New legless, snake-like amphibian discovered in CambodiaPublished On: Sat, Jan 17th, 2015 | New Species | By BioNews
Scientists have discovered a new species of legless amphibian in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains
The new species, Ichthyophis cardamomensis, is a caecilian, an order of limbless amphibians often mistaken for snakes, with larger species known to grow to 1.5 metres in length. This discovery, at only 30 cm, is linked to the continuing ground-breaking work at the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC) in Phnom Penh, a joint initiative of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).
Leading Cambodian FFI herpetologist Neang Thy has been researching amphibians and reptiles since 2003 and is very excited that the I. cardamomensis species has been officially confirmed.
The I.cardamomensis species is only the second caecilian species ever discovered in Cambodia. The other is the striped Koa Tao Island caecilian, I. kohtaoensis, which is also found in, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“These discoveries are important to demonstrate that much of Cambodia’s biodiversity remains unknown and unstudied by science, and many more areas need to be searched,” Thy said.
The forested Cardamom Mountains Range represents some of the largest remaining areas of habitat for more than 80 threatened species, including Asian elephant and gaur.
Thy said in recent years the Cardamom region had revealed its extensive reptile and amphibian diversity, including frogs, turtles, lizards and crocodiles.
“We are still learning about this area and the animals in it, since it was a region formerly held by the Khmer Rouge and the mountains were closed to researchers until the 1990s,” he said.
“The Cardamom region it is under threat from logging, land concessions, and other habitat destruction, and the danger of any new species, including the new caecilian, is that they may be discovered one year and go extinct the next.”
Caecilians have a valuable role in the ecosystems of tropical and subtropical regions, including providinga food source for the red tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis ruffus). Caecilians eat invertebrates, such as earthworms, ants and termites.
This work is published in the Organisms Diversity & Evolution scientific journal from Society for Biological Systematics.
Peter Geissler, Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr., Lee Grismer, Truong Q. Nguyen, Hang T. An, Thy Neang,Alexander Kupfer, Thomas Ziegler, Wolfgang Böhme, Hendrik Müller. New Ichthyophis species from Indochina (Gymnophiona, Ichthyophiidae): 1. The unstriped forms with descriptions of three new species and the redescriptions of I. acuminatus Taylor, 1960, I. youngorum Taylor, 1960 and I. laosensisTaylor, 1969. Organisms Diversity & Evolution, DOI: 10.1007/s13127-014-0190-6