New species discovered in South American jungle

Story highlights

  • Scientists believe 46 new species found in southwest Suriname
  • Conservation International expedition was to remote jungle region
  • Fish, frogs and dozens of insects among new animals discovered

A new species of catfish discovered in a river deep in a South American jungle has an ingenious way to avoid being a snack for giant piranhas. Instead of camouflage, its body is covered with bony spines to deter potential predators.

Nicknamed the "armored catfish," it is just one of 46 species researchers believe could be new to the scientific community, according to a new report from Conservation International.

During a three project in 2010, scientists were joined by indigenous people from villages in southwest Surinam to documented nearly 1,300 species along the Kutari and Sipaliwini Rivers that lie in one of the most inaccessible forests in the world.

As well as the armored catfish (that was saved from being lunch for one of the scientists' guides), a large tree-frog, eight freshwater fish and dozens of new insects were identified. Other species were seen that are thought to be unique to the area, including the "Great Horned Beetle,"a blue dung beetle the size of a tangerine, and the "Pac-Man Frog" that has a mouth as wide as its body.

"The area was paradise for the entomologists with spectacular and unique insects everywhere," said Dr. Leeanne Alonso, of Global Wildlife Conservation, who was part of the research team.

"I didn't even have to look for ants because they jumped out at me. Other scientists were equally impressed with the amazing diversity of birds and mammals of the region. You can really get up close to wildlife here -- a camera trap recorded a jaguar about one hundred yards from our camp."

The research was part of Conservation International Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) that aims to record biodiversity and promote conservation across the world.

Dr. Trond Larsen, director of RAP said: "As a scientist, it is thrilling to study these remote forests where countless new discoveries await, especially since we believe that protecting these landscapes while they remain pristine provides perhaps the greatest opportunity for maintaining globally important biodiversity and the ecosystems people depend upon for generations to come."

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