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Finding new speciesBy Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
October 21, 2010
Species discovery: how do scientists find and describe new species—and the answer to other taxonomy questions
Currently scientists have described 1.9 million species from Balaenoptera musculus (the blue whale) to Oxysternon festivum (the red dung beetle), yet conservative estimates of the number of species on Earth range anywhere from 10 to 20 million species (some estimates jump to 100 million). If bacteria are added to this list then the number of species on Earth likely jumps another 10 million or so.
The search for species is even more pressing now that scientists believe we are either entering or already in the midst of a mass extinction. Due to a variety of human driven impacts—including deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, climate change, invasive species, and overexploitation such as through bushmeat or the pet trade—species populations are falling worldwide.
But how do scientists find and describe new species?
The process of describing species
When describing a new species, scientists must collect a 'type specimen': this means a dead individual of the species. There have been a few instances where photographs including other genetic samples have been used to describe a new species successfully, and no individual is killed, but these are currently much in the minority.
Once the species is determined as new to science, researchers write a formal description of it, take photos and/or provide illustrations, and invent a new scientific name. After completing the paper, researchers then submit it to a scientific journal. The editor of the journal will circulate the new finding to other experts with those particular types of animals or plants. If the other experts agree that the new species is valid, the journal accepts the paper and the specimen officially becomes a new species. This process is long and often takes years between initial discovery and formal acceptance of the new species.
Cryptic species throw a wrench into this: these are species that look remarkably similar to another species, but are genetically unique. DNA is increasingly being used as a tool to determine new species as well as to discover the relationship between previously known species.
Finding species: where are the unknown species hiding?
If you want to earn scientific fame by discovering a new species, here are a few tips: think small, think underwater or underground, and think invertebrates and plants.
This is not to imply that all the world's large land-dwelling species have been found—just this year researchers announced the discoveries of a new species of monitor lizard that was as long as a adult human, a new monkey from the Brazilian Amazon, and a new carnivorous mammal from a lake in Madagascar—but such discoveries are more a matter of right place-right time over persistence.
While scientists still find new species in terrestrial ecosystems, a single dive to the depths of the ocean is likely to produce a new species. Cave systems have also yielded a number of new species, especially those that have only recently been explained. When it comes to types of species, insects are the most commonly discovered: thousands of new insects are found every year. Beetles are the most numerous.
History of species discovery and description
The history of species discovery and description is not only exciting—madness, exploration, untimely demise—it is also important for understanding the structure taxonomists use to describe species, for example the reason why every species is known by two Latinized names—the scientific name—one representing the genus and the other the species.
While the effort to categorize species stretches far back in history—Aristotle attempted it—today's modern system of categorizing and naming species largely stems from 18th Century Swedish scientist, Carl Linnaeus. In two seminal works—Species Plantarum and Systema Naturae—Linnaeus outlined the hierarchal structure employed today for classifying species. Latin was the language of choice, because it was dead and therefore fixed. Within his works, Linnaeus classified thousands of plants and animals from all around the world with Latinized names.
But Linnaeus didn't just build a structure to categorize species that would last to present-day, he was also instrumental in pushing the science of taxonomy further. As one of the most influential scientists of his day, Linnaeus chose and funded young biologist to travel the world, find new species, and return to him with specimens. These students have come to be known as 'the apostles of Linnaeus'. Seven of these 'apostles' died on their explorations, a couple went mad or became addicts, but many brought home species from as far away as China, South Africa, and the Amazon.
While Linnaeus, with help from his traveling apostles, began the formal and large-scale effort to describe the world's life-forms, it has, of course, changed considerably in over two hundred years. When biologists refer to species today they often give the year of the species' formal description and the scientist who described it. For example, the well-known panda bear is Ailuropoda melanoleuca David, 1869.
Also contemporary scientists categorize a species according to where it fits in the evolutionary tree, a concept that would have been unknown to Linnaeus as he developed his system over a hundred years before Darwin outlined the theory of evolution. In other words, animals that share the same genus are more closely related in evolutionary terms than animals that share only the same family.
Instead of relying on five classifications, as Linnaeus did, researchers have developed a seven rung hierarchy to describe a unique life form: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. For example, the tiger, which was described by Linnaeus, is classified in descending order as anamalia (animal), chordate (vertebrates), mammalia (mammals), carnivore (carnivores or mostly meat-eaters), felidae (cats), panthera (cats that roar), and tigris (the tiger). The tiger is additionally further separated into six surviving subspecies and three extinct subspecies.
Subspecies are a puzzling and at times difficult classification that establishes when a species has clearly splintered into distinct populations, usually geographically separated, but has not yet evolved far enough from each other to be considered separate species. One could think of a subspecies as unconnected populations: in other words the distinct populations would interbreed if they could, yet something—most often a physical barrier—is making interbreeding impossible. Debates over whether or not an animal is a unique species or simply a subspecies can be complex, rowdy, and linger for decades. This is because the debate over subspecies and species has real-world consequences: subspecies are rarely given conservation attention and funding. One example of a subspecies in flux is the forest elephant from the African Congo. The forest elephant is considered by some scientists to be distinct enough from the African elephant to be considered its own species, others, however, claim it is only a subspecies. If the forest elephant was accepted as a species today, the effort to save it from extinction would likely gain sudden life and an influx of funding. On the other side, if too many 'subspecies' are upgraded without cause, conservationists worry it could 'cheapen' the idea of a species.
