Five Newly Discovered Species in 2023


DiCaprio’s Snail-eating Snake (Sibon irmelindicaprioae), Panama and Colombia

As the name suggests, this new species of snake was named after actor and conservationist, Leonardo DiCaprio; The specific epithet ‘irmelindicaprioae’ honors Irmelin DiCaprio, the mother of DiCaprio who chose the name. This newly discovered species is one out of five new discoveries made in the forests of Central and South America. Located in the Choco-Darren forests of Eastern Panama and Western Colombia, DiCaprio’s Snail-eating Snake is the rarest of the five new species of Snail-eating snakes. These snakes grow up to 15 inches in length and are covered in scales the color of burnt coals, with round eyes that look like burning coals. These snakes are arboreal (tree-dwelling), found lying in Palm fronds 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground. Unlike other snakes, it does not defend itself by biting, but rather by wrapping itself protectively around its head and emitting a foul odor.

The discovery was made by the Ecuadorian biologist Alejandro Arteaga and the Panamanian biologist Abel Batista. The other four new species described in the study, published on January 25 in the journal Zookeys are: Canopy snail-eating snakes (Sibon canopy), Marley’s snail-eating snake (Sibon marley), Vieira’s snail-eating snake (Sibon viarai), and the Welborn’s snail-eating snake (Dipsus wellborni)

According to statements, DiCaprio’s snake already fits the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s criteria for “near-threatened”, due to gold and copper mining operations done in the area. All five snake species are arboreal, meaning they cannot survive in deforested areas, and all rely on a steady diet of slugs and snails that feed on mining-related pollution in streams and rivers. Reasons are in decline.

Stream treefrog (Hyloscirtus tolkieni), Ecuador

Despite extensive searches during the initial fieldwork, only a solitary individual of Hyloscirtus tolkieni, a stream treefrog, was discovered and captured. Nevertheless, the distinct morphology of this lone specimen was sufficient for the authors of this paper to classify it as a new species, setting it apart from other members of the Hyloscirtus genus.

With the discovery limited to this singular individual, the known distribution of the species is confined to the southern eastern slopes of the Cordillera Oriental, located within the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park in Ecuador.

Stream treefrogs, part of the Hyloscirtus genus, derive their name from their typical habitat near streams, where they engage in breeding activities. The specific epithet ‘tolkieni’ was chosen as a tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien, the esteemed author of works such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. According to the scientists, the colors exhibited by this recently described species “evoke the magnificent creatures that seem to only exist in fantasy worlds.”

Bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus santana), Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Scientists have recently documented the first species of bent-toed gecko in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, the world’s fourth youngest country situated in the eastern part of the Timor Island within the Lesser Sunda Islands.

The gecko, initially discovered in the Lene Hara cave in Nino Konis Santana National Park during daylight hours, proved elusive during the scientists’ initial attempts to capture it. Subsequent nighttime efforts, taking advantage of the gecko’s nocturnal nature, resulted in the successful capture of ten individuals. Genetic and morphological analyses subsequently confirmed that the gecko represented a previously undescribed species.

This marks the inaugural documentation of a bent-toed gecko species by scientists in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, a region where bent-toed geckos had been observed previously but not classified to the species level. Biological surveys were limited in Timor-Leste, owing to past violence and unrest prior to its independence.

The species designation ‘santana’ is derived from the Nino Konis Santana National Park, where the gecko was located, and is a tribute to the freedom fighter Nino Konis Santana, born within the park’s boundaries.

Giant Crab Spider (Sadala rauli), Ecuador

In the Amazon Rainforest, a previously unknown and colorful spider species has been unearthed by scientists. Discovered at a research station nestled in the heart of the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve in northern Ecuador, this Giant Crab Spider belongs to the Sadala genus, a group of sizable spiders categorized within the broader Sparassidae family, commonly known as huntsman spiders or giant crab spiders.

The latter designation is derived from the characteristic stance these spiders assume, resembling a crab with legs extended to the sides. This discovery marks the initial record of a spider from the Sadala genus in Ecuador, although Sadala spiders have been previously documented in various locations across Central and South America, spanning from Panama to central-west Brazil.

The newly revealed spider, named Sadala rauli, is known solely from female specimens cataloged by the researchers. These specimens exhibit an orange hue with brown markings on specific body parts, including the leg tips. Resembling two Sadala spider species found in Peru, they can be distinguished by reproductive system characteristics.

Researchers note that Sadala rauli is a nocturnal species that actively hunts insects among vegetation, typically at heights ranging from 3 to 7 feet above the ground. In a departure from typical spider behavior, this species does not construct webs to ensnare prey.

Vampire Wasp (Capitojoppa amazonica), Peru

Researchers in South America have uncovered a novel wasp species with peculiar habits, including stinging, blood-sucking, and laying larvae beneath the skin of its prey. This newfound species, identified in Peru, has been named Capitojoppa amazonica by biologists. The name is a blend of “capito”, signifying a large bulb, and “joppa”, chosen due to the wasp’s resemblance to those of the Joppa genus. The distinct bright yellow creature can attain a size of up to 2 centimeters.

Brandon Claridge, a biology doctoral candidate at Utah State University, and his team encountered this unusual wasp during a comprehensive study. Employing expansive, tent-like traps placed in the rainforest undergrowth, they captured flying insects.

Despite its formidable characteristics, Capitojoppa poses no threat to humans. These “Xenomorphs” primarily target caterpillars, beetles, and spiders. Upon locating a suitable host, the female wasp engages in an intriguing ritual, energetically stroking the host with her antennae. If deemed suitable, she deposits a single egg inside the host by piercing it with her ovipositor, the egg-laying organ. Capitojoppa likely not only feeds on deceased hosts but also, after puncturing a victim, extracts hemolymph—a blood-like fluid found in insects—from the wound.


Written By: Pahan Perera

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