Academy Scientists find 58 new Species in Myanmar

Research increases Myanmar's known diversity
of reptiles and amphibians by over 20%

This gecko, Cyrtodactylus brevidactylus, is one of the nine new species of geckos that has been described as a result of the Academy's recent work in Myanmar. For a high resolution version of this image, email Stephanie at sstone@calacademy.org.

SAN FRANCISCO (January 10, 2005) - In the past, the geckos of Myanmar have not garnered much attention. The local people generally leave these lizards alone, since they are too small to eat. And although scientists from other countries have been hoping to study these creatures for decades, the political climate following World War II has made it very difficult to conduct research in Myanmar (Burma). However, in 1997, the California Academy of Sciences began sending scientists over to Myanmar to document the country's rich array of reptiles and amphibians. Since the project started, Academy herpetologists have discovered 58 new species of frogs, toads, snakes, and lizards, increasing the country's known diversity of reptiles and amphibians by an estimated 21%. A number of these new species live only in isolated pockets of mountainous terrain, including nine new species of geckos in the genus Cyrtodactylus. The geckos in this genus are unusual because they lack the suctioning toe pads that are characteristic of other geckos.

About the Academy's Research in Myanmar
Historically, Myanmar has valued its timber supply above all other natural resources. However, as one of the world's 25 designated "biodiversity hotspots," the country holds another rich, but rapidly diminishing, resource: a diverse concentration of plant and animal species, many of which can only be found within the country's borders. Since 1997, Academy scientists have been working not only to document this biodiversity, but also to help local scientists learn how to study and care for their country's resources. So far, Academy herpetologists have conducted surveys in 19 of Burma's 34 parks and reserves, and they have taught local researchers how to identify, collect and store specimens.

Building Myanmar's First Science Museum
For the past few years, Academy scientists have been collaborating with researchers from the Smithsonian Institute and Myanmar's Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division to create a permanent home for the specimens collected during Academy research expeditions in Myanmar. After several shipments of museum supplies from the Academy and two visits from Academy herpetologists Jens Vindum and Guin Wogan, the Myanmar Biodiversity Museum is becoming a fully functional facility. During their most recent visit, Vindum and Wogan worked with the museum's new employees to organize and computerize the 4,000 herpetology specimens in their collections, using the recent shipments of shelving, specimen jars and computer equipment. Vindum also helped to set up what is now one of the biggest scientific libraries in the country. He and his Academy colleagues have just received NSF funding to continue their research in Myanmar for the next three years.

 

The California Academy of Sciences, the fourth largest natural history museum in the United States, is home to Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Natural History Museum. The Academy is beginning an extensive rebuilding project in Golden Gate Park. Pritzker prize-winning architect Renzo Piano is designing the new Academy, which is expected to open in 2008.

# # # #