On a recent expedition to catalogue the various life found along Southeast Asia’s Mekong River, scientists discovered 163 new species of animals – 9 amphibians, 11 fish, 14 reptiles, 126 plants and 3 mammals. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who published a report of these new biological discoveries, the Mekong river delta is rife with undiscovered species:
Naturally, scientists flock to the Greater Mekong every year to study these incredible ecosystems and to hopefully make new discoveries. Between 1997 and 2015 there have been 2,409 new species described here […] With an average of two new species being identified every week, there’s no telling what is waiting to be found.
Among the more interesting finds of this expedition is the rainbow-headed snake (Parafimbrios lao), which has been dubbed the “Ziggy Stardust” snake thanks to the streak of white on its head which lends the snake somewhat of a resemblance to the recently departed rock star (alien?) persona of the same name.
Another pop culture-themed find was the “Klingon newt” (Tylototriton anguliceps), named for the bulbous protrusions on its skull which resemble the Star Trek alien species after which it is named.
The published study is part of the WWF’s “Living Planet Report,” which is intended to document and bring awareness to the current biodiversity on Earth while it still exists. According to some estimates, many of the world’s existing species will be extinct or will at least suffer extreme population drops by the year 2020.
Aside from the mass extinction doom and gloom, t’s been a fun year for naming new species of animals. These new species join the ranks of the Yoda purpurata acorn worm and Trigonopterus chewbacca worm named earlier this year. Because hey – scientists are people too, ok? They’re allowed to inject their taste in music and film into their work just like you and I are. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to have to work a soulless corporate gig, that is. In that case, just enjoy this picture of a weird new bat that was also found.