Articles on recent species discoveries
Bird extravaganza: scientists discover 15 new species of birds in the Amazon
(06/12/2013) From 2000-2009, scientists described on average seven new bird species worldwide every year. Discovering a new bird is one of the least common of any species group, given that birds are highly visible, mobile, and have been scrutinized for centuries by passionate ornithologists and birders. But descriptions this year already blows away the record year over the last decade (in 2001 when nine new birds were described): scientists working in the southern Amazon have recorded an incredible 15 new species of birds according to the Portuguese publication Capa Aves. In fact, this is the largest group of new birds uncovered in the Brazilian in the Amazon in 140 years.
Chewbacca bat, beetle with explosive farts among oddities spotted on Mozambique expedition
(06/04/2013) The 'Chewbaka' bat, a cave-dwelling frog, and a diminutive elephant shrew were among hundreds of species documented during a one-month survey of a park that was ravaged during Mozambique's 17-year civil war. The findings suggest that biodiversity in Gorongosa National Park in Central Mozambique is well on the road towards recovery, opening a new chapter for the 4,000-square-kilometer protected area.
Scientists describe over 100 new beetles from New Guinea
(06/03/2013) In a single paper, a team of researchers have succinctly described 101 new species of weevils from New Guinea, more than doubling the known species in the beetle genus, Trigonopterus. Since describing new species is hugely laborious and time-intensive, the researchers turned to a new method of species description known as 'turbo-taxonomy,' which employs a mix of DNA-sequencing and taxonomic expertise to describe species more rapidly.
Two new arachnids discovered in Brazilian caves (photos)
(05/29/2013) Scientists have discovered two new species of short-tailed whipscorpions (in the order Schizomida) in limestone caves in Brazil, according to a new paper published in PLoS ONE. The new species—dubbed Rowlandius ubajara and Rowlandius potiguara—add new knowledge to a group of arachnids that is little known in South America outside of the Amazon.
Scientists discover two mini-spiders in China (photos)
(05/23/2013) Scientists have uncovered two miniature spiders living on mountains in China's southern region, one of which is among the smallest spiders recorded worldwide, according to a new paper in ZooKeys. Both spiders belong to the Mysmenidae family, which is made up of mini-spiders with eight eyes.
Three new species of carnivorous snails discovered in endangered habitat in Thailand (photos)
(05/23/2013) Scientists from Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok and the Natural History Museum, London recently discovered three new species of carnivorous snails in northern Thailand. However, the celebration of these discoveries is tainted by the fact that the new snails are already threatened with extinction due to the destruction of their limestone habitat.
Pictures: Top 10 new species of 2012
(05/23/2013) A glow-in-the-dark cockroach, an insect described from a photo posted on Flickr, a monkey that has been likened to Jesus, a carnivorous sea sponge, and the world's tiniest frog are among the 'top 10' species discovered during 2012, according to global committee of taxonomists.
New prehistoric animal named after Johnny Depp due to its 'scissorhands'
(05/19/2013) Half a billion years after an arthropod with long triple claws roamed the shallow Cambrian seas, scientists have named it after Hollywood movie actor, Johnny Depp: Kooteninchela deppi. Depp, known for his versatility as an actor, played Edward Scissorhands—an artificial man with long scissors for hands—in a popular 1990 film.
Scientists discover new giant mole rat in Africa (photos)
(04/30/2013) Although the term "giant mole rat" may not immediately inspire love, the mole rats of Africa are a fascinating bunch. They spend practically their entire lives underground building elaborate tunnel systems and feeding on plant stems. This underground lifestyle has led them to evolve small ears, tiny eyes, forward-pointing teeth for digging, and nostrils they can shut at will while digging. Some species are quite social, such as the most famous, the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber), while others live largely solitary lives. If that's not enough, the family of mole rats, dubbed Blesmols, may even help us find a cure for cancer.
Two new frog genera discovered in India's Western Ghats, but restricted to threatened swamp-ecosystems
(04/22/2013) The misty mountains of the Western Ghats seem to unravel new secrets the more you explore it. Researchers have discovered two new frog genera, possibly restricted to rare and threatened freshwater swamps in the southern Western Ghats of India. The discoveries, described in the open-access journal Zootaxa, prove once again the importance of the mountain range as a biodiversity hotspot.
New insect discovered in Brazil, only third known in its bizarre family (photos)
(04/15/2013) A new species of forcepfly named Austromerope brasiliensis, was recently discovered in Brazil and described in the open access journal Zoo Keys. This is the first discovery of forcepfly in the Neotropics and only the third known worldwide. The forcepfly, often called the earwigfly because the male genital forceps closely resemble the cerci of the common earwig, remains a scientific enigma due to the lack of information on the family.
New species tree-dwelling porcupine discovered in critically threatened Brazilian habitat
(04/11/2013) Scientists in Brazil have described a new species of tree-dwelling porcupine in the country's most endangered ecosystems. The description is published in last week's issue of Zootaxa.
Beautiful striped bat is the "find of a lifetime" (photos)
(04/10/2013) Scientists have uncovered a rare, brilliantly-striped bat in South Sudan that has yielded new secrets after close study. Working in Bangangai Game Reserve during July of last year, biologist DeeAnn Redeer and conservationist Adrian Garsdie with Fauna & Flora International (FFI) came across an unmissable bat, which has been dubbed by various media outlets as the "badger bat" and the "panda bat."
Looking beyond the hundred legs: finding new centipedes in India requires many tools
(04/08/2013) A small, boneless creature, that lives underground, with a "hundred" legs, and a rather powerful sting; some of these creatures are drab, but some are so beautiful and brightly colored that they can startle. Centipedes. There is more to a centipede than its many legs, and its habit of darting out of dark places. One of the first lifeforms to turn up on land, some centipede fossils date back to about 450 million years ago. They have been evolving steadily since, with some estimates showing about 8,000 species today. Not even half of these species have been taxonomically described.
