Scientists have discovered 60 species of previously unknown plants and animals living in a remote rainforest in southeastern Suriname.
Suriname is a small country on the northeastern coast of South America, just north of Brazil. It is located in a geographic area called the Guiana Shield, which contains more than one-quarter of the world’s rainforest.
An expedition of 16 field biologists spent three weeks in Suriname in 2012, exploring the remote, mountainous rainforest region. Thirty indigenous men helped transport their food and equipment by boat and guided team through the forest.
There has been very little human activity in the region the scientists were exploring, so plants and animals have been able to flourish. As a result, there is a high level of biodiversity there. (Biodiversity – which is short for “biological diversity” – means the variety of plant and animal species living in an area.)
The scientists found 1,378 different species of plants, insects, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals in the region, including 60 that they believe have not been identified before. The new species include six frogs, one snake, 11 types of fish, and many insects.
One of the newly discovered insects is the tiny Lilliputian dung beetle. Measuring only 2.3 mm, it is believed to be the second smallest dung beetle in South America. Dung beetles play a vital role in the ecosystem. By burying dung (animal poop) they help to control parasites and disease. They also help to scatter seeds around, and to return nutrients to the soil so plants can grow.
One new type of frog is the cocoa frog – a chocolate-brown frog that lives in trees. Another new species – the snouted tree frog – was discovered when it landed on the scientists’ camp table during dinner one night.
The expedition was led by Conservation International, an organization that works with local governments to help protect and conserve natural ecosystems and promote sustainable development.
Sustainable development means using natural resources carefully so they not only meet our current needs, but will be available for future generations as well.
Dr. Trond Larsen, a tropical ecologist who was on the expedition team, said Suriname is one of the last places on Earth where there are still huge areas of untouched forests and rivers.
Suriname is under pressure to build roads, mines and dams, but Conservation International says it is important to make sure the headwaters of its rivers remain unspoiled. The fresh water in this region feeds the rivers that provide water for food (fish), drinking, transportation and sanitation for people in the area.
National Geographic – photos from Suriname expedition.
Conservation International video about an expedition to the Central Suriname Nature Reserve.
By Kathleen Tilly
Write about this discovery from another perspective, such as: Dr. Trong Larsen, the scientists, the Indigenous people who live in Suriname and helped the scientists explore the rainforest, the Conservation International organization, or the animals and plants.
Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
A key characteristic of a scientist is curiosity. For example, the scientist that went to Suriname were there to find out more about plants and animals and to discover new species.
What other interests, jobs or activities require curiosity? Why do you think this trait is important in these areas?
Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).
Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).
Grammar Feature: Plural Nouns
Often, to make a noun (person, place or thing) plural, you just need to add an ‘s’, ‘es’ or ‘ies’ on the end of a word. For example, ‘duck’ becomes ‘ducks’ and ‘baby’ becomes ‘babies’.
Sometimes nouns don’t follow these rules. For example, what is the plural form of each of these words: fish, moose, species?