Colour-changing frog and world's second-longest insect among 139 new species discovered in Mekong

Myanmar's crocodile newt Credit: WWF/Tim Johnson

A bat with nightmarish fangs, a "dementor" wasp named after Harry Potter monsters, and the world’s second longest insect are among 139 new species discovered by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in south-east Asia’s in 2014.

The discoveries also include a bent-toed gecko which is the 10,000th reptile to be recorded on Earth, a feathered coral whose nearest relatives are found in Africa and four moths named after Thai princesses.

Unfortunately, many are already at risk, according to a new report by WWF.

“The Greater Mekong’s unique ecosystems are truly the gift that keeps on giving, providing sanctuary for a treasure trove of species and critical benefits for millions of people across the region,” said Teak Seng, conservation director for WWF-Greater Mekong.

“The scientists behind these discoveries feel they are racing against the clock to document them and strongly advocate for their protection before they disappear,” said Seng.

Feathered Coral from Thailand Credit: WWF/Michael Janes

In total, 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 16 amphibians, nine fish, and one mammal have been detailed in a report called "Magical Mekong".

The Greater Mekong region encompasses Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, and is renowned for its biodiversity.

“We’ve only skimmed the surface of new discoveries in the Greater Mekong,” said Carlos Drews, WWF Director Global Species Programme. “However, while species are being discovered intense pressures are taking a terrible toll on the region’s species. One wonders how many species have disappeared before they were even discovered.”

The world's second-longest insect, Phryganistria heusii yentuensis Credit: Jerome Constant

The gecko, which became the 10,000th reptile known to science when it was discovered a few hundred metres from a cornfield carved into the forest, was one of 16 bent toed gecko species found in the Greater Mekong in 2014 alone.

And the thorny frog found in Vietnam breeds in pools of water in plants and changes colour from pink and yellow at night to a dull brown during the day.

A bent-toed gecko from Laos, the 10,000th documented reptile Credit: WWF/Truong Nguen