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New crocodile newt discovered in Vietnam

New crocodile newt discovered in Vietnam

Monday, July 17, 2023, 10:56 GMT+7
New crocodile newt discovered in Vietnam
Tylototriton ngoclinhensis was found at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum in Vietnam. Photo: Phung My Trung

A group of scientists, including Vietnamese and German researchers, have discovered a new species of crocodile newt living at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level in Ngoc Linh Mountain in Kon Tum Province of the Central Highlands region of Vietnam.

The discovery has attracted the attention of many people due to the special characteristics of the new species and the exceptionally high habitat of the novel crocodile newt.

In fact, all previously discovered species of Tylototriton live at an altitude of 250-1,740 meters.

Scientifically named 'Tylototriton ngoclinhensis,' it is considered a surprising and interesting discovery of a new crocodile newt species of the genus Tylototriton (Amphibia, Caudata, Salamandridae) in Vietnam.

Before it, there were six species of crocodile newts found and described in Vietnam, which were detected in provinces in the north and the north-central province of Nghe An.

Scientists specializing in amphibian research expect to discover more species of crocodile newts in the provinces from Quang Binh to Kon Tum.

"This important new discovery is the eighth Tylototriton taxon described from Vietnam, and also represents the southernmost distribution record for the entire genus in Asia," according to the research article published by the group of scientists on Researchgate.net.

In the journal ZooKeys, the research team, led by scientist Trung My Trung, provided evidence that Tylototriton ngoclinhensis is distinct from all other genera based on morphological data, allopatric distribution, and molecular divergence.

In addition, the Tylototriton ngoclinhensis is one of the most colorful species in the sister group of Tylototriton and the first species discovered in the Central Highlands above an elevation of 1,800 meters.

Tylototriton ngoclinhensis was found at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level in the central highland province of Kon Tum in Vietnam. Photo: Phung My Trung

Tylototriton ngoclinhensis was found at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum in Vietnam. Photo: Phung My Trung

The new species is native to an area about 370 kilometers from the nearest Tylototriton population, making the discovery an important finding in terms of evolution and zoogeography.

Tylototriton ngoclinhensis was first discovered in 2018. Phung My Trung, an expert on reptiles and amphibians, said he knew even then that it would probably be a new species and the most interesting discovery of the order Caudata in Vietnam.

However, it took him more than four years to conduct his own surveys alone in deep abysses and high mountains to collect enough samples to announce the new species of Ngoc Linh crocodile newt, which he called 'the most beautiful and unusual species.'

"I found an ecological niche of Tylototriton ngoclinhensis during a fieldwork expedition in the Central Highlands. I was waiting for the following rainy season, hoping to find adult individuals giving birth to their eggs," he recalled.

"I was really surprised when I saw the adults, which were so beautiful that I was shaking and could hardly believe I was holding a live specimen in my hand."

According to the experienced researcher, he had to face many other obstacles besides the loss of time and resources to find such a beautiful amphibian species.

"I would like to send this interesting discovery as a gift to my companions during our arduous expedition in search of new species," Trung said with emotion.

To Phung My Trung, the salamander crocodile newt is a species that belongs to the order Caudata, an ancient creature that has survived on earth. The genome of this species is eight times that of humans.

The researcher found that sequencing their genes would require an extremely powerful computer system.

In addition, gene analysis would take about six months and sequencing about two years, which also requires a considerable budget.

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An Khue - Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News

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