New giant tarantula that's taken media by storm likely Critically Endangered (photos)
(04/04/2013) Described by a number of media outlets as "the size of your face" a new tree-dwelling tarantula discovered in Sri Lanka has awed arachnophiliacs and terrified arachnophobes alike. But the new species, named Raja's tiger spider (Poecilotheria rajaei), is likely Critically Endangered according to the scientist that discovered it in northern Sri Lanka.
Scientists discover new wasp species in a field box from the 1930s (photos)
(04/03/2013) Searching through materials at the Natural History Museum in Paris, Simon van Noort recently came across a long-neglected field box of wasp specimens. Collected 80 years earlier by André Seyrig in Madagascar, the box contained several specimens of wasp in the Paramblynotus genus. The big surprise: wasps in this genus had never before been seen in Madagascar.
Scientists describe new species of see-through fish from the Amazon
(04/03/2013) Scientists have documented an entirely new genus of fish from the Amazon rainforest.
Relative of the 'penis snake' discovered in South America (photos)
(03/27/2013) A new species of caecilian - a worm-like amphibian - has been discovered in French Guiana.
Scientists discover new genus of crustacean
(03/27/2013) In recent journeys to Madagascar, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Philippines, and French Polynesia, scientists from the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes and the University of Barcelona have discovered not only five new crustaceous species, but also the existence of a new genus in the family.
2 'giant' yet tiny mouse lemurs identified in Madagascar
(03/27/2013) Scientists have discovered two new species of mouse lemurs in Madagascar, bringing the total number of diminutive primates known to science to 20.
Scientists discover two new remarkably-colored lizards in the Peruvian Amazon (photos)
(03/21/2013) Scientists have discovered two new species of woodlizards from the Peruvian Amazon. Woodlizards, in the genus Enyalioides, are little-known reptiles with only 10 described species found in South and Central America. Described in a new paper in ZooKeys, both new woodlizards were found in Cordillera Azul National Park, the nations third-largest.
Scientists discover 8 new frogs in one sanctuary, nearly all Critically Endangered (photos)
(03/21/2013) Two surveys in the mountainous forests of Sri Lank's Peak Wilderness Sanctuary have uncovered eight new species of frogs, according to a massive new paper in the Journal of Threatened Taxa. While every year over a hundred new amphibians are discovered, eight new discoveries in a single park is especially notable. Sri Lanka is an amphibian-lovers paradise with well over 100 described species, most of which are endemic, i.e. found only on the small island country. Unfortunately the country has also seen more frog extinctions than anywhere else, and seven of the eight new species are already thought to be Critically Endangered.
The beautiful amphibian from Hell: scientists discover new crocodile newt in Vietnam (photos)
(03/19/2013) Researchers have discovered a new species of Vietnamese salamander that looks like it was birthed from an abyssal volcano. Found tucked away in Tokyo's National Museum of Nature and Science, the scientists described the species in the new edition of Current Herpetology. Coal-black with orange-tinted toes, the new crocodile newt (in the genus Tylototriton) was determined to be a new species when it showed morphological and genetic differences from near relatives. Despite its remarkable appearance, the researchers say these are typical colors for crocodile newts.
Two new species of mini-salamander discovered in Colombia
(02/28/2013) Biologists have discovered two new species of salamander in Tamá National Natural Park in Colombia. While the discovery should be cause for celebration, the news was dampened by the fact that both species are already infected with the deadly fungal disease, known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which has wiped out amphibian populations worldwide. Both of the new salamanders belong to the genus Bolitoglossa, which are web-footed salamanders found in the tropical Americas.
Warlords, sorcery, and wildlife: an environmental artist ventures into the Congo
(02/25/2013) Last year, Roger Peet, an American artist, traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to visit one of the world's most remote and wild forests. Peet spent three months in a region that is largely unknown to the outside world, but where a group of conservationists, headed by Terese and John Hart, are working diligently to create a new national park, known as Lomami. Here, the printmaker met a local warlord, discovered a downed plane, and designed a tomb for a wildlife ranger killed by disease, in addition to seeing some of the region's astounding wildlife. Notably, the burgeoning Lomami National Park is home to the world's newest monkey species, only announced by scientists last September.
Unique song reveals new owl species in Indonesia
(02/13/2013) Want to find a new species of owl? Just listen. A unique whistling call have led scientists to discover a new owl on the Indonesian island of Lombok, according to a new study in PLoS ONE. Two scientific expeditions, occurring separately but within a few days of each other, both noticed something different about the calls coming from owls on Lombok.
Genetics study claims to prove existence of Bigfoot
(02/13/2013) A new study purporting to uncover DNA evidence for Bigfoot has been published today in DeNovo Scientific Journal. While Bigfoot-enthusiasts have long argued that the cryptic monster is an unidentified ape species, the new study says their genetic evidence shows the Sasquatch is in fact a hybrid of modern human females mating with an unidentified primate species 13,000 years ago. The only problem: the journal in which the study is published—DeNovo Scientific Journal—appears to have been created recently with the sole purpose to publish this study.
Geneticists discover distinct lion group in squalid conditions
(02/04/2013) They languished behind bars in squalid conditions, their very survival in jeopardy. Outside, an international team of advocates strove to bring worldwide attention to their plight. With modern genetics, the experts sought to prove what they had long believed: that these individuals were special. Like other cases of individuals waiting for rescue from a life of deprivation behind bars, the fate of those held captive might be dramatically altered with the application of genetic science to answer questions of debated identity. Now recent DNA analysis has made it official: this group is special and because of their scientifically confirmed distinctiveness they will soon enjoy greater freedom.
