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Monkey that Purrs like a Cat is Among New Species Discovered in Amazon Rainforest

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- At least 441 new species of animals and plants have been discovered over a four year period in the vast, underexplored rainforest of the Amazon, including a monkey that purrs like a cat.

Found between 2010 and 2013, the species include a flame-patterned lizard, a thumbnail-sized frog, a vegetarian piranha, a brightly coloured snake, and a beautiful pink orchid, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Discovered by a group of scientists and compiled by WWF, the new species number 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 18 birds and one mammal. This total does not include countless discoveries of insects and other invertebrates.

"These species form a unique natural heritage that we need to conserve. This means protecting their home – the amazing Amazon rainforest – which is under threat from deforestation and dam development," said Claudio Maretti, Leader of Living Amazon Initiative, WWF.

Some of the most remarkable species outlined in the report include:

Flame-patterned lizard: This beautiful lizard was found from the hatchlings of eggs collected by scientists in the Colombian Amazon. An elusive species, Cercosaura hypnoides, has not been seen in the wild since the original eggs were collected, raising the prospect that it could potentially be endangered.

Thumbnail-sized frog: This amphibian is already believed to be highly endangered. In fact, its Latin name, Allobates amissibilis, meaning "that may be lost," alludes to this as the area where it thrives could soon be opened to tourism. This is now the third Allobates species found in Guyana.

Vegetarian Piranha: This new species of piranha, Tometes camunani, can span 20 inches wide and weigh up to 9 pounds, and is strictly herbivorous. The freshwater fish inhabits rocky rapids associated with seedlings of plants that grow among the rocks, its main source of food. Tometes is described from the upper drainages of the Trombetas River basin, Para, Brazilian Amazon.

A brightly coloured snake from the "Lost World": Found in the mountains of Guyana, this brightly-colored snake species was named Chironius challenger after Arthur C. Doyle's fictional character Professor George Edward Challenger in the novel, The Lost World.

A beautiful pink orchid: Among the new plant species are a large number of new orchid species, including this splendid pink species, Sobralia imavieirae, officially described by scientists from Roraima in the Brazilian Amazon.

Caqueta titi monkey: This new species, Callicebus caquetensis, is one of about 20 species of titi monkey, which all live in the Amazon basin. The babies have an endearing trait, "When they feel very content they purr towards each other," explained scientist Thomas Defler.

Many of the new discoveries are believed to be endemic to the Amazon rainforest and are found nowhere else in the world. This makes them even more vulnerable to rainforest destruction that occurs every minute across the Amazon.

"Compiling and updating data on new species discovered in the vast extension of the Amazon over the last four years has shown us just how important the region is for humanity and how fundamentally important it is to research it, understand it and conserve it. The destruction of these ecosystems is threatening biodiversity and the services it provides to societies and economies. We cannot allow this natural heritage to be lost forever," Maretti said.

Editor's Notes:

Photos and credits, and the list of the 441 discoveries can be accessed here: http://wwf.to/1cbSqLy

Methodology

This research presents a list of the new species from the Amazon Biome discovered from 2010 to 2013. Describing a new species refers to the official process by which a species is identified in the peer-reviewed scientific literature once discovered and therefore formally determined as 'new'. Species currently awaiting official scientific recognition have not been included.

This research has tried to be comprehensive in its listing of new plants and vertebrates, but for the largest group of life on Earth, invertebrates, such lists do not exist – so the total number of new species presented here is an underestimate.

ABOUT WORLD WILDLIFE FUND

WWF is the world's leading conservation organization, working in 100 countries for nearly half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more.

About WWF Living Amazon Initiative

The Living Amazon Initiative spearheads WWF Network's efforts to guarantee an ecologically healthy Amazon Biome that maintains its environmental and cultural contribution to local peoples, the countries of the region and the world, by maintaining ecological processes and services within a framework of that propitiates inclusive economic development with social equity and global responsibility.

CONTACT: Amal Omer amal.omer@wwfus.org (202) 495-4155 Monica Echeverria monica.echeverria@wwfus.org (202) 495-4626

Source:World Wildlife Fund