10 newly discovered species you have to see to believe
Some 18,000 new species are discovered every year, some still alive and even a few that have since gone extinct. These new species, though, aren't your typical old monkeys and flowers. Almost all of them have distinct looks them make them truly a shock to see.
The International Institute for Species Exploration last week announced its annual top ten list of newly described or discovered species.
The list is released by the institute, based at Arizona State University, every year on May 23, coinciding with the anniversary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist responsible for the modern system of naming and classifying plants and animals. Linnaeus would be 315 years old and would no doubt take note of this mighty weird bunch of animal species.
"At present, the average is about 18,000 new plant and animal species (are discovered) each and every year," entomologist Quentin Wheeler said. "Our best estimate is that there are perhaps 12 million living species, of which we've described about 2 million since 1758, so we have a long way to go, and if we keep going at the pace of 18,000 a year, it'll take 500 years to get the job done."
So this top ten list is really just scratching the surface of the 2011 discoveries. And, in fact, many of the discoveries don't even scratch the surface at all.
Species: Rhinopithecus strykeri
Common name: Sneezing Monkey
Arizona State Note: "Since 2000, the number of mammals discovered each year only averages about 36 so it was nothing to sneeze at when a new primate came to the attention of scientists who were conducting a gibbon survey in the high mountains of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Rhinopithecus strykeri is the first snub-nosed monkey to be reported from Myanmar and is believed to be Critically Endangered. It is distinctive for its mostly black fur and white beard and for sneezing when it rains — although it tries to avoid dripping rainwater in its turned up nose by sitting with its head between its legs."
Species: Tamoya ohboya
Common name: Bonaire Banded Box Jelly
Arizona State Note: "This strikingly beautiful but venomous box jelly has had so many sightings since 2001 that it had a common name before being officially described in 2011 after the capture of a specimen in 2008.The sightings of this new species remind us of the opportunities for citizen scientists to participate in species exploration. More than 300 entries were submitted in an online competition to name this new species and hundreds of votes were cast to select ohboya as the winner, a name suggested by high school biology teacher Lisa Peck."
Species: Halicephalobus mephisto
Common name: Devil’s Worm
Arizona State Note: "Measuring about 0.5 mm in length, these tiny nematodes are the deepest-living terrestrial multicellular organisms on earth. Discovered at a depth of 1.3 km (8/10 mile) in a South African gold mine, this species is remarkable for surviving immense underground pressure as well as high temperatures (98.6 degrees Farenheit). According to the authors, carbon dating indicated that the borehole water where this species lives had not been in contact with the earth’s atmosphere for the last 4,000 to 6,000 years."
Species: Bulbophyllum nocturnum
Common name: Night-blooming Orchid
Arizona State Note: "The discovery of this new species is significant because it has the first night-blooming flowers recorded among the more than 25,000 known species of orchids. The slender, bizarre-looking flowers of Bulbophyllum nocturnum are rather small and start to open around 10pm but close the next morning, lasting only about 12 hours. This new species is known from a single plant and may be at risk due to habitat loss from logging practices in its native New Guinea."
Species: Kollasmosoma sentum
Common name: Dive-bombing Wasps
Arizona State Note: "This new species of parasitic wasp cruises at just one centimeter above the ground in search of its target. When its host is located (the ant Cataglyphis ibericus), this teensy wasp attacks from the air like a tiny dive bomber and deposits an egg in the unsuspecting ant. The sorties last on average a scant 0.052 seconds but are deadly, transforming ants into rations for larvae of the wasps. This impressive egg-laying or oviposition behavior has been captured on film."
Species: Spongiforma squarepantsii
Common name: Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom
Arizona State Note: "Named after the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants, this new species looks more like a sponge than a stereotypical mushroom and its fruiting body can actually be squeezed like a sponge and bounce back to its normal size and shape. This unusual mushroom is only the second species of the bolete fungus genus Spongiforma and according to the authors, 'its unusual shape is unlike anything else known.' Beyond having a shape that brings Spongebob Squarepants to mind, the authors note other similarities between the fungus and the cartoon personality. The mushrooms smells fruity and Spongebob lives in a pineapple; magnified, the texture of the fungus resembles the tube sponges covering the seafloor where Spongebob lives; and even the microscopic spores of the fungus appear spongelike."
Species: Meconopsis autumnalis
Common name: Nepalese Autumn Poppy
Arizona State Note: "Many newly discovered species are small in size or secretive in habits, but not all. This beautiful and vibrantly colored poppy has remained unknown to science until now. This is no doubt due in part to the extreme environment where the flower lives at an elevation of 10,827 to 13,780 feet in central Nepal. It is also evidence of the paucity of botanists studying the Asian flora as specimens of Meconopsis autumnalis had been collected twice before, although not recognized as new -- first in 1962 by the storied Himalayan plant hunter Adam Stainton and again in 1994 by staff of the University of Tokyo’s Department of Plant Resources."
Species: Crurifarcimen vagans
Common name: Wandering Leg Sausage
Arizona State Note: "Although this millipede is no match in length for the giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas at 38 cm/ 15 inches), new species Crurifarcimen vagans holds a new record as the largest millipede (16 cm) in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains. The new genus name seems apt given the fat, sausage-like shape of the millipede’s body which is about 1.5 cm in diameter with 56 more or less podous rings (body segments bearing ambulatory limbs) – each with two pairs of legs."
Species: Diania cactiformis
Common name: Walking Cactus
Arizona State Note: "Although this new species looks more like a cactus than an animal at first glance, Diania cactiformis belongs to an extinct group called the armoured Lobopodia. Like the only living lobopodians (the Onychophora or velvet worms), the armoured lobopodians had wormlike bodies and multiple pairs of legs. D. cactiformis is significant because it has segmented legs adding weight to the theory that arthropods (the largest group of living animals including insects, spiders, and crustacea) evolved from lobopodian ancestors."
Species: Pterinopelma sazimai
Common name: Sazima’s Tarantula
Arizona State Note: "Not only is this iridescent blue tarantula breathtakingly beautiful, it is the first new animal species from Brazil to have made it to the Top 10. Brazil is one of the planet’s most biologically diverse nations and is consistently a major source of species discoveries including much of Brazil's Amazon basin, its Atlantic forest, the savanna ecoregion Cerrado, and the hotspots of Brazil’s tropical Andes. Survival of tarantula species can be at risk due to loss of habitat and over-collecting for the pet trade. Although Pterinopelma sazimai is not the first blue tarantula, it is one of the most striking and may be especially vulnerable because of its limited distribution in an “ecological island” – a habitat high upon tabletop mountains which have a greater rainfall and different soils than the immediately surrounding area."
*All images are courtesy of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.*
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