CU Researchers Discover a New Species of Tylototriton in Northern Thailand

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A new species of the genus Tylototriton was recently recorded by the researchers from Chulalongkorn University in the wetlands of Doi Phu Kha National Park, Nan Province, Northern Thailand along the Luang Prabang mountain range.

The Asian newt has been named Tylototriton phukhaensis as a tribute to its place of origin.  The Tylototriton phukhaensis is the 5th Thai Tylototriton species to be discovered within the country and its study has been published in the “Tropical Natural History”, an online journal on scientific findings and the environment.

Professor Porrawee Pomchote, Assistant Professor Wichase Khonsue, and Professor Panupong Thammachoti, led the field survey of the area. With permission and support from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the Doi Phu Kha National Park Superintendent, and the Center of Learning Network for the Region, Chulalongkorn University, the research team was able to explore the Doi Phu Kha National Park area, in collaboration with researchers from Kyoto University, Japan, and Université de Corse Pascal Paoli, France.

Professor Porrawee reveals that the Tylototriton, more commonly known as crocodile salamanders, are amphibians that are in the same group as frogs.  These creatures can be found in the steep mountains and rainforests of North and Upper Northeast regions in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.

During the first encounter with Tylototriton at Doi Phu Kha National Park, over 50 specimens were spotted at 1,795 meters above sea level in a swamp of approximately 200 meters – covered with vegetation and big rocks. Based on observation, the majority were males and mainly live on land, except for when they mate.

“The special characteristics of the Tylototriton phukhaensis includes its orange-brown color and the sagittal ridge on the head.  This discovery shows that the area’s ecosystem is extremely healthy, as the eggs, young, and fully grown Tylototriton can thrive only in areas that are intact and 100% free of chemicals”, says Professor Porrawee.

“Tylototritons depend on the rain, which creates collections of small swamps that draws the tylototritons.  However, due to global warming and rainfall delays, droughts are inevitable and will definitely create negative effects.  Moreover, the natural habitat for tylototritons to reproduce is possibly in danger, as people release fish into the water.  In the future, we will try to push for the inclusion of these rare species in the protected wildlife group”, shares Professor Porrawee.