Scientists could name every species on Earth in 50 years
(01/28/2013) A bold new paper in Science argues that the world's species could be named and described before they vanish into extinction, though the threat of eventual extinction will remain for many, especially as climate change worsens. The scientists say that contrary to popular belief, there are more taxonomists working than ever before and there are likely less species on Earth than often reported, making finding and naming the world's species within reach this century.
Photo: Subterranean 'Moby Dick' mermaid lizard discovered in Madagascar
(01/16/2013) An international team of scientists have described a bizarre new species of worm-like lizard that lives underground. Strangely, they named it the 'Moby Dick' mermaid skink.
Photos: Neon blue dragon discovered in Vietnamese rainforest
(01/15/2013) German and Russian biologists have discovered a stunning new species of lizard in Vietnam. The species, dubbed Calotes bachae, is described in a recent issue of the journal Zootaxa. Calotes bachae is a type of agama, a group of lizards commonly known as 'forest dragons.'
New giant flying frog discovered near city of 9 million
(01/09/2013) Jodi Rowley is no stranger to discovering new amphibians—she's helped describe over 10 in her short career thus far—but still she was shocked to discover a new species of flying frog less than 100 kilometers from a major, bustling Southeast Asian metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City. Unfortunately, the new frog, dubbed Helen's tree frog (Rhacophorus helenae), may be on the verge of extinction, according to the description published in the Journal of Herpetology.
Botanists discover cave-dwelling plant
(01/07/2013) The South China Karst region resembles a lost world with its stone forests and towering limestone formations that look like petrified skyscrapers. Standing at the edge of one of the region’s many vine-covered gorges, you could picture an apatosaurus lifting its head above the mist that blankets the gorge floor. Of course, that would be impossible, but what botanists recently found in the region was only slightly less surprising (to botanists). Near the back of a limestone cave, pink flowers bloomed on a newly discovered nettle that could survive on just a tiny fraction of the sunlight other plants receive. As Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park said, "life will find a way."
Photos: the top new species discoveries in 2012
(12/26/2012) Thousands of species were described for the first time by scientists in 2012. Some of these were 'cryptic species' that were identified after genetic analysis distinguished them from closely related species, while others were totally novel. Either way, here are some of the "new species" highlights from 2012.
Photo: New spider species named after Obama
(12/24/2012) One of 33 newly described species of trapdoor spiders is named after President Barack Obama, reports Wired.
Photos: 3 colorful lizard species discovered in Australia
(12/19/2012) Researchers in Australia have described three new lizard species from the northwestern part of the continent.
Pictures: 126 new species discovered in Greater Mekong region last year
(12/18/2012) Some 126 new species were described in Asia'a Mekong region last year, notes a new report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
New species of cute, but venomous, primate discovered in Borneo
(12/13/2012) Researchers have described a new species of slow loris, a type of primate that is imperiled by the pet trade.
California researchers discover 137 new species in 2012
(12/07/2012) Researchers at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco formally described 137 previously unknown species during 2012, including 83 arthropods, 41 fish, seven plants, four sea slugs, one reptile, and one amphibian.
Introducing the 'Obama-fish'
(11/30/2012) Scientists have named five newly discovered fish after former and current U.S. political leaders, including President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and Teddy Roosevelt, reports the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and Scientific American.
Long and thin with a big head: new snake adds diversity to a bizarre group (photo)
(11/28/2012) There's no question that blunt-headed vine snakes are an odd lot: a thin body tapers into an even thinner neck which expands suddenly into a broad head with massive eyes. Until now only six species were recognized from this genus, known as Imantodes, but a new study in Zookeys describes a seventh species: Imantodes chocoensis from the Chocó Forests in northeastern Ecuador.
New species of bioluminescent cockroach possibly already extinct by volcanic eruption
(11/14/2012) While new species are discovered every day, Peter Vršanský and company's discovery of a light-producing cockroach, Lucihormetica luckae, in Ecuador is remarkable for many reasons, not the least that it may already be extinct. The new species represents the only known case of mimicry by bioluminescence in a land animal. Like a venomless king snake beating its tail to copy the unmistakable warning of a rattlesnake, Lucihormetica luckae's bioluminescent patterns are nearly identical to the poisonous click beetle, with which it shares (or shared) its habitat.
New rare frog discovered in Sri Lanka, but left wholly unprotected
(11/05/2012) Sri Lanka, an island country lying off the southeast coast of India, has long been noted for its vast array of biodiversity. Islands in general are renowned for their weird and wonderful creatures, including high percentages of endemic species—and Sri Lanka, where scientists recently discovered a new frog species, is no exception.
Happy Halloween: nine new species of tree-climbing tarantula discovered
(10/31/2012) If you suffer from acute arachnophobia, this is the perfect Halloween discovery for you: a spider expert has discovered nine new species of arboreal (tree-dwelling) tarantulas in the Brazil. Although tarantula diversity is highest in the Amazon rainforest, the new species are all found in lesser-known Brazilian ecosystems like the Atlantic Forest, of which less than 7 percent remains, and the cerrado, a massive savannah that is being rapidly lost to agriculture and cattle ranching.
Photo: high-altitude bird rediscovered after 80 years
(10/29/2012) In 1929 the U.S. Stock Market collapsed, the Geneva Convention set standards for prisoners of war, the first Academy Awards was celebrated, and Jérôme Alexander Sillem collected two bird specimens on a high plateau in Xinjiang, China. For 62 years, the specimens sat in a drawer at the Zoological Museum of Amsterdam until C. S. Roselaar found them, studied them, and determined they, in fact, represented a new species of bird: Sillem's mountain finch (Leucosticte sillemi). Now, 83 years after Sillem collected the only known specimens, a French photographer, Yann Muzika, unwittingly took photographic proof that the finch species still survives.
