The annual Top 10 New Species list has just been released by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. The 2012 Top 10 New Species List this year includes: a false coral snake that feeds on snails, a new type of monkey with ‘human-like’ eyes, a type of flowering bush from one of Madagascar’s disappearing forests, a green lacewing, a cave-painting-eating fungus, and an extinct species of hangingflies that mimicked ginkgo tree leaves more than 165 million years ago.
The list, which was created to honor the birthdate of the 18th century Swedish botanist of Carolus Linnaeus, is now running on its sixth year. Linnaeus is the man credited with creating the modern system of scientific naming and classification.
“We have identified only about two million of an estimated 10 to 12 million living species and that does not count most of the microbial world,” said Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at ASU. “We are calling for a NASA-like mission to discover 10 million species in the next 50 years. This would lead to discovering countless options for a more sustainable future while securing evidence of the origins of the biosphere.”
“I don’t know whether to be more astounded by the species discovered each year, or the depths of our ignorance about biodiversity of which we are a part,” Wheeler added.
Top 10 New Species, 2013
Lilliputian Violet: Viola lilliputana
The newly discovered Lilliputian violet is one of the smallest violets in the world, also one of the smallest terrestrial dicots. It’s only been found in a single location in an Intermontane Plateau of the high Andes of Peru. Viola lilliputana is found in the dry puna grassland eco-region. The first specimens were actually collected back in the 1960s, but weren’t scientifically described as a new species until 2012. Above ground the plant measures only about 1 centimeter tall. The species is names after the little people on the island of Lilliput in the book Gulliver’s Travels.
Carnivorous Lyre Sponge: Chondrocladia lyra
Country: NE Pacific Ocean; USA: California
The carnivorous lyre sponge is huge, harp- or lyre-shaped sponge that was recently found living in very deep waters off of the Pacific Coast. The lyre-shaped sponges feature anywhere from two to six ‘vanes’, each with more than twenty parallel vertical branches. These are typically capped off “by an expanded, balloon-like, terminal ball.” It’s thought that this ‘unusual’ form maximizes the surface area, and hence the capture of planktonic prey.
Lesula Monkey: Cercopithecus lomamiensis
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo
The lesula monkey is only the second species of monkey discovered in Africa in the last 28 years. As you can probably guess though, the species was already well-known to locals in the region. The lesula was found in the Lomami Basin of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Old World monkey was first as a captive juvenile back in 2007. Something to note — the species is apparently hunted for bush meat regularly, and is facing possible extinction as a result of over-hunting and other factors.
The species has been described as having human-like eyes. They are well known for how loud they can be — making “a booming dawn chorus”. The adult males usually have a large, bare patch of skin on the butt, testicles and perineum that is a very brilliant shade of blue.
No to the Mine! Snake: Sibon noalamina
The “No to the mine” snake is a beautiful new species discovered in the highland rainforests of western Panama. The species is nocturnal and usually preys on soft-bodied animals such as earthworms, snails, slugs, and amphibian eggs. The snake is known for its patterning, which mimicked that of venomous coral snakes. The snake lives in the Serranía de Tabasará mountain range. Ore mining in the region is degrading and diminishing its habitat, and as a result population numbers are falling.
Cave-Painting-Eating Fungus: Ochroconis anomala
“In 2001, black stains began to appear on the walls of Lascaux Cave in France. By 2007, the stains were so prevalent they became a major concern for the conservation of precious rock art at the site that dates back to the Upper Paleolithic. An outbreak of a white fungus, Fusarium solani, had been successfully treated when just a few months later, black staining fungi appeared. The genus primarily includes fungi that occur in the soil and are associated with the decomposition of plant matter. As far as scientists know, this fungus, one of two new species of the genus from Lascaux, is harmless. However, at least one species of the group, O. gallopava, causes disease in humans who have compromised immune systems.”
World’s Smallest Vertebrate: Paedophryne amanuensis
Country: New Guinea
The newly discovered frog species is the smallest vertebrate species in the world — only reaching about 7 millimeters in body size. The species was discovered near Amau village in Papua, New Guinea. The species likely lives primarily within the moist leaf litter that collects on the forest floor in many tropical forests.
Endangered Shrub: Eugenia petrikensis
“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 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 kilometers long, the littoral forest has been reduced to isolated, vestigial fragments under pressure from human populations.”
Glow-In-The-Dark Cockroach: Lucihormetica luckae
The new glow-in-the-dark species of may actually already be extinct — it is known solely from one specimen which was collected over 70 years ago, in “an area heavily impacted by the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano.” The species stands out because — based on its markings — it may have used light to mimic toxic luminescent click beetles. Luminescent terrestrial animals are rather rare — the first luminescent cockroach was ‘discovered’ only just in 1999. All of the known species of luminescent terrestrial animals are currently very rare, this is likely primarily as a result of population declines caused by human-made light pollution.
Social media lacewing: Semachrysa jade
“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. 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 Stephen Brooks at London’s Natural History Museum who confirmed its new species status. The three joined forces and prepared a description using Google Docs. In this triumph for citizen science, talents from around the globe collaborated by using new media in making the discovery. The lacewing is not named for its color — rather for Winterton’s daughter, Jade.”
Hangingfly fossil: 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 characterized 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 an explosive radiation of flowering plants.”
For those interested in other interesting species, make sure to check out last years list: Top 10 New Species of 2011.