Legless Lizard And Tiny Woodpecker Among New Species Discovered In Brazil

By | May 1, 2008

Researchers discovered a legless lizard and a tiny woodpecker along with 12 other suspected new species in Brazil’s Cerrado, one of the world’s 34 biodiversity conservation hotspots.

The Cerrado’s wooded grassland once covered an area half the size of Europe, but is now being converted to cropland and ranchland at twice the rate of the neighboring Amazon rainforest, resulting in the loss of native vegetation and unique species.

An expedition comprising scientists from Conservation International (CI) and Brazilian universities found 14 species believed new to science — eight fish, three reptiles, one amphibian, one mammal, and one bird — in and around the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station, a 716,000-hectare (1,769,274-acre) protected area that is the Cerrado’s second largest.

The lizard, of the Bachia genus, resembles a snake due to its lack of legs and pointed snout, which help it move across the predominantly sandy soil formed by the natural erosion of the escarpments of the Serra Geral. Other suspected new species include a dwarf woodpecker (genus Picumnus) and horned toad (genus Proceratophrys).

“It’s very exciting to find new species and data on the richness, abundance, and distribution of wildlife in one of the most extensive, complex, and unknown regions of the Cerrado,” said CI biologist Cristiano Nogueira, the expedition leader. “Protected areas such as the Ecological Station are home to some of the last remaining healthy ecosystems in a region increasingly threatened by urban growth and mechanized agriculture.”

The team also recorded several threatened species such as the hyacinth macaw, marsh deer, three-banded armadillo (tatu-bola), the Brazilian merganser, and the dwarf tinamou among more than 440 species of vertebrates documented during the 29-day field expedition. – sd

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