Photos: new mammal menagerie uncovered in remote Peruvian cloud forest
(10/03/2012) Every year scientists describe around 18,000 new species, but mammals make up less than half a percent of those. Yet mammal surprises remain: deep in the remote Peruvian Andes, scientists have made an incredible discovery: a rich cloud forest and alpine grassland ecosystem that may be home to no less than eight new mammal species. Although most of these new mammals are currently under study—and have not been officially described yet (a process which can take several years)—lead scientists, Horacio Zeballos of Peru and Gerardo Ceballos of Mexico are certain they have uncovered a small forest, surrounded by deforestation and farmland, that shelters a remarkable menagerie of mammals unknown to scientists until now.
Conflict and perseverance: rehabilitating a forgotten park in the Congo
(09/19/2012) Zebra racing across the yellow-green savannah is an iconic image for Africa, but imagine you're seeing this not in Kenya or South Africa, but in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Welcome to Upemba National Park: once a jewel in the African wildlife crown, this protected area has been decimated by civil war. Now, a new bold initiative by the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), dubbed Forgotten Parks, is working to rehabilitate Upemba after not only decades of conflict but also poaching, neglect, and severe poverty.
Scientists name new snake species to criticize mine plans in Panama (photos)
(09/18/2012) While scientists increasingly name new species after celebrities in order to gain much-needed attention for the world's vanishing biodiversity, researchers describing a new snake species from Panama have taken a different route. Dubbing the new serpent, Sibon noalamina ('no to the mine!' in Spanish), the scientists are hoping the multicolored snake's unusual name will draw attention to mining and deforestation issues in Panama's remote Tabasará mountains.
Remarkable new monkey discovered in remote Congo rainforest
(09/12/2012) In a massive, wildlife-rich, and largely unexplored rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), researchers have made an astounding discovery: a new monkey species, known to locals as the 'lesula'. The new primate, which is described in a paper in the open access PLoS ONE journal, was first noticed by scientist and explorer, John Hart, in 2007. John, along with his wife Terese, run the TL2 project, so named for its aim to create a park within three river systems: the Tshuapa, Lomami and the Lualaba (i.e. TL2), a region home to bonobos, okapi, forest elephants, Congo peacock, as well as the newly-described lesula.
Tiny new frog discovered in India bypasses the free-swimming tadpole stage
(09/07/2012) A tiny new frog species has been discovered in the rainforests of India's Western Ghats.
Unidentified poodle moth takes Internet by storm
(08/29/2012) A white moth from Venezuela that bears a striking resemblance to a poodle has become an Internet sensation, after cryptozoologist Karl Shuker posted about the bizarre-looking species on his blog. Photographed in 2009 in Venezulea's Canaima National Park in the Gran Sabana region by zoologist Arthur Anker from Kyrgyzstan, the white, cuddly-looking moth with massive black eyes has yet to be identified and could be a species still unknown to science.
Private reserve safeguards newly discovered frogs in Ecuadorian cloud forest
(08/28/2012) Although it covers only 430 hectares (1,063 acres) of the little-known Chocó forest in Ecuador, the private reserve las Gralarias in Ecuador is home to an incredible explosion of life. Long known as a birder's paradise, the Reserva las Gralarias is now making a name for itself as a hotspot for new and endangered amphibians, as well as hundreds of stunning species of butterfly and moth. This is because the reserve is set in the perfect place for evolution to run wild: cloud forest spanning vast elevational shifts. "The pacific slope cloud forests [...] are among the most endangered habitats in the world," explains Reserva las Gralarias' founder, Jane Lyons, in a recent interview with mongabay.com.
'Penis-headed' fish discovered in Vietnam
(08/27/2012) A bizarre penis-headed fish has been discovered in Vietnam, according to a new paper published in the journal Zootaxa.
Forget-me-not: two new flowers discovered in New Zealand gravely endangered
(08/23/2012) New Zealand scientists have discovered two new species of forget-me-nots (flowers in the genus Mytosis), both of which are believed to be endangered. Discovered in Kahurangi National Park on the South Island, the new species highlight the diversity of the tiny flowers in New Zealand.
Bizarre new rodent discovered in Indonesia has only 2 teeth
(08/22/2012) The Indonesian island of Sulawesi is a workshop of bizarre evolutionary experiments. Think of the babirusa, pig-like species with tusks that puncture their snouts; or the maleo, a ground-bird that lays its eggs in geothermal heated sand; or the anoa, the world's smallest wild cattle. Now the island, made up of four intersecting peninsulas, can add another bizarre creature to its menagerie of marvels: the Paucidentomys vermidax, a new species of rodent that is different from all others.
New bird discovered in Colombia imperiled by hydroelectric project
(08/19/2012) In a little-known dry forest in Colombia, scientists have discovered a new species of bird: the Antioquia wren (Thryophilus sernai). First seen in 2010, scientists photographed the new wren and recorded its vocalizations, from which they determined that the wren was brand new to science, according to a new paper in Auk.
New owl species discovered in the Philippines
(08/19/2012) Two new owl species have been described in the Philippines, reports Inquirer News.
Velociraptor spider discovered in Oregon cave (pictures)
(08/17/2012) Scouring the caves of Southwest Oregon, scientists have made the incredible discovery of a fearsome apex predator with massive, sickle claws. No, it's not the Velociraptor from Jurassic Park: it's a large spider that is so unique scientists were forced to create a new taxonomic family for it. This is the first new spider family to be discovered in North America in over 130 years. 'This is something completely new,' lead author of a paper on the species, Charles Griswold with the California Academy of Sciences, told SFGate. 'It's a historic event.'
Scientists discover beautiful new insect species after stumbling upon photos on Flickr
(08/09/2012) Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of lacewing insect after stumbling upon a series of photos posted on Flickr®, according to a paper published in the journal ZooKeys.
