Mekong Valley a Treasure Trove of New Species

Striped rabbits, bright pink millipedes laced with cyanide and a spider bigger than a dinner plate are among a host of new species discovered in a remote wildlife hotspot.

The Greater Mekong is described as one of the last scientifically unexplored regions of the world and it abounds in life seen nowhere else in the world, according to a new report from the World Wide Fund for Nature.

So little is known about the ecology of the region that previously unknown animals and plants have been turning up at a rate of two a week for a decade.

At least 1,068 new species were identified in the Greater Mekong from 1997 to 2007, along with several thousand tiny invertebrates.

Annamite striped rabbits, Nesolagus timminsi, with black and brown fur, were discovered in Vietnam and Laos in 2000 and are only the second species of striped rabbit to be identified. The other is in Sumatra, the two sharing a common ancestor that lived several million years ago.

Among the most bizarre to be discovered was a hot-pink, spiny dragon millipede, Desmoxytes purpurosea. Several were found simultaneously in Thailand as they crawled over limestone rocks and palm leaves.

• Click here for more photos.

• Click here for the World Wide Fund for Nature's report, 'First Contact in the Greater Mekong' (pdf).

• Click here to read the rest of this story in the Times of London.

• Click here to visit's Natural Science Center.