First Bizarre 'Chocolate Frog' and 60 New Species Discovered in an 'Untouched Forest' [PHOTOS]
A team of scientists on an expedition to the South American country of Suriname has identified potentially 60 animals and plant species new to science. The team of 16 scientists found six frogs, one snake and eleven fish, among the new species.
"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 Dr. Trond Larsen, a tropical ecologist on the expedition team, told The Telegraph.
Among the newfound species was the chocolate frog, or coca frog. Named for its brown exterior they live in the trees of the rainforest of southeastern Suriname.
"Like other amphibians, its semi-permeable skin makes it highly sensitive to changes in the environment, especially freshwater. With over 100 species of frogs likely gone extinct over just the last three decades, the discovery of this new species is especially heartening," Larsen said in a statement.
Two other frogs were also identified: the brown and white colored poison dart frog and a new snouted tree frog.
A ruby-colored dung beetle, likely the second tiniest beetle in South America, called the Lilliputian beetle was also found. It has antler-like antennae.
"Dung beetles play critical ecological roles that help support healthy ecosystems. By burying dung, they regulate parasites and disease, disperse seeds and recycle nutrients to promote plant growth," Larsen said.
A tiny red-eyed golden tetra fish and a new grasshopper-like insect called Pseudophyllinae teleutin that has sharp spines along its legs to deter predators were also among the newfound species.
The team travelled by plane, helicopter, and boat and on foot to remote locations within the small South American country. They were led by 30 indigenous men who helped them travel to the parts of nature previously inaccessible to man, The French Tribune reports.
"We scoured the forest for flowering plants, frogs, snakes, birds, bats, insects, monkeys and other creatures. We installed automated camera traps to photograph elusive wildlife such as wild cats, and dragged nets through rivers and swamps in search of fish," Trond said in a Conservation International blog post.
Despite the excess of new species, the scientists were disappointed to notice that even in the most remote regions, mercury pollution was evident.
"Despite the region's thriving wildlife, we were startled to find that even in the absence of any upstream mining, the mercury levels in sediments and in fish were slightly above acceptable international standards for human consumption," Trond said.
"It appears most likely that this mercury pollution was deposited there via winds from neighboring countries. This demonstrates that even the most isolated and pristine parts of the world are not entirely sheltered from human impacts - all systems are interconnected."
Larsen added, "Ensuring the preservation of these ecosystems is not only vital for the Surinamese people, but may help the world to meet its growing demand for food and water as well as reducing the impacts of climate change."