Some 60 new species found in remote Suriname

The creatures that could be new to science include a type of poison dart frog, which secretes powerful toxins employed by local people for hunting.

Trond Larsen/Conservation International/AP
Biologists with the U.S.-based Conservation International say six frogs, 11 fish and numerous insects found in remote sections of Suriname’s rainforest are among 60 creatures that may be new species. The potential new species include a new kind of head-and-taillight tetra, seen here.

Braving perilous river rapids in Suriname's rainforest, international scientists found six frogs and 11 fish that are among 60 creatures that may be new species, a tropical ecologist with a U.S.-based conservation group said Thursday.

Trond Larsen, with the nonprofit research and advocacy organization Conservation International, said in a phone interview that the team catalogued creatures and studied freshwater resources during a three-week expedition in pristine forest of southeast Suriname near the border with Brazil.

The upper Palumeu River watershed is among the world's most remote and unexplored rainforests, the Arlington, Virginia-based group said. It has worked for years in Suriname, a sparsely populated country of 63,000 square miles (162, 265 square kilometers) on the north shoulder of South America.

The creatures that could be new to science include a brown tree frog dubbed the "cocoa frog" and a type of poison dart frog, which secretes powerful toxins employed by local people for hunting.

"Given the rate at which so many populations of frogs are declining and disappearing around the world, it's pretty exciting to be discovering new species," Larsen said.

Scientists also catalogued a potentially new type of colorful tetra fish, an unusually pigmented catfish and nine other types of fish after dragging nets through waterways. A 2.3 millimeter (less than an inch) reddish dung beetle that may be the second smallest one in South America was among apparently previously unknown kinds of insects found.

The research team collected data on 1,378 species of plants, birds, mammals, insects, fish and amphibians. The scientists were supported by 30 indigenous men who helped negotiate supply-laden boats through raging rivers and guided them through the forests.

Suriname, a Dutch colony until the 1970s, has made great efforts to protect its rainforests. In 1998, the government created the roughly 4 million-acre (1.6 million-hectare) Central Suriname Nature Reserve, setting aside some 10 percent of the country.

But thousands of illegal miners, many of them Brazilian, have also long worked throughout the interior, contaminating rivers in some areas with mercury used to separate gold from ore.

Researchers found high quality water conditions in the region they studied, but some of their samples had mercury above safe levels for drinking even though there was apparently no upstream mining. Larsen said he believes the mercury is blowing in from mining and industrial activities in neighboring nations.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.