Treasure Island: New species discoveries in Madagascar

Scientists in Madagascar have discovered more than 615 species, including 41 mammals between 1999 and 2010 but many of the exciting and colourful creatures are already endangered.
The significance of the flora and fauna of Madagascar is not only their diversity, but also their remarkable endemism. The high level of species unique to Madagascar resulted from tens of millions of years of isolation from the African mainland and from people, who only arrived 2,000 years ago.

The islands have an astounding eight plant families, five bird families, and five primate families that live nowhere else on Earth.
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Berthe's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae)
© Louise Jasper / WWF Madagascar

Berthe's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae), discovered in 2000, is the smallest of the mouse lemurs and the smallest in the world with an average body length of 92 millimetres (3.6 in) and weight of around 30g, it is found in the Kirindy Mitea National Park in Western Madagascar (see map).
The Antafia sportive lemur was first described by scientists in 2006. rel=
The Antafia sportive lemur was first described by scientists in 2006.
© Urs Thalmann / WWF Madagascar

...[although Madagascar] is only one of 92 countries with wild primate populations, it is alone responsible for 21% (14 of 65) of all primate genera and 36% (five of 14) of all primate families, making it the single highest priority [for primate conservation].

Dr Russell A. Mittermeier, primatologist, herpetologist and biological anthropologist

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Boophis bottae
© Axel Strauss / WWF Madagascar
Boophis bottae is one of 69 amphibians discovered over the last 11 years. A recent study revealed that there are twice as many amphibian species in Madagascar than previously thought. Amphibians are in decline worldwide and on Madagascar the results of the survey suggests that current habitat destruction may be affecting more species than previously thought.
Boophis lilianae rel=
Boophis lilianae
© Axel Strauss / WWF Madagascar
Boophis lilianae male and female in amplexus. The species was newly described in 2008.
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Liophidium pattoni
© WWF Madgascar
This exceptionally-coloured new snake species (Liophidium pattoni) was discovered in 2010 at the western side of the Makira plateau, within the newly created Makira National Park, province of Mahajanga, in the North East of Madagascar. It is known to eat lizards and hunts through the rainforest searching for small ground-living animals.
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Chameleon species (Furcifer timoni)
© Jorn KOHLER / WWF Madagascar
During recent field work scientists discovered a colourful and highly distinct species of chameleon (Furcifer timoni), in the isolated rainforests of the Montagne d'Ambre massif 850m above sea level, in northern Madagascar (see map).
Gecko, Phelsuma borai rel=
Gecko (Phelsuma borai)
© Frank Glaw / WWF Madagascar
In 2009, scientists discovered a new species of gecko (Phelsuma borai) with some remarkable transforming abilities. The species has a greyish-brown ground colouration resembling the bark of trees, which scientists believe provides the species with effective camouflage to escape from predators.
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Gecko (Phelsuma borai)
© Frank Glaw / WWF Madagascar
However, Phelsuma borai can quickly change its colour, which in this extent is unusual for the Phelsuma genus and allows the species to switch from a subtle brown to a colourful bright blue during courtship.
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Undoubtedly the most exciting discovery in the world of palms in the new millennium is the Tahina Palm (Tahina spectabilis), described in 2008, and found quite by accident by a cashew-grower, Xavier Metz. This magnificent and massive fan palm flowers only once in its life, with a totally spectacular, giant, whitish inflorescence that forms from the centre of the crown. After fruiting, the palm dies and collapses.
© Henri Mercier / WWF Madagascar
This magnificent and massive fan palm (Tahina spectabilis) flowers only once in its life, with a totally spectacular, giant, whitish inflorescence that forms from the centre of the crown. After fruiting, the palm dies and collapses. The palm was described in 2008, and was found quite by accident by a cashew-grower, Xavier Metz.

What can you do?

  • Don't buy rosewood from Madagascar
  • Don’t collect/buy exotic pets from Madagascar
  • Check www.wwf.mg for frequent updates about our conservation activities
  • Visit Madagascar and its unique biodiversity!
  • Donate to WWF
  • Habitats under pressure

    The habitats of Madagascar continue to face ever-growing threats, including unsustainable resource extraction including small-scale, and widespread clearance of habitats, primarily for firewood and charcoal production. Secondary threats are caused by subsistence agriculture, livestock grazing, and invasive species.
  •  / ©: Xavier Vincke / WWF Madagascar
  •  / ©: Xavier Vincke / WWF Madagascar
  •  / ©: Xavier Vincke / WWF Madagascar

Did you know...

    • Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and at 587,000 km2 it is about the size of France.
    • The island has 36% of all primate families (five of 14) in the world, making it the highest priority for primate conservation
    • With over 250,000 species, Madagascar is home to 5% of the world's plant and animal species and most of them are endemic to the island.
    • Many of Madagascar's 20 million inhabitants face poverty, and despite its rich biodiversity it is one of the world's poorest nations.

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