Beautiful new bird discovered in Peruvian cloud forest
(08/07/2012) Four years ago in a remote cloud forest in Peru's Cerros del Sira mountain range, three recently graduated students from Cornell University discovered a never-before-recorded species of black, white, and scarlet bird. Now described in the scientific journal, The Auk, the bird has been dubbed the Sira barbet (Capito fitzpatricki).
'The lion of the cave:' new predatory, swimming cricket discovered in Venezuela
(08/06/2012) Scientists have discovered what is likely a new species of cricket that is the top predator of its lightless world: a cave in a Venezuelan tepui. The fauna of cave was documented by BBC filmmakers as researchers uncovered not only a large, flesh-eating cricket but a new species of catfish.
3000 new species of amphibians discovered in 25 years
(07/31/2012) The number of amphibians described by scientists now exceeds 7,000, or roughly 3,000 more than were known just 25 years ago, report researchers in Berkeley.
New Malaysian snail named after late conservation mentor
(07/30/2012) Researchers have discovered a new snail, which is so unusual that it has been granted its own genus: Kenyirus. To date, the mysterious forest snail, found in Malaysia's Kenyir Forest, is only known from its unique shell.
First pictures of newly discovered monkey in China published
(07/27/2012) Researchers have published the first evidence that a recently discovered monkey ranges into China, releasing pictures of the Rhinopithecus strykeri snub-nosed monkey in its natural habitat in Yunnan province. The photos are published in the current issue of the American Journal of Primatology.
New mammal discovered in Indonesia
(07/24/2012) Researchers have discovered a new species of rodent in Indonesia's Mekongga Mountains, reports the Jakarta Post. The new rodent, Christine's Margareta rat (Margaretamys christinae), is only the fourth in the genus Margaretamy, all of which are found on the island of Sulawesi.
'Beautiful' new snake discovered in Cambodia (photo)
(07/16/2012) Scientists have discovered a new snake species in the biodiverse rainforests of the Cardamom Mountains, reports Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The new reddish-hued serpent has been named after its country of origin by native herpetologist Neang Thy: the Cambodian kukri (Oligodon kampucheaensis).
New colorful rainforest frog named after Prince Charles (PICTURES)
(07/04/2012) Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of frog and named it in honor of Price Charles, according to a paper published in the journal Zootaxa.
Genetic analysis reveals 79 new species of sharks and rays, many likely endangered
(06/27/2012) Analyzing the DNA sequences of 4,383 specimens of sharks and rays, researchers have discovered 79 potentially new species, raising both the known diversity of this predacious family and concerns that many species are likely more imperiled than thought. Already 32 percent of open ocean sharks and rays are considered threatened with extinction by the IUCN Red List, due largely to overfishing, finning, bycatch, and prey depletion.
New tiny crustacean discovered in deep sea off Europe (photo)
(06/20/2012) Scientists have pulled up a tiny new species of 'squat lobster' from a deep sea mountain at 1,410 meters below sea level off the coast of Spain. Dubbed Uroptychus cartesi, this is only the fourth species in this genus from the eastern Atlantic Ocean, although there are over hundred unique species in the Pacific and Indian ocean. The new species measures just 5-7 centimeters.
New species threatened by mining dubbed the 'Avatar moth'
(06/19/2012) A new species of moth has been named after one of the world's most popular movie blockbusters: Avatar. Discovered on New Zealand's Denniston Plateau during a biodiversity survey by local NGO Forest & Bird this March, the new moth species is imperiled by plans for a coal mine on the plateau. The name—Avatar moth (Arctesthes avatar)—was chosen by its discoverers from a list of almost 100 entries by the public.
Herp paradise preserved in Guatemala
(05/29/2012) Fifteen conservation groups have banded together to save around 2,400 hectares (6,000 acres) of primary rainforest in Guatemala, home to a dozen imperiled amphibians as well as the recently discovered Merendon palm pit viper (Bothriechis thalassinus). The new park, dubbed the Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve, lies in the Guatemalan mountains on the border with Honduras in a region that has been called the most important conservation area in Guatemala.
Blue tarantula, walking cactus, and a worm from Hell: the top 10 new species of 2011
(05/23/2012) A sneezing monkey, a blue tarantula, and an extinct walking cactus are just three of the remarkable new species listed in the annual Top Ten New Species put together by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. This year's list includes a wide-variety of life forms from fungi to flower and invertebrate to primate.
New frog species leaves scientists' fingers yellow
(05/22/2012) A beautiful, yellow frog species has been discovered in western Panama, according to a new paper in ZooKeys. Scientists were surprised when handling the new species to find their fingers stained bright yellow by its skin, but even after laboratory research the purpose of this dye remains a mystery. The new species, named Diasporus citrinobapheus, is a member of the large rain frog family, whose members skip the tadpole stage and instead are born directly from eggs as tiny froglets.
New armored lizard discovered in landmine-riddled region
(05/21/2012) A new lizard has been discovered in a war-torn area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to a paper in the African Journal of Herpetology<, the new species was found hiding under a rock in the high grasslands of the Marungu Plateau, an area known for landmines.
New 'bony-tongue' fish discovered in Myanmar
(05/18/2012) A new species of arowana, a highly valued aquarium fish, has been described from southern Myanmar (Burma). The description is published in last month's issue of the journal Aqua.
New population of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey discovered in China
(05/16/2012) Scientists in China have located a second population of the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), a primate that was only first discovered two years ago in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Long Yongcheng, scientist with the Nature Conservancy in China, told the China Daily that his team have discovered 50-100 Myanmar snub-nosed monkeys in the Gaoligong Mountain Natural Reserve near the border with Myanmar in Yunnan Province.
