The poison dart frog Ranitomeya amazonica is one of more than 1,200 new species of plants and vertebrates discovered in the Amazon rain forest between 1999 and 2009, the international conservation group WWF announced Tuesday in a new report highlighting the region's biodiversity.
At least 17 percent of the Amazon has been cleared to make room for cattle or crops that are grown for animal feed and biofuels, WWF says. The wildlife group is calling for greater species protection in the face of increasing development pressure. (Related: "Ethanol Production Could Be Eco-Disaster, Brazil's Critics Say.")
R. amazonica, which sports a burst of "flame" on its head and water-patterned legs, was discovered in 1999 in moist lowland forests. The new species' primary threats include land clearing and collection for the wildlife trade, WWF reports. (See "Farming the Amazon.")
Photograph courtesy Lars K., WWF
Shocking New Species
Discovered in 2009 in the Amazon River in Peru and Brazil, the electric knifefish gets its name in part from the high-frequency electric waves it emits to communicate.
Chatter among the males, which have elongated snouts, isn't always friendly. Biting, jaw-locking battles tend to be over nesting sites and females, according to WWF.
The Bolivian river dolphin was designated its own species in 2006 and adopted by the Bolivian government as a symbol of its conservation efforts in the Beni region.
River creatures such as the dolphin highlight the Amazon's often overlooked aquatic importance, noted Meg Symington, an Amazon expert for WWF.
"When you say 'Amazon,' most people think of forest. But in addition to being the largest rain forest on Earth, it is also the largest river system on Earth," she said. "The amount of fresh water flowing through the Amazon is almost 20 percent of the world's total."
Photograph courtesy Fernando Trujillo, WWF
But Can It Sell Insurance?
This dwarf gecko, Gonatodes alexandermendesi, from central Guyana was first described in 2006.
The species was discovered along the drainages of two river systems that flow through the region's dense rain forest. The gecko can be found scurrying around boulders, escaping into cracks and crevices when disturbed.
Photograph courtesy Philippe J. R. Kok, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences via WWF
Amazon Pet Project
Representing one of seven new Amazon monkey species discovered between 1999 and 2009, the first scientifically documented Rio Acari marmosets (such as the one pictured) were kept as pets by inhabitants of a small settlement in the remote central Brazilian Amazon.
The monkey species usually lives in an undisturbed stretch of forest and has not been studied in the wild. As a result, scientists are uncertain of the species' population status or major threats, according to WWF.
Photograph courtesy Georges Naron, WWF
Small-Scale New Species
First documented in 2006, the roughly four-inch-long (ten-centimeter-long) lizard Kaieteurosaurus hindsi was found in Guyana's Kaieteur National Park.
The lizard's pointy scales are its most distinguishing characteristics, herpetologist Philippe Kok, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said on the museum's website.
"The discovery of new endemic species in Kaieteur National Park is a solid argument for retaining and even increasing the protection of the park," he added.
Photograph courtesy Philippe J. R. Kok, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science via WWF
The Amazon sundew grows in highly acidic and nutrient-poor white-quartz sand savannas. To supplement its diet, the plant lures, grabs, and ingests insects using glandular tentacles topped with sticky secretions and emanating a sweet smell, according to WWF.
Two populations of the elusive plant are now known from Brazil's Rio Negro state park and Viruá National Park, highlighting the importance of protected areas to biodiversity, WWF says.