Last week the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry released its annual list of “top 10 new species”, highlighting how little we know about the species that share our planet.
ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration releases the list each May 23rd, coinciding with the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the 18th century taxonomist who developed the binomial nomenclature system used to name all species today.
Each year scientists typically describe over 18,000 previously undocumented species.
Last week the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry released its annual list of “top 10 new species”, highlighting how little we know about the species that share our planet. ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration releases the list each May 23rd, coinciding with the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the 18th century taxonomist who developed the binomial nomenclature system used to name all species today.
Each year scientists typically describe over 18,000 previously undocumented species. While many of these species are new to science, some are often distinguished using genetic analysis, revealing them to be distinct from known species. The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) says the project raises public awareness about extinction and the role taxonomy and museums play in advancing biological sciences.
Below is the full list of species, which includes both contemporary organisms as well as species that disappeared in ancient times. Species are chosen by an international selection committee.
(Mongabay publishes its own list of species first described in the previous 12 months each December: the 2015 list)
Genetic analysis revealed two populations of the Giant Tortoise on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz to be genetically distinct, so the species was split into two: the known species Chelonoidis porteri and the “new” species Chelonoidis donfaustoi. IISE notes the decision has immediate conservation implications: “This discovery has immediate, important conservation implications. C. porteri has a more limited geographic range than previously believed, restricted to western and southwestern areas of the island, and care must be taken to avoid bridging the natural isolation of the two species.” The new species is named after Don Fausto, a ranger who worked 43 years to conserve giant tortoises in the Galapagos.
The Giant Sundew (Drosera magnifica) was discovered through photographs posted on Facebook. The species is the largest sundew ever found in the Americas, attaining a length of 123 cm (48 inches). It is limited to the summit of a single mountain in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
IISE included Homo naledi, a hominin that lived 2-4 million years ago on its list. The species was described from a set of bones discovered in South Africa. The species is thought to have stood nearly 1.5 meters (five feet) and had “humanlike hands and feet”.
Iuiuniscus iuiuensis is a cave-dwelling isopod — a type of crustacean — that builds structures made of mud. The structure-building behavior has never before been observed in its family.
A species of anglerfish (Lasiognathus dinema) discovered in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is rated as the “ugliest” new species on IISE’s list. Like other anglerfish, the tiny deepwater species uses a bioluminescent “lure” to attract its prey.
A colorful seadragon Phyllopteryx dewysea collected in 2007 made IISE’s list. Found only off Western Australia, the species is the third know type of seadragon, which belong to the same family as seahorses: Syngnathidae. The species attains a length of 24 cm (10 inches).
A tiny beetle from Peru, Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington, appears to have been selected by the panel for its noteworthy name.
“This species owes its charming Latin name to Paddington Bear, a lovable character who became a classic in children’s literature after he was introduced in 1958,” said IISE on its web site. “As the story goes, he showed up one day in Paddington Station, London, with a sign that said, ‘Please look after this bear.’ Like him, the new beetle hails from Peru. The researchers hope the new species’ name will draw attention to the threatened Andean spectacled bear that inspired the Paddington books.”
Beetles are the largest group of species described by scientists. More than 450,000 species have been described.
Pliobates cataloniae, an ape that roamed the planet some 11.6 million years ago, was included on the list for “[challenging] a lot of assumptions about the origins of, and relations among, living apes, gibbons and humans”. The skeleton upon which the description is based was discovered in a landfill in Catalonia.
Sirdavidia solannona is a tree noted for its colorful flowers. The species was documented near a major road in Gabon.
Umma gumma is one of sixty “new” species of damselfly described in a single paper last year. Its name is a reference to the 1969 Pink Floyd album Ummagumma. It hails from Gabon.