In the last 85 year researchers believed that only three crocodile species existed in Africa: the Nile, dwarf and slender-snouted.
A team of American researchers has recently discovered that there more species out in the wild, as there two Nile and three dwarf species. While studying a slender-snouted species that was close to extinction, the same team has identified a new African crocodile species, which is categorized as Central African slender-snouted crocodile. The scientific name is Mecistops leptorhynchus.
The discovery is explained in detail in a new study that was recently published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The new freshwater species can be found in Cameron, Tanzania and the surrounding zones. The species was previously thought to be a part of the established West African slender-snouted crocodile or Mecistops cataphractus.
The acknowledgment of two distinct slender-snouted crocodile species has raised severe conservation concerns, as only 10% of the slender-snouted crocodiles live in West Africa, which reduces the population by a grim 90%. Those numbers mean that the West African slender-snouted crocodile is close to extinction
The two species of crocodiles are differentiated by their genetic structure, which split 8 million years ago, in the volcanic region that is now known as Cameroon. Their appearance is also different, as the new species has a smooth, soft skin and its scales are lighter, while also lacking the specific bony crests sported by the West African crocs.
The joint study, led by the University of Florida in partnership with the University of Iowa and Washington analyzed the crocodile species present in 14 African countries. Mercistops leptorhynchus is the first new species fundamentally new species that has been completely studied since 1935.
The research is essential for the conservation efforts in the area, which aim to drive poachers away while also minimizing the habitat loss.
One of the lead researchers mentioned during an interview that the discovery reinforces the risks faced by some species in our current era.