Conservation news

Newscast #8: Top new species discoveries of 2016, and how fig trees can save rainforests

This being the last Mongabay Newscast of the year, we’re doing it a little different.

Instead of the top news, we’re bringing you the top new species discoveries of the year. Here at Mongabay we report on a lot of environmental science and conservation news. It’s not always the most cheery subject matter, especially when we’re reporting on endangered or extinct species. But it’s important to remember that we’re also discovering new species all the time.

In other words, there’s still so much we need to conserve and protect. The new species we discover every year prove that we still aren’t even aware of every creature with whom we share planet Earth, so there’s literally more to protect than we can possibly know.

Mongabay staff writer Shreya Dasgupta rounded up all of the top new species discovered in 2016, including 13 new dancing peacock spiders, a crab that was discovered in a pet market, a new species of whale, a tarantula that shoots balls of barbed hair at its enemies, and one bird that is now 13 distinct species.

We also speak with author Mike Shanahan, whose new book Gods, Wasps, and Stranglers: The secret history and redemptive future of fig trees looks at the tropical species’ biology and key ecological role, as well as its deep cultural (and spiritual) place in human history. If listening to this episode of the Newscast leaves you wanting to hear more from Shanahan, Mongabay editor Erik Hoffner interviewed him back in November. “Wild fig trees are magnets to biodiversity. Plant them and other species, both plant and animal, soon follow,” Shanahan told Mongabay.


Here’s where you can read more about all of the species discoveries discussed on the podcast:

We’re always looking to answer reader questions on the Mongabay Newscast! Send us your questions about environmental science and conservation news to and we’ll get to work on finding you an answer.

Don’t forget, you can find all of our podcast episodes on Stitcher, TuneIn, iTunes, Google Play, and RSS.

Thanks to Mongabay Newscast sponsor Lauten Audio, maker of professional studio microphones praised by Grammy-winning producers, engineers, and musicians around the world.

And thanks to every one of you who made the launch of the Newscast in 2016 such a huge success. Happy holidays and happy new year! We’ll see you in 2017!

The pattern on M. bubo’s back resembles an owl. Photo by Jürgen C. Otto.