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Top new species of 2014 in Asia

News reorganized from,

Seemingly every yearscientists set a new record with the number of species they describe. 2014 will be no exception.

Below are some of the"new species" highlights from the past year. The list includesspecies whose descriptions were first published in 2014. Some of the"discoveries" occurred in years prior.

Many of the species described for the first time during the past twelve monthsare "cryptic species" — species that were officially distinguishedfrom similar-looking and closely-related species using genetic analysis.However some of the discoveries are totally novel to science. For each entry, the author of the original post is listed inparentheses.

New pit viper discovered in Sumatra (Moreno)

An adult female T. gunaleni in Sumatra. Photo by G. Vogel.

Writing in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation(, Gernot Vogel, Patrick David, and Irvan Sidik described a new pit viper from mountainousforests in Sumatra. The viper, named Trimeresurus gunaleni, wasidentified by the researchers while they were studying a group of Trimeresurus sumanatrus, first described by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1822.

“It’s a surprising finding,” Dr. Vogel told, “as [the new species]is a large viper, very colorful and superficially different.”

While Sumatra's rainforests are disappearing rapidly, Trimeresurus gunaleni isn't particularly threatened due to the remoteness of its habitat.

Striking new gecko discovered in Thailand (Parkman)

Juvenile Sai Yok bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus saiyok). Photo by N.Panitvong.

A research team based in western Thailand has discovered a new gecko species inthe Kanchanaburi Province, a region renowned for its number of species found nowhere else in the world. A recent publication in the journal Zootaxa describes the Sai Yok bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus saiyok), likely the sixth reptile species endemic to the region known to science.

“No other area of Thailand houses as many reptile endemics,” coauthor Dr.Oliver S. G. Pauwels, a tropical reptile specialist who has described four of these endemics, told

The site at which the species was first identified consists of a limestone hill covered in dry evergreen and bamboo forest. Named for the district in which itwas discovered, the Sai Yok bent-toedgecko was found exclusively on small trees, stumps, and plants in the Araceae family, which includes rhododendrons. It is pale brownish gray over much of its body, with bluish pigment surrounding its eyes and dark bands encircling its tail and body. It’s quite small, with a maximum length of just over six centimeters (2.4 inches).

The main identifying trait that distinguishes the Sai Yok bent-toed gecko fromother Cyrtodactylus species lies in the presence of its enlarged thigh scales.

Snail becomes gay rights symbol in Taiwan (Hance)

The new snail named after the struggle for same-sex marriage: Aegista diversifamilia. Photo by: Chih-Wei Huang.

Scientists have named new species after celebrities, fictional characters, andeven the corporations that threaten a species' very existence, but a new snail may be the first to be named after a global human rights movement: the on-going struggle for same-sex marriage. Scientists have named the new Taiwanese land snail, Aegista diversifamilia, meaning "diverse human families".

"When we were preparing the manuscript it was a period when Taiwan and many other countries and states were struggling for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights. It reminded us that Pulmonata land snails are hermaphrodite animals, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs insingle individual," explained co-author Yen-Chang Lee. "They represent the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom. We decided that maybe this is a good occasion to name the snail to remember the struggle for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights."

Same sex marriage is currently not legal in Taiwan, and a bill in the government proposing to legalize same-sex marriage has been stalled by theParliament's judiciary committee since October 2013. A recent rally in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in the country attracted thousands.

The new land snail that celebrates "diverse human families," was split from another land snail described in 1884: Aegista subchinensis. For overa century, scientists thought this species was found across Taiwan, however in 2003 Lee noticed that the eastern population of Aegista subchinensis had alarger and flatter shell.

Scientists pressure mining company by naming endangered snail after it

Various views of the shell of the new snail species named after Lafarge.Photo courtesy of Vermeulen et al.

Scientists have discovered a new snail species on a limestone hill near acement quarry in Malaysia, which as far as they know lives nowhere else in the world.The animal's shell is only one tenth of an inch in size.

"Narrow endemic species are a common occurrence on limestone hills,"Jaap Vermeulen, lead author of the new study, told "A goodbiologist can quite easily discover several species of endemic invertebrates onan isolated, unsurveyed hill."

