For the last ten years, two new species a week have been identified in the Greater Mekong, a swath of diverse ecosystems along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. In a new World Wildlife Fund report [pdf], scientists say they have documented at least 1,068 new species since 1997.
These aren’t run-of-the-mill species, either. Take Desmoxytes purpurosea, a bubble-gum pink “dragon” millipede that looks like a Halloween prop. Scientists found the thumb-sized centipede just sitting around on rocks and palm trees. Its shocking pink color is actually a warning to would-be predators: get too close and they’ll have to contend with the deadly cyanide that the millipede secretes. This millipede won a spot in Arizona State University’s annual Top Ten New Species.
The new species also include 88 types of spiders. The report says the “most remarkable” of these is the colossal cave-dwelling Heteropoda maxima. With a legspan of 30 centimeters (12 inches), it is the largest huntsman spider in the world.
Not all the species make your skin crawl. The Greater Mekong has also been a hotbed for new mammal species, which are usually quite rare. Among these are a brown and black striped rabbit, a woolly bat, the Laotian rock rat, and what may be the world’s tiniest deer, a munjac deer weighing only 15 kilograms. One researcher even said working in the Greater Mekong made him feel like Charles Darwin.
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Image: World Wildlife Fund