Every day, the dementor wasp (Ampulex dementor) flies through the rain forests of Thailand looking for cockroaches. When it finds one, it stings, injecting a special venom that makes the roach unable to control its own movements. The wasp then helps “guide” the cockroach back to its nest, where the wasp eventually lays eggs that hatch into larvae that feed upon the roach’s flesh.
The wasp, which is named after the hideous Azkaban guards from the Harry Potter books, is just one of the 139 new species that scientists and naturalists discovered in Southeast Asia in 2014, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Since 1997, researchers have found 2,216 previously unknown species here, an average of one discovery every three days. This area of the Mekong River ecosystem, which includes areas of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, hosts incredible biodiversity that remains little known.
Here are some other creatures scientists found there in 2014:
1. The world’s second-longest insect, Phryganistria heusii yentuensis
Biologist Jerome Constant and his colleagues discovered this stick-like insect in Vietnam. The scientists found the insect just outside the village of Tam Dao, searching through tree foliage at night with bright headlamps and well-trained eyes. “We now have more than 150 new species of stick insects to describe, only from Vietnam after a few expeditions,” Constant says. “So imagine what there remains to discover.”
2. Long-Fanged Bat, Hypsugo dolichodon
Researchers found specimens of this toothy fellow in Laos and Vietnam. It boasts longer teeth than its close relatives, and scientists think this specialization allows it to eat insects with harder shells.
3. Thai ‘Princess’ Moth, Sirindhornia genus
Scientists from Kasetart University in Thailand surveyed well-studied forests in their country and found four news species and a previously unknown genus (the taxonomic group of species) of moth. These insects and their glorious face plumage were named after Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.
4. Crocodile Newt, Tylototriton shanorum
This newt hangs out in the ponds of east-central Myanmar and has long been well known by locals. Taxonomists had confused it for a wider-ranged species, but this creature has a flatter head, duller coloration and unique genes that qualify it as a new species.
5. Bent-Toed Gecko, Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi
Last but not least, don’t you dare forget the bent-toed gecko. It lives among limestone cliffs in Laos and has now become the 10,000th reptile discovered in the world, according to The Reptile Database, a collection of all known species of this type of animal.