Forest reveals new salamander species

Press release - 04 January 2008

Three new salamander species have been discovered in a largely unexplored forest in Costa Rica, on expeditions led by the Natural History Museum.

The new species are amongst 5,300 plants, insects and amphibians recorded during three explorations of La Amistad National Park on the Costa Rica–Panama border.

La Amistad is the biggest forest reserve in Central America, yet it remains one of the least explored places in the continent. These new discoveries increase the number of salamander species in Costa Rica from 40 to 43, making it a centre of diversity for these amphibians.

‘Finding so many new species in one area is exciting, particularly as this is probably the only place in the world you can find these animals,’ said Dr Alex Monro from the Natural History Museum, who is leading the project exploring La Amistad and recording its biodiversity. ‘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?’

Two of the new salamanders are from the Bolitoglossa genus and are nocturnal, coming out at night to feed. The first Bolitoglossa species is eight centimetres long and black, with a bold red stripe down its back and small yellow markings on its side.

The second Bolitoglossa species is six centimetres long and deep brown with a pale cream underside. The third salamander is from the Nototriton (dwarf salamander) genus and is a mere three centimetres in length, with red-brown colouring and black markings on its side.

The specimens will be studied and named by scientists at the University of Costa Rica, where they will form part of the national collections.

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.

La Amistad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it represents the most remote part of the Talamanca Mountains, mainly due to the 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.

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Notes for editors

Selected by Time Out in 2007 as one of the Seven Wonders of London, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre.

Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries.

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