A fish that can breathe air and live on land for four days, a noseless monkey that sneezes when it rains, and a bejeweled-like viper — all newly discovered species that are adding to what's known of that fantastical biodiversity in the Himalayas.
The World Wildlife Fund this week announced the new finds that were among a "treasure trove" of more than 200 other species discovered over the past few years in the Eastern Himalayas. All told, scientists from multiple organizations discovered 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, one reptile, one bird, and one mammal. They were introduced in a new report released this week, "Hidden Himalayas: Asia’s Wonderland."
"I am excited that the region – home to a staggering number of species including some of the most charismatic fauna – continues to surprise the world with the nature and pace of species discovery,” Ravi Singh, chief executive of WWF-India and chairman of the WWF Living Himalayas Initiative, said in a statement.
Here's a look at some of the more fascinating discoveries listed in the report:
The "Sneezing Monkey"
Described in the report as one of the most "highly significant and exciting large mammal finds in recent years," meet the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, or as scientists initially nicknamed him, "Snubby."
Hunters in Myanmar’s remote Kachin state on the border with China first informed scientists of the odd-looking black-and-white primate in early 2010.
According to the WWF, locals in the remote, mountainous region claim the monkey is easiest to find in the rain because they often get rainwater in their upturned noses, causing them to sneeze. To get around the intrusion, snub-nosed monkeys sit with their heads tucked between their knees until the storm passes.
A team of conservationists from Fauna & Flora International, Nature Conservation Association, and People Resources and Conservation Foundation were able to find the monkeys and produce the first known photographs using camera traps.
Little is known about the monkey’s behavior in the wild, including its distribution range, the WWF said.
Blue dwarf "walking" snakehead fish
The Channa andrao species, discovered in the Lefraguri swamp in West Bengal, gets its "snake" namesake in part for its ability to wriggle its way up to a quarter mile on wet land.
It can do this because it has the ability to breathe atmospheric air and survive on land up to four days. But don't worry, according to the WWF, the typically solitary predators prefer to attack from below, and survive on a diet of smaller fish and invertebrates.
The fish, less than 1 inch long, are used in aquaculture, including rice-fish farming.
Himalayan lance-headed pit viper
The pattern-covered viper, which can grow to more than 4 feet long, is a new addition to
the Asian pit viper genus Trimeresurus. Distinguishable by its red, yellow, and orange coloring and bands, the WWF says the venomous viper predominately inhabits trees feeding on rodents, lizards, amphibians, and birds.
At roughly a half-inch long, these tiny fish grabbed scientists' attention for being mostly translucent and for their "fangs," which the WWF said appear to be part of their skeleton.
Bompu Litter Frog
With its striking blue eyes, the Bompu Litter Frog Leptobrachium were discovered in heavy rains in the Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary. The frogs — which are apparently loud croakers with a "kekkek-kek-kek" call — were docile and easily picked up by researchers, the WWF reported.
According to the WWF report, the Himalayan region is facing a range of threats, including climate change, population growth, deforestation, poaching, and pollution.
“The challenge is to preserve our threatened ecosystems before these species, and others yet unknown are lost,” Sami Tornikoski leader of the WWF Living Himalayas Initiative, said in a statement.
For a list of all the species, and a more detailed look at their attributes, read the WWF report here.