Researchers discovered 20 new species of frogs, butterflies, snakes and more during an expedition in the Bolivian Andes

  • A team of 17 researchers spent two weeks in the Bolivian Andes assessing the ecosystem.
  • They found 20 new species never before identified in science.
  • The effort was part of Conservation International's Rapid Response Program to quickly research ecosystems in need of protection. 
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Scientists who explored an ecosystem high in the Bolivian Andes discovered 20 new species that had never been identified before, according to Conservation International, which ran the expedition.

A team led by biologist Trond Larsen hiked for two weeks through Bolivia's Zongo Valley, a region masked by clouds more than 10,000 feet above sea level, to assess the ecosystem.

During their short, but intrepid, trip they identified 1,204 species. Of them, 20 were "completely new to science," Larsen said in an interview with a writer from Conservation International's online blog.

The mountain fer-de-lance viper, the Bolivian flag snake, and the lilliputian frog, as well as four orchid and four butterfly species, were among their finds.

A type of bamboo, which is new to science but long used in the making of musical instruments by indigenous communities, was also found.

A new species of metalmark butterfly was discovered by a scientific expedition in the high Bolivian Andes.Courtesy of Trond Larsen of Conservation International/Handout via REUTERS

"One of our most exciting findings was actually the rediscovery of Oreobates zongoensis — a 'devil-eyed' frog, which has only ever been spotted once and was thought to be extinct," Larsen told the blog.

The lilliputian frog is 10 millimeters in length, making it one of the smallest amphibians in the world, the organization said in a statement.

"The remarkable rediscovery of species once thought extinct, especially so close to the city of La Paz, illustrates how sustainable development that embraces conservation of nature can ensure long-term protection of biodiversity," Conservation International said in a statement.

The lilliputian frog, measuring only about 10 millimeters in length, was also found. It is one of the smallest amphibians in the world.

"Due to their tiny size and habit of living in tunnels beneath the thick layers of moss in the cloud forest, they were difficult to find even by tracking their frequent calls," the environmental group said.

The 17-person expedition was part of Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program, which assembles "ecological SWAT teams." The goal of these trips is to assess ecosystems in a much shorter amount of time than it typically would take to do similar work so they can protect the land and species living there, according to the organization.

"The remarkable discovery of new species and rediscovery of species once thought extinct illustrates just how important it is to continue to sustainably develop La Paz in a way that protects and conserves the nature that surrounds it," Larsen said in the Conservation International blog. "This area has become a safe haven for amphibians, butterflies and plants that haven't been found anywhere else on earth. We owe it to future generations to keep it that way."

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