguyen Quang Truong

Check out those red and black markings.

source
Porrawee Pomchote

This Myanmar flower’s strange petals earned it the nickname “purple mouse-eared flower” (Impatiens kingdon wardii).

source
Jin Murata

Though this orange-eyed litter frog (Leptolalax_isos) was first spotted in 2006, it took 10 years for researchers to figure out that it was a new species.

source
Jodi Rowley/Australian Museum

The spot where the frog was found isn’t the easiest place to get around.

source
Jodi Rowley

Many new species in the region will go extinct before they are identified. But if this biodiversity can be protected, it helps show how much of this world we still have to explore.

source
Jin Murata