A scientific study conducted in the Amazon basin over the past two years has identified and recorded a total of 381 new species of plants and animals. Commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Brazil’s Mamiraua Institute for Sustainable Development, the report concludes that an average of one new species is identified every two days in South America’s tropical forests. The Amazon basin is shared by nine South American countries. Beyond this latest two-year study, more than 2000 new species of plants and animals were discovered by scientists between 1999 and 2015.
The species found during the two-year investigation and identified as being new to science include 216 new plant species, 93 species of fish, 32 amphibians, 19 reptiles, one bird, and a remarkable 20 new species of mammal.
The new species discovered during the latest study include the Western Striolated Puffbird (Nystalus obamai), the only bird on the list compiled since 2015, and named in honor of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. It was observed in the frontier zone between Brazil and Peru. Another bird species, Chico's Tyrannulet (Zimmerius chicomendesi), included in a similar study in 2013, was named after the environmentalist Chico Mendes, who was murdered in 1988.
The Araguaian river dolphin (Inia araguaiaensis) is the first new dolphin species to have been identified in the past one hundred years, and appears to be endemic to the Araguaia-Tocantins river basin, in Brazil. Its population is believed to number just one thousand individuals, and scientists estimate that the species is around 2.8 million years old.
A new species of titi monkey was also discovered in southern Brazil’s Mato Grosso region. Named the “fire-tailed titi monkey” (Callicebus miltoni) after its reddish-orange tail, this previously unknown primate is also distinguishable by its unique ocher sideburns and light gray forehead.
Clearly, even as vast swathes of the world’s largest rainforest are being removed each year by deforestation resulting from human migration, mining, hydrocarbon exploitation and agriculture, the fact that hundreds of new species of animals and plants are still being identified by scientists demonstrates that we still know very little about the primeval habitat we are destroying. Given that all the new species identified by the recent study were discovered in areas of the Amazon basin already subject to human activity, and in the vicinity of major rivers, it would seem reasonable to assume that species are being lost to the world each year before we have even had a chance to record their existence.