Scientists have described a new salamander species of the genus Tylototriton from evergreen montane forests on Ngoc Linh Mountain in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Tylototriton is a large genus of salamanders, commonly known as crocodile newts, belonging to the family Salamandridae.
First described in 1871, the genus currently contains at least 39 species that inhabit montane forest areas throughout the Asian monsoon climate zone.
These species are distributed across Asia, from eastern Himalayas, eastern Nepal, northern India, Bhutan, Myanmar, central to southern China, and southwards through Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Tylototriton includes three subgenera: Tylototriton, Yaotriton, and Liangshantriton.
The newly-discovered species, named Tylototriton ngoclinhensis (common name is the Ngoc Linh crocodile newt), belongs to the subgenus Yaotriton.
This crocodile newt is a moderate sized and robust salamander species between 6 and 6.7 cm long.
“It is an exceptional discovery as it is one of the most colorful species in the genus Tylototriton,” said Trung My Phung, lead author of the study.
Tylototriton ngoclinhensis is restricted to evergreen montane forests near water bodies on Ngoc Linh Mountain in the Vietnamese province of Kon Tum.
This is the first time that a crocodile newt species is recorded from the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
“Occurring at an elevation more than 1,800 m, this discovery sets an altitudinal record for the genus in the country, with former ranges distributed between 250 m,” Phung said.
“Furthermore, the discovery represents the southernmost distribution range of the genus known to date.”
The researchers suggest that the new species should be classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List.
“Due to the aforementioned reasoning and given that Tylototriton is currently known only from Ngoc Linh Mountain, implying a limited distribution range composed of a single small isolated mountain population, is distinct evidence for a high threat potential,” they said.
“In addition to its special zoogeographic situation and rarity, the particular colorful appearance of the new crocodile newt species is very likely to draw the interest of illegal collectors.”
“All species of the genus Tylototriton are listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES 2022) and also in the Governmental Decree No. 84/2021/ND-CP of Vietnam and therefore the new species is automatically protected under these regulations.”
The discovery of Tylototriton ngoclinhensis is reported in a paper published online in the journal ZooKeys.
T.M. Phung et al. 2023. Southbound – the southernmost record of Tylototriton (Amphibia, Caudata, Salamandridae) from the Central Highlands of Vietnam represents a new species. ZooKeys 1168: 193-218; doi: 10.3897/zookeys.1168.96091
This article by Natali Anderson was first published by Sci.News on 11 July 2023. Lead Image: The Ngoc Linh crocodile newt (Tylototriton ngoclinhensis), holotype male. Image credit: Phung et al., doi: 10.3897/zookeys.1168.96091.
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