Although just unearthed, the miniscule snail is already threatened with extinction. It lives on Kanthan, a limestone hill given as a concession tomining company Lafarge. The cement producer quarries the hill for raw materials. As a result, the snail will be included as "Critically Endangered" in the next update of the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.

The scientists who discovered the animal named it Charopa lafargei, after the cement company that will decide its fate.

"I'm not aware of a species threatened with extinction which has been given the name of the company which can determine whether it goes extinct or survives," said Tony Whitten from Fauna & Flora International.

The new snail is not the only endemic species found on the hill. Kanthan isalso home to nine plant species that are on Malaysia's Red List of Endangered Plants, one Critically Endangered spider (Liphistius kanthan), one gecko(Cyrtodactylus guakanthanensis) and two snails (Opisthostoma trapezium and Sinoennea chrysalis) that are found nowhere else inthe world.

Colorful frog discovered in Malaysia (Barrett)

The new frog species, Hylarana centropeninsularis. Photo by Chan et al.

Scientists have identified a new species of frog on the Malay Peninsula. The newly named Hylaranacentropeninsularis was discovered in a peat swamp andgenetic analyses revealed that it is evolutionarily distinct from itss tream-dwelling cousins.

After publishing the discovery in the online journal Herpetologica, Kin Onn Chan, a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas, told mongabay.comthat the frog was actually first found 10 years ago.

“An ex-student of my ex-advisor at the National University of Malaysia collected it in one of her pit-fall traps… After digging through historical records and literature, we found that it was not the first time that that particular 'species' had been found,” Chan said.

New wasp builds nest out of ant corpses (Hance)

Adult female of the new wasp species, the bone-house wasp. Photo courtesy ofStaab et al.

If ants made horror movies this is probably what it would look like: mounds of murdered ants sealed up in a cell. The villain of the piece—at least from the perspective of the ants—is a new species of spider wasp, which scientists have aptly dubbed the bone-house wasp (Deuterageniaossarium) in a paper published in July in the journal PLOS ONE. Butthe reason it fills a nest chamber with dead ants is even more surprising: babyproofing.

"Our discovery demonstrates in an impressive way, what fascinating strategies of offspring-protection have evolved in the animal kingdom,"said lead author Michael Stabb with the University of Freiburg.

Here's how this works: spider wasps (in the family Pompilidae) build largenests usually constructed out of plant debris, soil, and resin. Each nest contains several cells where the mother wasp lays her eggs. Once the nest is constructed and the eggs are laid, however, she abandons them, leaving them vulnerable to predation and parasites, such as parasitical wasps.
Close-up of the dead ant chamber. After killing the ants, the bone-housewasp encloses them in a cell. Photo courtesy of Staab et al.

But the bone-house wasp from Southeast China has done something novel, which the authors describe as "a surprising nesting behavior that was previously unknown in the entire animal kingdom." It builds a final outer layer cell around its brood in which it piles dead ants, sealing them up in a seeming bug-recreation of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." Yet the wasp doesn't do this out of vengeance, but to better-safeguard its nest.

Biologists catalog the world's 10,000th reptile species (Hance)

Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi: the world's 10,000th reptile. Photo by: TruongNguyen.

In July, Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi, a gecko from the forests of Laos,became
the 10,000th reptile species entered into the Reptile Database,an online catalog of all the world's living reptiles.

"Officially, we have logged 10,038 reptile species into the database,which is up from 9,952 that was reported in April," said Peter Uetz, the founder and editor of the Reptile Database.

Scientists discover carnivorous water rat in Indonesia (Erickson-Davis)

The first specimen of Waiomys mamasae ever seen by scientists. Photo byKevin C. Rowe.

Researchers have discovered a new carnivorous water rat on the island of Sulawesi that's so unique it represents an entirely new genus. They believe many more rodent species await discovery in this relatively undisturbed part of Indonesia, but mining and other types of development may threaten vital habitat before it’s even surveyed.

Named Waiomys mamasae and described in apaper published in the journal Zootaxa, the species is known by a single animal that was caught by hand in a small stream in Western Sulawesi’s mountainous interior. Scientists were alerted to the species' existence bylocal people who use it as a talisman to protect their homes against fire.

Wolf snake discovered in Cambodia named after an Australian zoo (Butler)

New species: the Cambodian kukri. Photo by: Photo: Neang Thy/FFI.

