Scientists Discover 60 New Species in Remote Mountain Forests of Suriname

First Posted: Oct 04, 2013 08:49 AM EDT

Deep within the remote forests of Suriname is a veritable bonanza of species diversity. Frogs, insects and fish all thrive within their forest home. Now, scientists have journeyed into this relatively unknown region and have discovered a staggering 60 new species.

The researchers journeyed into the remote forests of Suriname during a three-week expedition in 2012. There, they discovered that the area's mountain ranges contain the headwaters of some of the largest rivers in Suriname, providing vital water for transportation, food, drinking and sanitation for the approximately 50,000 people in the surrounding areas.

"Suriname is one of the last places where an opportunity still exists to conserve massive tracts of untouched forest and pristine rivers where biodiversity is thriving," said Trond Larsen, a tropical ecologist and Director of the Rapid Assessment Program at Conservation International, in a news release. "Ensuring the preservation of these ecosystems is not only vital for the Surinamese people, but may help the world to meet is growing demand for food and water as well as reducing the impacts of climate change."

In all, the scientists surveyed four sites in the upper Palumeu River watershed, going from low floodplains to isolated mountain peaks. They collected data on water quality and on an astonishing 1,378 different species. These included plants, ants, beetles, katydid, fishes, amphibians, birds and mammals. What was most interesting, though, was the fact that 60 of these species were new to science.

So what species did they find? Among them were six frogs, one snake, 11 fishes and many insects. Among the new species were the diminutive, ruby red Lilliputian beetle, the chocolate-colored cocoa frog and a new type of head-and-tail-light tetra, which was closely related to a fish much appreciated by aquarium enthusiasts.

The findings are huge not only for science, but also moving forward with conservation efforts. They show that this region has remained largely untouched and, in consequence, has become the perfect place to practice good stewardship methods.

"Suriname's dense forests, low deforestation and spectacular rivers place us in a truly unique position to become a global model of sustainable development," said John Goedschalk, Executive Director of Conservation International Suriname, in a news release. "We can be water exporters in a world increasingly suffering from droughts and water scarcity, but if we deplete these biological treasures, our country and the rest of the world will have one less major water resource."

The findings reveal a little bit more about this pristine location. In addition, they show that this area holds a wealth of species. It's very possible that more are hidden within these dense forests, waiting to be discovered.

The findings are published online here.

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