Sunday 15 December 2019

Meet the top ten new species of 2014

From tree-dwelling carnivores to translucent shrimp

The olinguito is the first new carnivorous mammal described in the western hemisphere in 35 years (Smithsonian Institute/PA)
The olinguito is the first new carnivorous mammal described in the western hemisphere in 35 years (Smithsonian Institute/PA)
Found in the limestone mountains of Thailand, this 12-metre tall tree is remarkable for going unnoticed for so long. It has sword-shaped leaves and cream flowers with orange filaments, and only 2,500 individual trees are thought to be in existence.
Perhaps the only species in existence named after a drilling program, thousands of these hardy anemones were found burrowed into the underside of an ice shelf in the Antarctic with their tentacles floating in the icy water. Measuring less than inch in length they were named after the Antarctic Geological Drilling Program or Andrill.
The male Liropus minusculus measures just 3.3 millimeters across and is the smallest specimen in its genus. Its eerie, translucent body helps it lie in wait for long periods of time before snatching up and eating even smaller creatures than itself
Named in tribute to the Dutch royal family (that's the House of Orange of course), this new fungus was found in soil from Tunisia and is distinguished by its bright orange colour when it grows. Photo by Cobus M. Visagie.
Living in complete darkness more than 900 metres below the surface has left this tiny snail with no pigmentation in its shell. Discovered in the caves of western Croatia the Zospeum tholussum is also a slow mover, creeping just a few centimeters each week.
The mottled colouring on this gecko helps it blend in with the rain forests and rocky habitats of eastern Australia. It also has an extremely wide tail (from which it gets its name) to further confuse predators.
Discovered in the clean rooms where spacecraft are assembled, Tersicoccus phoenicis is a microbial species that could potentially contaminate any planets we visit.
Despite growing to as high as four to five centimeters, this is a single-celled organism, that looks more like a carnivorous sponge than its fellow microorganisms. Called Spiculosiphon oceana, it was discovered 30 miles off the southeast coast of Spain.

James Vincent

From the 18,000 new species discovered by scientists in 2013, these are the top ten.

Or, at least, so says the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), which has released its annual list to coincide with the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist often considered to be the father of modern taxonomy.

The list is as varied as you’d expect, including a tree-dwelling carnivore about the size of small housecat, a miniscule ‘skeleton shrimp’ that looks terrifying under the microscope, and a nocturnal gecko covered in spines and camouflaged to disappear among rocks.

The creatures were selected by an international committee, and aims to call attention to discoveries that are made “even as species are going extinct faster than they are being identified.”

“The majority of people are unaware of the dimensions of the biodiversity crisis," said Dr. Quentin Wheeler, a founding director of the IISE, in a press release.

 “The top 10 is designed to bring attention to the unsung heroes addressing the biodiversity crisis by working to complete an inventory of earth's plants, animals and microbes.”

The IISE estimates that there are still 10 million undiscovered species on the planet – five times the numbers currently known to science.

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