A new species of wolf snake was discovered in the forests of the Cardamom Mountains of southeast Cambodia. The species was described in the journal Zootaxa.

Lycodon zoosvictoriae is named after Zoos Victoria, aconservation group based in Parkville, Australia that has provided support toFauna & Flora International (FFI), whose researchers — along with herpetologists from Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Germany —made the discovery.

Lycodon zoosvictoriae is a cryptic species that is thought to be both arboreal and terrestrial. Like other wolf snakes, the species is characterized by long,large teeth in the front of their mouth. Lycodon zoosvictoriae measures only 40cm (16 inches) and likely hunts small lizards and frogs.

14 species of 'dancing frogs' described from India (Erickson-Davis)

Micrixalus nelliyampathi. Photo by Biju Das

Scientists have discovered 14 new species of frogs in the mountainous tropical forests of India’s Western Ghats, all of which are described in a recent study published in the Ceylon Journal of Science. Thenew species are all from a single genus, and are collectively referred to as“dancing frogs” due to the unusual courtship behavior of the males.

The Western Ghats (WG) is a strip of mountains that runs parallel to the west coast of the southern half of the subcontinent. Renowned as one of the world’stop biodiversity hotspots, the lush forests of the WG are home to a vast array of species, including 139 mammal and 508 bird species, many of which are endemic and threatened by human encroachment.

A "dancing" Micrixalus kottigeharensis. Photo by Biju Das

New species, genera, and even families of animals are discovered in the WG on aregular basis. In the past 15 years alone, scientists have discovered 75 new amphibians in the WG. The area is particularly conducive to the formation of new amphibian species because of its overall warm and humid climate, its isolation from other amphibian-friendly areas, and because it contains many different stream systems that effectively separate frog populations from one another.

The 14 new frog species most recently described were found over a period of 12years by Dr. Biju Das of the University of Delhi along with other researchers from other Indian institutions. The frogs are all from the genus Micrixalus, agroup that diverged from other frog genera about 85 million years ago, and are known to exist only in the WG. Commonly known as “dancing frogs,” these speciesgreatly expand the dancing frog family, Micrixalidae, of which only 11 specieswere previously known.

Micrixalus sali. Photo by Biju Das

Micrixalus sairandhri. Photo by Biju Das

The frogs earned their colorful moniker by unique leg movements the males make when trying to attract mates. While most male frogs simply croak to get the attention of females, male dancing frogs twist, extend, and wave their hind legs in a display called “foot-flagging.” Das believes this is because theylive in fast-flowing streams, an environment too noisy for conventional croaking.

“Foot-flagging probably evolved multiple times in this group as an adaption to overcome the ambient noise of flowing water in the environment,” Das “Besides calling, males display the foot-flagging behavior to communicate and to attract females in order to complete their breeding cycle.If a particular group of frogs do not inhabit noisy environments, then they probably do not need to evolve adaptations such as foot-flagging.”

The Harry Potter wasp (Dasgupta)

Female Ampulex dementor. Photo by: Ohl et al.

Whether a die-hard Harry Potter fan or not, you probably know what dementors are. They were the guards of Azkaban—dark hooded evil beings that sucked the soul out of their victims, leaving them alive but "empty-shelled."

These fictional creatures now share their name with a new species of cockroach wasp, insects that turn cockroaches into zombies. By popular vote, a previously unnamed cockroach wasp species from Thailand was christened Ampulex dementor at the NaturalHistory Museum in Berlin.

Visitors at the museum had four names to choose from Ampulex bicolor indicativeof the wasp’s distinctive black and red color, Ampulex mon referring to the Monpeople of Thailand (for its geographic origin), Ampulex plagiator for itsattempts to mimic the appearance and movement of ants, and Ampulex dementor forits peculiar way of hunting cockroaches that make them lose their "free-will." At the end of the ballot, dementors emerged victorious.

"I would likely have voted for it myself," said Michael Sharkey, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky, whose team collected the museum specimens of these wasps from the Khao Kho National Park in Thailand. "What I find interesting about the name is that what is considered a fantasy among humans, the dementors of Harry Potter, is a reality in the worldof insects."

Thorny tree frog discovered in Vietnam (Moll-Rocek)

Thorny tree frog (Gracixalus lumarius). Photo by Jodi Rowley/Australian Museum Research Institute.