Noel Rowe: all the world's primates "in one place"
(05/14/2012) Spanning the gamut from mouse lemurs to mountain gorillas, All The World’s Primates is a comprehensive database of primate species. Founded in 2004 by Noel Rowe and Marc Myers and designed primarily to aid scientists and college students in primatology research, ATWP is also readily accessible to anyone who would like to know a little more about primates. The database is continually updated when new species are discovered; from its inception in 2004 until 2010, 58 new species had been added to the site. In addition to discoveries made by primatologists in the field, All The World’s Primates compiles information from the latest genetic studies. The site also includes photos and videos of many species, and was recently expanded to include a visual key for identification.
Skink biodiversity jumps 650 percent in the Caribbean
(04/30/2012) In a single paper in Zootaxa scientists have rewritten the current understanding of lizard biodiversity in the Caribbean. By going over museum specimens of skinks, scientists have discovered 24 new species and re-established nine species previously described species, long-thought invalid. The single paper has increased the number of skinks in the Caribbean by 650 percent, from six recognized species to 39. Unfortunately, half of these new species may already be extinct and all of them are likely imperiled.
New reptile discovered in world's strangest archipelago
(04/25/2012) Few people have ever heard of the Socotra Archipelago even though, biologically-speaking, it is among the world's most wondrous set of islands. Over one third of Socotra's plants are found no-where else on Earth, i.e. endemic, while 90 percent of its reptiles are also endemic. Adding to its list of unique life-forms, researchers have recently uncovered a new skink species that is found only on the island of Abd al Kuri, which is slightly smaller than New York City's Staten Island. Dubbed the "the other Galapagos," the four Socotra islands are under the jurisdiction of Yemen, although geographically speaking the islands are actually closer to Somalia.
Eye-popping purple crabs discovered in the Philippines
(04/23/2012) Scientists have discovered four new species of brilliantly-colored freshwater crabs on the Philippine island of Palawan. Described in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, the new species expands the genus, Insulamon, from one known crab species to five. Although its ecosystems are threatened by widespread mining and deforestation, the Philippines is a mega-diverse country, meaning that it belongs to a select group of 17 countries that contain the bulk of the world's species.
Mad frog bonanza: up to 36 new frogs discovered in tiny Madagascar forest
(04/19/2012) A forest less than half the size of Manhattan sports an astounding number of frogs, according to a new paper in Biodiversity Conservation. Two surveys of Madagascar's Betampona Nature Reserve, which covers 2,228 hectares, has uncovered 76 unique frogs, 36 of which may be new to science. To put this in perspective: the U.S. and Canada combined contain just 88 frog species, but cover an area nearly a million times larger than Betampona.
Two new frogs discovered in Philippines spur calls for more conservation efforts
(04/19/2012) Two new frogs have been discovered on the Philippine island of Leyte during a biological survey last year by Fauna and Flora International, which also recorded a wealth of other species. Discovered in November on the island's Nacolod mountain range, the frogs have yet to be named. The Philippines is one of the world's global biodiversity hotspots, yet suffers from widespread deforestation and degradation.
Photo: New 'bumblebee' gecko discovered in New Guinea
(04/18/2012) Researchers from the Papua New Guinea National Museum and the U.S. Geological Survey have discovered a new species of gecko on an island off the coast of New Guinea.
Photos: the aye-aye of frogs rediscovered after 62 years
(03/27/2012) A pair of researchers have rediscovered a long-lost frog in the tiny African country of Burundi. Known as the Bururi long-fingered frog (Cardioglossa cyaneospila), the species hadn't been seen for over 60 years—since the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949—but was rediscovered in Bururi Forest Reserve.
Beyond Bigfoot: the science of cryptozoology
(03/26/2012) Anyone who doubts cryptozoology, which in Greek means the "study of hidden animals," should remember the many lessons of the past 110 years: the mountain gorilla (discovered in 1902), the colossal squid (discovered in 1925, but a full specimen not caught until 1981), and the saola (discovered in 1992) to name a few. Every year, almost 20,000 new species are described by the world's scientists, and a new book by Dr. Karl Shuker, The Encycloapedia of New and Rediscovered Animals, highlights some of the most incredible and notable new animals uncovered during the past century.
Featured Video: new family of legless amphibians discovered
(03/07/2012) Researchers exploring northeast India have discovered a new family of legless amphibians, known as caecilians. Although caecilians superficially resemble giant earthworms, they are in fact vertebrates and are most closely related to their amphibian kin, frogs and salamanders.
Scientists discover deadly new sea snake
(02/24/2012) Scientists in Australia have discovered a species of sea snake in estuaries of the Gulf of Carpenteria in northern Australia. The snake is described in the current issue of Zootaxa.
Scientists discover world's deepest terrestrial animal
(02/22/2012) It's not the prehistoric monsters from the Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth or the human-bat hybrids of The Decsent, but it's an astonishing discovery nonetheless: intrepid scientists have discovered the world's deepest surviving terrestrial animal to date, a small wingless insect known as a springtail. Explorers discovered the new species, Plutomurus ortobalaganensis at a shocking 1.23 miles (1.98 kilometers) below the surface. The species was discovered by the Ibero-Russian CaveX Team Expedition in Krubera-Voronja Cave, the world's only known cave to go deeper than 2 kilometers.
Photo: new cookies-and-cream insect surprises researchers in Belize
(02/21/2012) Scientists have discovered the first ever insect in the Ripipterygidae family in Belize. Measuring only 5 millimeters (0.19 inches), the tiny insect uses its powerful legs to leap away from predators much like a grasshopper.
