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Amazing Discovery: More Than 120 New Animal Species Found in Philippines' Mindanao Island

Oct 18, 2016 03:53 AM EDT
Oligodon maculatus
One of the 126 new species of animals found in the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines
(Photo : Rafe Brown/KU News Service for Press Release Use)

A group of international researchers led by world-renowned herpetologist Rafe Brown discovered more than 120 new species of animals living in the island of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines.

Their discovery, detailed in a paper published in the journal ZooKeys, include new species of frogs, lizards, snakes, freshwater turtle and crocodile. These new species of animals make up about 36 percent of the known reptiles and amphibians living in the Philippines.

"The terrestrial biodiversity of the Philippines is amazing, and this part of Mindanao is the center of the center of that diversity," commented Brown, curator-in-charge of herpetology at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, in a press release. "The biodiversity is so high in this one pocket of northeast Mindanao, largely because the ranges of so many species in the archipelago overlap in this one area. We knew it was really diverse, but we didn't have a sense of this one area being the bull's-eye, the epicenter of this diversity."

Read: Philippines' Luzon Island Has the World's Greatest Concentration of Unique Mammal Species

For their study, Brown, joined by his colleagues from the University of Kansas, Father Saturnino Urios University, University of Oklahoma, National Museum of the Philippines and Silliman University, took part in an expedition into the mountains of Mindanao. Brown's team established camps and surveyed areas in Mount Hilong-hilong and Mount Lumon. The team searched near rivers, dug around tree trunks and split open decaying logs in search for different animals.

In total, Brown and his team discovered 126 new species of reptiles and amphibians. Their discovery includes 40 frogs, one caecilian, 49 lizards, 35 snakes, a freshwater turtle and a crocodile. Their findings suggest that that the greater Mindanao faunal region possesses distinct subcenters of amphibian and reptile species diversity.

However, local conflicts between the national government and regional group of rebels in the area are making it difficult for the researchers to conduct extensive studies on the animals living in the forest and mountains of Mindanao. Furthermore, deforestation in the area is becoming a big problem for the animals living there, pushing them to the brink of extinction.

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