Evening fog settled quickly on Mount Ngoc Linh, as the steady drone of cicadasand crickets took up their usual nighttime chorus. The night calm was broken by sudden crashing through the thick bamboo stands and excited voices. High inthis isolated cloud forest in central Vietnam, Dr. Jodi Rowley and her colleagues had come upon the first thorny tree frog (Gracixaluslumarius) known to science. They’d passed through thick underbrush and bamboo, enduring black midges, leeches and ticks to wait for nightfall to begin their regular nocturnal search for amphibians. She knew she’d found something undescribed when she noticed the sharp yellow spines covering the frog’s back.

The new species is described in Zootaxa. The four-centimeter critter sports a bright pink underbelly and dazzling gold-specked eyes. Only males have their backs covered in thorns, which become more pronounced during the mating season and are thought to help females better identify sexually fit mates.Well-adapted to its habitat on the steep slopes of high mountains, the thorny tree frog has evolved to lay its eggs in small water-filled hollows in trees,providing a protected area for their tadpoles to grow.

Phallic amphibian found in Myanmar (Butler)

Head of new species: the colorful ichthyophis. Photo by: Harry Taylor (The Natural History Museum, London) from Wilkinson et al.

Scientists have discovered a new species of limbless amphibians, known as caecilians, in Myanmar. Dubbing the species, the colorful ichthyophis (Ichthyophis multicolor), the researchers describe the new amphibian in arecent paper published in Zootaxa. The world's most famous caecilian is the playfully named penis snake (Atretochoanaeiselti) which was rediscovered in Brazil in 2011.

Caecilians are a bizarre order of amphibians that superficially resemble snakes or earthworms, even bearing rings on their bodies that are earthworm-like. Many caecilians spend their lives under the soil, making them little-studied by researchers, yet they are widely diverse: over 10 separate families have been identified across the tropics. The caecilian genus Ichthyophis, to which the new species belongs, is the most diverse in the world.

"Although multiple species and specimens of Ichthyophis have been documented from Thailand and from Northeast India, including some recently described species, there are only a few old literature records of any caecilians from Myanmar and the caecilian fauna of that country must be considered essentially unexplored and unknown," write the authors in the paper.

The scientists, headed by Mark Wilkinson, described the new species based on 14 specimens collected in 2000 from southern Myanmar in the Ayeyarwady Region.Although the species looks most similarly to an Indian caecilian, Ichthyophistricolor, it differs in having more rings and a differently shaped skull.Moreover, molecular studies show the new species is more closely related to Southeast Asian species than an Indian ones, which may change how scientists view the spread of caecilians.

New sawshark (Samoray)

sawshark may use their jagged snout to stun prey, detect electrical signals, and for defense.

A long snout with teeth jutting from the sides? Check. Catfish-like barbels dangling from its chin? Got them. Gills on the side of its body? It has those,too.

These are characteristics of a bizarre group of sharks known as sawsharks(family Pristiophoriforidae). And until recently, only seven species were recognized. However, following examination of specimens caught in the western North Pacific, researchers discovered that the number of species should beraised one more.

Currently, the new species (Pristiophorus lanae), which was described from six females and one male, is only known to inhabit waters nearthe Philippine Islands. The authors of the study, published in Zootaxa, writethat these sawshark specimens have several distinctive morphological features that separate them from other known species.

Day gecko discovered in Sri Lanka (Watsa)

The male of the newest addition to the genus Cnemaspis in Sri Lanka. Photocourtesy of Vidanapathirana.

Scientists have identified a new species of day gecko that is the largest inits genus (Cnemaspis) to be found in Sri Lanka. To date, it has been observedonly within the Rammalakanda Reserve in southern Sri Lanka, an area spanning just 1,700 hectares, raising questions about the viability of this population and hence the species' long-term prospects.

The gecko belongs to the enigmatic genus of Cnemaspis, which in 2003 contained only four representative species within Sri Lanka. Since then, scientists have discovered 18 further species in the island country, but none as large in size as this most recent discovery. Known locally as the 'Rammale day gecko' (Rammale pahalpalliin Tamil, and Rammale diva huna in Sinhalese), the new gecko measures around 53 millimeters from snout to vent—a small reptile to us, but a giant in comparisont o other gecko species in the area.

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