Scientists have discovered 14 new animal species in Brazil's Cerrado, a vast woodland-savanna ecoregion that stretches across more than 2 million square kilometers of the country's central plateau. The new species include eight fish, three reptiles, one mammal, one bird, and one amphibian. These new species add to a rich assortment of flora and fauna previously known to inhabit the region, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The Cerrado's wildlife includes:
- 10,000 plant species (4,400 endemic)
- 195 mammal species (14 endemic)
- 607 bird species (17 endemic)
- 225 reptile species (33 endemic)
- 186 amphibian species (28 endemic)
- 800 freshwater fish species (200 endemic)
The recently discovered species illustrate the uniqueness of the region. Among the newfound animals are a leggless lizard with a pointed snout (which resembles a snake more closely than it does a lizard), a horned toad, and a dwarf woodpecker.
The research team consisted of 26 scientists from various institutions: the University of São Paulo and its Museum of Zoology, the Federal Universities of São Carlos and Tocantins, and Conservation International Brazil. The scientists spent 29 days in the Cerrado, focusing their efforts within the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station, the second largest protected area within the Cerrado. During their expedition, they tallied a list of more than 440 species of vertebrates including a number of threatened species such as the hyacinth macaw, three-banded armadillo, marsh deer, and dwarf tinamou.
The Cerrado is known as Brazil's breadbasket. It occupies about 23 percent of Brazil's land area and is the country's second largest biome after the Amazon. It is the largest woodland-savanna in South America. Sadly, the expansion of large-scale agriculture in the region has already altered 70 percent of the Cerrado's habitats. Only a small percentage of the region is currently designated as protected land. But conservation efforts are gaining some ground. The high levels of diversity, endemism, and threat has earned the Cerrado a place on Conservation International's list of biodiversity hotspots. And the Nature Conservancy recently created the Serro do Tombador Nature Preserve, a 22,000 acre private preserve in the region.
- Legless Lizard Among New Species Discovered in Cerrado Region of Brazil (Conservation International)
- Cerrado Biodiversity Hotspot (Conservation International)
- Serra do Tombador Preserve Created in Cerrado Grasslands (Nature Conservancy)
- The Cerrado (Nature Conservancy)
Top: Photo © Paula H. Valdujo / USP Universidade de Sao Paulo, Pequi. A horned toad (genus Proceratophrys) believed to be a newfound species.
Bottom: Photo © Cristiano Nogueira / Conservation International. The Pedra da Baliza (or Beacon Stone) is an isolated block of sandstone at the top of the Serra Geral.