Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 11:24 UK

New rainforest species revealed


Parasitic vampire catfish caught on camera for the first time

An expedition to the rainforests of Guyana has discovered species new to science.

A team of researchers and wildlife film-makers spent six weeks searching the pristine forest as part of a BBC documentary.

The group believes it has revealed two fish species, one frog species and a number of bat flies that have not been described previously.

The finds are detailed in the BBC series Lost Land of the Jaguar.

The three-part documentary includes footage of the elusive South American cat.

Dr George McGavin (BBC)
Dr George McGavin was astonished at the variety of life on show

"In a short time, we caught hundreds of species, 10% of which may be new to science. It was unreal, unbelievable," exclaimed Dr George McGavin, a zoologist and one of the four presenters of the documentary.

He added: "Catching is the easy bit, the hard bit is going back to the lab and examining the species, comparing them to collections and books - seeing if they are new to science. One hour in the field can equal hundreds of hours in the lab."

The emerald tree boa was just one of the hundreds of extraordinary animals found in the Guyanese rainforest.

Dr McGavin told the BBC News Website: "The expedition captured on film the discovery of the strongest candidates for new species - two fishes."

These are a small banded fish (Hemiodus sp.) netted near the expedition's base camp, and a parasitic catfish (Vandellia sp.) that fell out of the gills of a larger catfish.

Map of Guyana

The expedition also filmed the world's heaviest snake, the anaconda, "which looked like a pile of tractor tyres," said Dr McGavin. It also shows the world's largest eagle, the harpy eagle.

Dr McGavin's highlight, however, was holding the Goliath spider. "It was quite a thrill, luring this spider, the size of a soup plate, out of its hole and holding it. Although I can see that this wouldn't be everyone's idea of fun," he laughed.

The film aims to highlight the need to save this truly unique rainforest.

"We have a choice, we really are at the cross-roads now. We can decide to keep these rich hotspots of nature or see them razed to the ground," said Dr McGavin.

He added: "If we lose the species at the rate we are going, we will be losing untold riches."


First glimpse of the new small banded fish

UK viewers can watch the first episode of the three-part series Lost Land of the Jaguar on BBC One at 2000 BST on Wednesday 30 July

Country profile: Guyana
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Images reveal 'rapid forest loss'
02 Jun 08 |  Science/Nature
Rainforest gets protected status
04 Dec 06 |  Science/Nature


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