Encompassing Cambodia, southern China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam, the Greater Mekong region’s rainforests and swamps are home to a myriad of creatures. So many, in fact, that in the last decade or so more than 1,000 species of plants and animals previously unknown to science have been discovered—an average rate of two per week.1
As well as the Laotian rodent Laonastes aenigmamus, the new species include a hot-pink, spiny dragon millipede Desmoxytes purpurosea and the world’s largest huntsman spider, Heteropoda maxima. The spider was found in caves in Laos, and has a leg span of 30 cm (1 ft)—“as big as a dinner plate”!2
While most of the new species were found in the largely unexplored jungles and swampy areas, some were found in “the most surprising places”, the World Wildlife Fund reported.3 “The Laotian rock rat, for example, thought to be extinct for 11 million years, was first encountered by scientists in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula pit viper was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.”3
We have earlier reported that the Laotian rock rat discovered in the market in 2005 was dead—“for sale on a table next to some vegetables”—but it certainly showed that Laonastes aenigmamus had not been extinct for 11 million years.4,5….
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