Top Ten New Species Of 2013 — A 'Musical' Sponge, World's Smallest Vertebrate, A 'Paleolithic' Fungus, A 'Trifecta' Find, & More!

Lightning raoch - Lucihormetica luckae
Lightning Roach
Lucihormetica luckae (image credit: Vrsansky et al)

The list is here!… Yes, the annual list of ‘Top Ten’ New Species has been announced.

Organized annually by the Institute for International Species Exploration (IISE) at the University of Arizona, an international committee of experts reviewed animal, vegetable and microbial species culled from 140 top nominations out of a total candidate pool of 18,000 species — all discovered (and properly named according to taxonomic rules) in the previous calendar year (2012).

Top Species selections hail from five continents…. Alas, no Australian picks this year. However, one (tiny vertebrate) comes from Papua New Guinea — part of Micronesia — which is pretty darn close to the land down under!

Members of the committee could use any criteria they wished to select the final ten under the overarching purpose of highlighting biodiversity (and the many scientists and research institutes engaged in exploration of new species) while paying special attention to “taxonomic, geographic, and natural history diversity.”

While are the selections are fascinating, there is one that achieves the “trifecta” in new species discovery (read on to see why).

To view the species distribution map, visit the map page here.

All of the following species descriptions and photos come directly from the top 10 species website ( The original reference (source of the discovery) and photo is cited following each listing.

Well then, enough preliminaries, here (in no ranking order) are the Top Ten New Species of 2013:

1] Lilliputian Violet
Viola lilliputana

Lilliputian Violet
Not only is the Lilliputian violet among the smallest violets in the world, it is also one of the most diminutive terrestrial dicots. Known only from a single locality in an intermontane plateau of the high Andes of Peru, Viola lilliputana lives in the dry puna grassland ecoregion. Specimens were first collected in the 1960s, but the species was not described as a new until 2012. The entire above ground portion of the plant is barely 1 cm tall. Named, obviously, for the race of little people on the island of Lilliput in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Country: Peru

Ballard, H. E. and H. H. Iltis. 2012. Viola lilliputana sp. Nov. (Viola sect. Andinium, Violaceae), one of the world’s smallest violets, from the Andes of Peru. Brittonia 64(4), 353-358.

2] Lyre Sponge
Chondrocladia lyra


A spectacular, large, harp- or lyre-shaped carnivorous sponge discovered in deep water (ave. 3399 m) from the northeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. The harp-shaped structures or vanes number from two to six and each has more than 20 parallel vertical branches, often capped by an expanded, balloon-like, terminal ball. This unusual form maximizes the surface area of the sponge for contact and capture of planktonic prey items.

Country: NE Pacific Ocean; USA: California

Lee, W. L., Reiswig, H. M., Austin, W.C., and L. Lundsten. 2012. An extraordinary new carnivorous sponge, Chdondrocladia lyra, in the new subgenus Symmetrocladia (Demospongiae, Cladorhizidae), from off of northern California, USA. Invertebrate Biology xx, 1-26.

(Ladies and gentlemen: The “trifecta” of new species: it’s new, it’s a mammal, and, it’s a primate!)

3] Lesula Monkey
Cercopithecus lomamiensis

Lesula monkey
Discovered in the Lomami Basin of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the lesula is an Old World monkey well known to locals but newly known to science. This is only the second species of monkey discovered in Africa in the past 28 years, and was first seen by scientists as a captive juvenile in 2007. Scientists describe the lesula as shy having human like eyes. It is more easily heard than seen by the booming dawn chorus it performs. Adult males have a large bare patch of skin on the buttocks, testicles, and perineum that is brilliant blue in color. Although the area where it occurs is remote, the species is hunted for bushmeat and thus its status vulnerable

Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Hart, J.A., Detwiler, K.M., Gilbert, C.C., Burrell, A.S., Fuller, J.L., Emetshu, M., Hart, T.C., Vosper, A., Sargis, E.J., and A. J. Tosi. 2012. Lesula: a new species of Cercopithecus monkey endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and implications for conservation of Congo’s central basin. PLoS ONE, 7, e44271.

4] No to the Mine! Snake
Sibon noalamina

'No to the mine' Snake

A beautiful new species of snail-eating snake has been discovered from highland rainforests of western Panama. The snake is nocturnal and a predator of soft bodied prey including earthworms and amphibian eggs in addition to snails and slugs. This harmless snake defends itself by mimicking the alternating dark and light rings of venomous coral snakes. Mining of ore deposits in the Serrania de Tabasara mountain range where the species is found is degrading and diminishing its habitat. The species name is derived from the Spanish phrase “No a la mina,” or No to the Mine.