Photo: World's smallest chameleon discovered in Madagascar
(02/15/2012) Scientists have discovered four new species of super-tiny chameleons in Madagascar, according to a new paper in PLoS ONE. The smallest of the new species, Brookesia micra, is found only on the small island of Nosy Hara and has been dubbed the smallest chameleon in the world, measuring from nose to tail 29 millimeters (1.14 inches) at its largest. Scientists believe it represents a notable example of island dwarfism.
The camera trap revolution: how a simple device is shaping research and conservation worldwide
(02/14/2012) I must confess to a recent addiction: camera trap photos. When the Smithsonian released 202,000 camera trap photos to the public online, I couldn’t help but spend hours transfixed by the private world of animals. There was the golden snub-monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), with its unmistakably blue face staring straight at you, captured on a trail in the mountains of China. Or a southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), a tree anteater that resembles a living Muppet, poking its nose in the leaf litter as sunlight plays on its head in the Peruvian Amazon. Or the dim body of a spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) led by jewel-like eyes in the Tanzanian night. Or the less exotic red fox (Vulpes vulpes) which admittedly appears much more exotic when shot in China in the midst of a snowstorm. Even the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), an animal I too often connect with cartoons and stuffed animals, looks wholly real and wild when captured by camera trap: no longer a symbol or even a pudgy bear at the zoo, but a true animal with its own inner, mysterious life.
Photo: new blue, red, yellow lizard discovered in the Andes
(02/13/2012) Researchers have discovered a new species of lizard in the Peruvian Andes, whose males sport beautiful colors, according to a paper in ZooKeys. The highest-dwelling known species of the genus Potamites, the new lizard, dubbed Potamites montanicola, was found in forest streams at 1,500 to 2,000 meters (4,900 to 6,500 feet). The species was discovered as apart of a biodiversity monitoring program by COGA, a Peruvian fossil fuel company.
Vampire and bird frogs: discovering new amphibians in Southeast Asia's threatened forests
(02/06/2012) In 2009 researchers discovered 19,232 species new to science, most of these were plants and insects, but 148 were amphibians. Even as amphibians face unprecedented challenges—habitat loss, pollution, overharvesting, climate change, and a lethal disease called chytridiomycosis that has pushed a number of species to extinction—new amphibians are still being uncovered at surprising rates. One of the major hotspots for finding new amphibians is the dwindling tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
Photos: 46 new species found in little-explored Amazonian nation
(01/25/2012) South America's tiniest independent nation still hides a number of big surprises: a three week survey to the sourthern rainforests of Suriname found 46 potentially new species and recorded nearly 1,300 species in all. Undertaken by Conservation International's (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) the survey found new species of freshwater fish, insects, and a new frog dubbed the "cowboy frog" for the spur on its heel. While Suriname may be small, much of its forest, in the Guyana Shield region of the Amazon, remains intact and pristine. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 91 percent of Suriname is covered in primary forests, however this data has not been updated in over two decades.
Scientists discover over 19,000 new species in 2009
(01/19/2012) In 2009 researchers described and named 19,232 species new to science, pushing the number of known species on Earth to just under two million (1,941,939 species), according to the State of Observed Species (SOS). Discoveries included seven new birds, 41 mammals, 120 reptiles, 148 amphibians, 314 fish, 626 crustaceans, and 9,738 insects.
New book series hopes to inspire research in world's 'hottest biodiversity hotspot'
(01/17/2012) Entomologist Dmitry Telnov hopes his new pet project will inspire and disseminate research about one of the world's last unexplored biogeographical regions: Wallacea and New Guinea. Incredibly rich in biodiversity and still full of unknown species, the region, also known as the Indo-Australian transition, spans many of the tropical islands of the Pacific, including Indonesia's Sulawesi, Komodo and Flores, as well as East Timor—the historically famous "spice islands" of the Moluccan Archipelago—the Solomon Islands, and, of course, New Guinea. Telnov has begun a new book series, entitled Biodiversity, Biogeography and Nature Conservation in Wallacea and New Guinea, that aims to compile and highlight new research in the region, focusing both on biology and conservation. The first volume, currently available, also includes the description of 150 new species.
Photos: program devoted to world's strangest, most neglected animals celebrates five years
(01/16/2012) What do Attenborough's echidna, the bumblebee bat, and the purple frog have in common? They have all received conservation attention from a unique program by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) called EDGE. Five years old this week, the program focuses on the world's most unique and imperiled animal species or, as they put it, the most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species. In the past five years the program has achieved notable successes from confirming the existence of long unseen species (Attenborough's echidna) to taking the first photos and video of a number of targeted animals (the purple frog).
Beyoncé honored with new horse fly named after her
(01/16/2012) Musical artists, and dancer extraordinare, Beyoncé has been awarded a new honor this week: entomologists in Australia have named a new horse fly after the American singer. The new horse fly, dubbed Scaptia beyonceae, is found in Queensland's Atherton Tablelands.
Camera traps snap first ever photo of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey
(01/10/2012) In 2010 researchers described a new species of primate that reportedly sneezes when it rains. Unfortunately, the new species was only known from a carcass killed by a local hunter. Now, however, remote camera traps have taken the first ever photo of the elusive, and likely very rare, Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), known to locals as mey nwoah, or 'monkey with an upturned face'. Locals say the monkeys are easy to locate when it rains, because the rain catches on their upturned noses causing them to sneeze.
Photos: scientists find new species at world's deepest undersea vent
(01/10/2012) It sounds like a medieval vision of hell: in pitch darkness, amid blazing heat, rise spewing volcanic vents. But there are no demons and devils down here, instead the deep sea vent, located in the very non-hellish Caribbean sea, is home to a new species of pale shrimp. At 3.1 miles below (5 kilometers) the sea's surface, the Beebe Vent Field south of the Cayman islands, is the deepest yet discovered.
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