Purring Monkey? Flamboyant Lizard? New Amazonian Species Are Totally Wild

More than 400 shiny new species, ones completely unknown to science, have turned up in the Amazon rain forest, according to the latest report from the WWF. The list of novelties includes 45 orchids, a thumbnail-size frog (already highly endangered, with a Latin name that means “that may be lost”), an elusive lizard with a flame pattern that rivals a 1980s sofa, a piranha that refuses meat, and a titi monkey whose babies purr like cats when content.

Colombia’s Caquetá tití monkey may already be headed for extinction in the wild.

The list of 441 plants and animals—with 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 18 birds, and one mammal (that purring primate)—doesn’t even attempt to catalog an additional vast array of invertebrates still waiting to be named. It came together over four years (2010-2013), the result of a collaborative scouring of remote sections of the Amazon by scientists from around the world. Many of the species are believed to be endemic (existing nowhere else) to the Amazon Basin, so losses due to human activity are particularly devastating. The four-year inventory, says Claudio Maretti, leader of the Living Amazon Initiative at WWF, “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 amazing Amazon rain forest … is under threat from deforestation and dam development. We cannot allow this natural heritage to be lost forever.”

The Basin’s life-brimming rain forest covers about 2.1 million square miles, mostly in Brazil but also in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. It represents more than half of all the rain forest on Earth, and is by far the most diverse biologically.

To scroll through the new WWF list of discoveries boggles the mind. In a world turning so quickly from grassy green to pavement gray, who knew there could be so much left to discover? Just a handful of quirky findings:

Caquetá tití monkey: Its young have a delightful behavior of purring in the nest. This Colombian species is already considered critically endangered due to widespread habitat destruction and fragmentation. Rural peoples in eastern Colombia, who rely heavily on pockets of remaining forest, sometimes hunt the animal for food, according to IUCN.

—Allobated amissibilis: The tiny “thimble frog,” believed to be highly endangered, is endemic to the Iwokrama Mountains of central Guyana. The area may soon be open to tourism, putting the animal at increased risk of extinction.

Guyana's "thimble frog"
The “thimble frog” of central Guyana.

Passiflora longifilamentosa: This gorgeous new species of passion flower impresses with its exotic flowers and brightly hued fruits. Together with vivid purple petals, the new species displays fantastic “noodles” or “spaghetti” (corona filaments) that burst from the flower’s center.

Passion flower
A new species of passion flower.

Chrionius Challenger: This snake is found at high elevations in Guyana and Venezuela, and is the namesake of a character from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.

Chrionius Challenger snake
The Chrionius Challenger snake is named in reference to Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Lost World” adventure novel.

Gonatodes timidus: It impresses with body paint of black and whitish-to-yellow in stripes and blotches, but this lizard earned its Latin name from its shy nature, rather than its stunning looks. When pursued it tends to scoot away between and under rocks, making it very hard to spot and even harder to catch.

"Gonatodes timidus" lizard
The timid but good-looking “Gonatodes timidus” lizard.

Apistogramma cinilabra: This previously unknown species of cychlid is almost certainly endemic to one small lake in Peru. It is remarkably adapted to the very low oxygen levels of its environment.

"Apistogramma cinilabra" cichlid.
The “Apistogramma cinilabra” cichlid, endangered and endemic to Peru.
Degrees in English and Conservation Biology Contributing Writer, National Geographic magazine Regular Contributor, NG News Author of bestselling books Unlikely Friendships (2011) and Unlikely Loves (2013)
  • JP


  • El Gabilon

    “New Amazon Species Totally Wild and Unknown to Science” How come then this article about them if they are unknown? What is “totally wild”? Is there such a thing as “partially wild”? Of course this is exciting for those who discovered them and there will be some benefit to the world for knowing about them. Today everyone is saying hat the rain forest should be preserved, it creates its own climate, etc. And yet we do not hear anyone saying…the Americans should restore the forests they destroyed rampaging their way across the continent after they subdued the Indians. How many species did we destroy while doing this? How many did we make extinct? The lesson to be learned here is that instead of humans building and expanding cities outwards they should be building upwards or downwards thus conserving the forests etc. Thus the city we live in would occupy four city blocks rather than the 5 square miles. We should “practice what we preach”.

  • 58florene

    I do hope we don’t lose these magnificent beauties of nature.

  • James Kemoh

    Thanks for educating us, keep it up.

  • Mark Lloyd Coloma

    I wish many people who illegally hunt animals and cut trees will stop from doing these things. Instead,they will help the scientists in caring them.

  • okechukwu okugo

    this shows that God’s creations can never be discovered to the full. millions of years past, these ones are discovered this year, bet me in the next 500 years many more will still be found. fear jehovah!

  • TR

    Write to the presidents of these countries and encourage them to support any and all conservation efforts instead of greenlighting development. Support ecotourism and research funding. Every little thing makes a difference! Thank you Nat Geo!!

  • Zodwa Phungula

    This is what I live for. Nature Conservatio and research makes the world the most valuable place to be!
    Thanks Nat. Geo!

  • Panagiotis Rosso Bianco

    now they’re in trouble, being discovered by humans…

  • Bhas

    Thanks Nat Geo for inspiring people!!!

  • matt guziejka

    Man! i want to be out there collecting plant species!!

  • Rebecca Lihong

    Thank you very much N.G for sharing these beautiful wild nature You people are wonderfull

  • Lawrence Luhanga, Explorer

    The case of Amazon Basin, it’s new discoveries, and biodiversity’s threating loss, is sadly, typical to many African natural and remote biomes. Malawi a good example. Where demand for fuelwood has overpowered government’s efforts for conservation and preservation. Charcoal making has wiped out many of the forest reserves. The remaining ones are under great pressure.

  • Igor

    the extinction of all mentioned above species is not natural process, they are murdered by local people for the benefit of logging companies. just think about Rio de Janeiro, this city was built on the place of virgin forest, mountains and beaches. monkeys are coming in kitchen windows even today

  • L. Wolford

    I think this is interesting and beautiful, but these biodiversity articles ought to go further. We do need to know how an average person can contribute to the preservation of various species and ecosystems /and/ how one’s money will be used (in the many specific ways it can be used) by identified organizations. As a biologist, even I have a hard time keeping up with all the organizations out there; identifying which organizations are worthwhile and why they are.

  • neyer campos.

    I wish to be there in a locky day and finding nature like this new sp. Our planet heaven on earth is divine. Thanks.

  • maru garcia

    i always wanted to be part of nat geo team,. searching and studying new species in the world..

  • David García

    La creación de nuestro Dios Jehová es impresionante, nunca terminaremos de entender tan grande sabiduría.
    Salmos 124:4

  • David García

    Sorry la cita bíblica es Salmos 104:24


  • Bala

    Wonderful pictures.

  • Lynn Cali

    Love the purple passion flower … God’s amazing creation!!! Seriously, when I look at His work, I never cease to be amazed … His creativity has no bounds.

  • Francisco Gómez

    Poco a poco nos estamos cargando la naturaleza que es en realidad la que siguiendo unos patrones de evolución,somos los seres dominantes del planeta hasta que vuelva a haber alguna mutación y cambien las cosas.

  • Marvin Johnson

    Was this an opportunity to possibly discover new medicines.

  • Lexi

    This is my fave website to explore! BTW I LUV LUV LUV the passion flower!

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