Country: Panama

Lotzkat, S., Hertz, A., and G. Kohler. 2012. A new species of Sibon (Squamata: Colubroidea: Dipsadidae) from the Cordillera Central of western Panama, with comments on other species of the genus in the area. Zootaxa 3485: 26-40.

5] A Smudge on Paleolithic Art
Ochroconis anomala

black fungus on Paleolithic art
In 2001, black stains began to appear on the walls of Lascaux Cave in France. These stains were so prevalent by 2007 that they became one of the major concerns for the conservation of the precious rock art at the site that dates from the Upper Palaeolithic. A white fungus, Fusarium solani, outbreak had been successfully treated when, a few months later, black staining fungi appeared. The genus primarily includes fungi occurring in the soil and associated with the decomposition of plant matter. While this, one of two new species of the genus from Lascaux, is as far as known harmless, at least one species of the group,
O. gallopava
, causes diseases in immunocompromised humans.

Country: France

Martin-Sanchez, P. M., Novakova, A., Bastian, F., Alabouvette, C., and C. Saiz-Jimenez. 2012. Two new species of the genus Ochroconis, O. lascauxensis and O. anomala isolated from black stains in Lascaux Cave, France. Fungal Biology 116, 574-589.

Image: Lascaux Cave, France. Source: Prof. Saxx.

6] World’s Smallest Vertebrate
Paedophryne amanuensis

smallest vertebrate (Madagascar frog)
Living vertebrate animals range in size more than 3,000 fold, from this tiny new species of frog as small as 7 mm to the blue whale measuring in at 25.8 m. The new frog was discovered near Amau village in Papua, New Guinea. It claims the title of smallest living vertebrate from a tiny Southeast Asian cyprinid fish that captured the record in 2006. The adult frog size, averaging length of both males and females, is only 7.7mm. With few exceptions, this and other ultra-small frogs have been found in association with moist leaf litter in tropical wet forests suggesting a unique ecological guild that could not exist under drier circumstances.

Country: New Guinea

Rittmeyer, E. N., Allison, A., Grundler, M. C., Thompson, D. K., and C. C. Austin. 2012. Ecological guild evolution and the discovery of the world’s smallest vertebrate. PLoS ONE 7, e29797.

7] Endangered Forest
Eugenia petrikensis

Eugenia evergreen
Eugenia is a large, worldwide genus of woody evergreen trees and shrubs of the myrtle family that is particularly diverse in South America, New Caledonia and Madagascar. The new species E. petrikensis is a shrub growing to two meters with emerald green, slightly glossy, foliage and beautiful dense clusters of small magenta flowers. It is one of seven new species described from the littoral forest of eastern Madagascar and is considered to be an endangered species. It is only the latest evidence of the unique and numerous species found in this specialized humid forest that grows on sandy substrate within kilometers of the shoreline. Once forming a continuous band 1,600 km long, the littoral forest has been reduced to isolated, vestigial fragments under pressure from human populations.

Country: New Madagascar

Snow, N., Rabenantoandro, J., Randriatafika, F., Rabehevitra, D., Razafimamonjy, N. D., and S. Cable. 2012. Studies of Malagasy Eugenia (Myrtaceae) — III: Seven new species of high conservation concern from the eastern littoral forests. Phytotaxa 48, 39-60.

8] Lightning Roaches
Lucihormetica luckae

Lightnign cockroach
Luminescence among terrestrial animals is rather rare and best known among certain groups of beetles — fireflies and certain click beetles in particular — and cave-inhabiting fungus gnats. Since the first discovery of a luminescent cockroach in 1999, more than a dozen species have, pardon the pun, come to light. All are rare and, interestingly, so far only found in remote areas far from light pollution. The latest addition to this growing list is L. luckae that may be endangered or possibly already extinct. It is known from a single specimen collected 70 years ago from an area recently heavily impacted by the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano. The species may be most remarkable because the size and placement of its lamps suggest that it is using light to mimic toxic luminescent click beetles.

Country: Ecuador

Vrsansky, P., Chorvat, D., Fritzsche, I., Hain, M., and R,. Sevcik. 2012. Light-mimicking cockroaches indicate Tertiarty origin of recent terrestrial luminescence. Naturwissenschaften. 99, 739-749.

