Three new species of salamander have been discovered in a largely unexplored forest in Costa Rica.
This increases the number of salamander species in Costa Rica from 40 to 43, making the country a centre of diversity for these amphibians.
One of the new species of salamander. It is nocturnal © A Monro
The Natural History Museum led three expeditions to La Amistad National Park on the Costa Rica-Panama border. It is the biggest forest reserve in Central America and yet remains one of the least explored places in the region. The scientists recorded 5,300 plants, insects and amphibians from their trips.
'Finding so many new species in one area is exciting,' says Dr Alex Monro, biodiversity expert at the Natural History Museum and leader of the exploration project. 'Particularly as this is probably the only place in the world you can find these animals.'
'It shows we still have a lot to learn about the variety of wildlife in this region. We have four more expeditions planned this year - who knows what we could find when we go back?'
One of the new species of dwarf salamander © A Monro
Two of the new salamanders are from the Bolitoglossa genus and are nocturnal, coming out at night to feed. The first Bolitoglossa species is 8cm long and black, with a bold red stripe down its back and small yellow markings on its sides.
The second Bolitoglossa species is 6cm long and deep brown in colour with a pale cream underside.
The third salamander is from the Nototriton (dwarf salamander) genus and is a mere 3cm in length, with red-brown colouring and black markings on its sides.
The specimens are not named yet. They will be described and named by scientists at the University of Costa Rica, where they will form part of the national collections.
Cloud forest of La Amistad in Costa Rica. It is the biggest forest reserve in Central America © A Monro
La Amistad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it represents the most remote part of the Talamanca Mountains, mainly due to its treacherous terrain and lack of roads.
It has been estimated that two thirds of all Costa Rica's native species live there, including more than 250 species of reptiles and amphibians, 600 species of birds, 215 species of mammals and 14,000 species of plant.
The expeditions are part of a project funded by the UK government's Darwin Initiative to provide baseline information to underpin the conservation of La Amistad National Park.
The Natural History Museum is working in partnership with Costa Rica's national biodiversity institute, INBio, the University of Costa Rica, the University of Panama and Panama's National Parks' Authority.