9]  No Social Butterfly
Semachrysa jade

lacewing butterfly
In a trend setting collision of science and social media, Hock Ping Guek photographed a beautiful green lacewing with dark markings at the base of its wings in a park near Kuala Lumpur and shared his photo on Flickr. Dr. Shaun Winterton, an entomologist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, serendipitously saw the image and recognized the insect as unusual. When Guek was able to collect a specimen, it was sent to Dr. Stephen J. Brooks at London’s Natural History Museum who confirmed its new species status. The three joined forces preparing a description using Google Docs. In this triumph for citizen science, talents from around the globe collaborated by new media in making the discovery. It is named, by the way, for Winterton’s daughter, Jade, not its color.

Country: Malaysia

Winterton, S. L., Guek, H. P., and S. J. Brooks. 2012. A charismatic new species of green lacewing discovered in Malaysia (Neuroptera, Chrysopidae): the confluence of citizen scientist, online image database and cybertaxonomy. ZooKeys 214, 1-11.

10] Hanging Around in the Jurassic
Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia

Living species of hangingflies can be found, as the name suggests, hanging beneath foliage where they capture other insects as food. They are a lineage of scorpionflies charactersized by their skinny bodies, two pairs of narrow wings, and long threadlike legs. A new fossil species, Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia, has been found along with preserved leaves of a gingko-like tree, Yimaia capituliformis, in Middle Jurassic deposits in the Jiulongshan Formation in China’s Inner Mongolia. The two look so similar that they are easily confused in the field and represent a rare example of an insect mimicking a gymnosperm, 165 million years ago, before the explosive radiation of flowering plants.

Country: China

Wang, Y., Labandeira, C.C., Shih, C., Ding, Q., Wang, C., Zhao, Y., and D. Ren. 2012. Jurassic mimicry between a hangingfly and a ginkgo from China. PNAS 109, 20515-19.

About the Top Ten New Species List (source: top10species website):

The list is announced each year on or about Carolus Linnaeus’ birthday on May 23rd. Linnaeus is the “Father of Taxonomy” and his work in the mid 18th century was the beginning point for “modern” naming and classification of plants and animals.

A Note About IISE:

The International Institute for Species Exploration is dedicated to the exploration, inventory, and classification of earth’s species, public awareness of the biodiversity crisis, advocacy for the important roles played by taxonomy and natural history museums, and in advancing cybertaxonomy, the application of cyber and digital tools to accelerate and improved comparative morphology, descriptive taxonomy, and phylogenetic classification.



the trifecta of new species: (new, a vertebrate, a primate!)

About the Author

Michael Ricciardi is a well-published writer of science/nature/technology articles as well as essays, poetry and short fiction. Michael has interviewed dozen of scientists from many scientific fields, including Brain Greene, Paul Steinhardt, Arthur Shapiro, and Nobel Laureate Ilya Progogine (deceased). Michael was trained as a naturalist and taught natural science on Cape Cod, Mass. from 1986-1991. His first arts grant was for production of the environmental (video) documentary 'The Jones River - A Natural History', 1987-88 (Kingston, Mass.). Michael is an award winning, internationally screened video artist. Two of his more recent short videos; 'A Time of Water Bountiful' and 'My Name is HAM' (an "imagined memoir" about the first chimp in space), and several other short videos, can be viewed on his website ( He is also the author of the ebook 'Zombies, E.T's, and The Super Entity - A Selection of Most Stimulating Articles' and for Kindle: Artful Survival ~ Creative Options for Chaotic Times
  • Hi folks

    Please note that in my ‘trifecta’ note, the seond item on my list was vertebrate — it should have read (and now does) ‘mammal’…as this is a rarer category of new species finds (as extinctions increase)…and, obviously as a mammal, it would also be a vertebrate…and the third category, being primate (even rarer for new mammalian discoveries).

    I hope that clears things up.

  • Chris Borkent

    It is actually the top ten new species discovered in 2012 not 2013. Otherwise a great article!

  • Chris Borkent

    It is actually the top ten new species discovered in 2012 not 2013. Otherwise a great article!

    • hi Chris

      Yes, i realize that, but I understand the common confusion with this list, in particular, as they announce the list in May, each new years…No doubt due to the time it takes to carefully review each new species claim…but, a full year of discoveries must pass before that year’s data can be compiled. Thus, each year’s list is from the previous year’s discoveries. Cheers!