News / Science & Technology

Top 10 New Species Identified

List focuses on threats to biodiversity

The Sneezing monkey from Myanmar, sneezes when it rains. (Photo: Thomas Geissmann / Fauna & Flora International)
The Sneezing monkey from Myanmar, sneezes when it rains. (Photo: Thomas Geissmann / Fauna & Flora International)
TEXT SIZE - +
Rosanne Skirble
What do a jelly fish that looks like a box kite, a parasitic wasp that lays her eggs in ants and a night-blooming orchid have in common?

They're among the newly discovered species described in 2011 and singled out for the annual Top Ten New Species List by an international team of experts.

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University publishes the annual list. Director Quentin Wheeler says it helps put in focus the threats to biodiversity around the planet. 

“We know that habitats are being altered and lost at a significant pace. But, until we complete an inventory of species and map their distribution in the biosphere, we simply won’t have an empirical basis on which to really know when the alarm bells go off.”

 The Institute’s global sampling of new species includes a sponge-like mushroom from the island of Borneo, a 1.5 meter-tall yellow poppy that grows at high elevations in Nepal, an iridescent hairy blue tarantula from Brazil and a giant millipede from Tanzania. 
  • Crurifarcimen vagans. Common Name: Wandering Leg Sausage. This species from Tanzania’s Eastern Arch Mountains  holds a new record as the largest millipede, 16 centimeters. (Photo: G. Brovad)
  • Spongiforma squarepantsii. Common Name: Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom. Named after the cartoon character, the new fungi species discovered on the island of Borneo can be squeezed like a sponge and bounce back to its normal size and shape. (Photo: Tom Bur
  • Tamoya ohboya. Common Name: Bonaire Banded Box Jelly. This venomous jellyfish spotted near the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire looks like a box kite with colorful, long tails. (Photo: Ned DeLoach)
  • Kollasmosoma sentum. Common Name: Dive-bombing Wasps. This parasitic wasp from Spain is like a tiny dive bomber that lays her eggs in ants. (Photo: C. van Achterberg)
  • Rhinopithecus strykeri. Common Name: Sneezing Monkey. The Sneezing monkey from Myanmar, sneezes when it rains, and is believed to be critically endangered. (Photo: Thomas Geissmann / Fauna & Flora International)
  • Diania cactiformis. Common Name: Walking Cactus. This fossil, discovered in China, looks more like a “walking cactus” than an animal, but belongs to an extinct group with wormlike bodies and multiple pairs of legs. (Photo: Gianni Liu)
  • Bulbophyllum nocturnum. Common Name: Night-blooming Orchid. This rare orchid from Papua New Guinea is believed to be the only night bloomer among the 25,000 known species of orchids.(Photo: Andre Schuiteman)
  • Pterinopelma sazimai. Common Name: Sazima’s Tarantula. This hairy blue tarantula is a beauty from Brazil. (Photo: Rogerio Bertani/Instituto Butantan)
  • Halicephalobus mephisto. Common Name: Devil’s Worm. These tiny nematodes discovered in a South African gold mine are the deepest-living multicellular organisms on the planet. (Photo: G. Borgonie, Ghent University, Belgium)
  • Meconopsis autumnalis. Common Name: Nepalese Autumn Poppy. This rare poppy is found between 3,000 and 4,000 meters in the mountains of Nepal. (Photo: Paul Egan)

Wheeler says one of the most interesting species listed in 2012 is the so-called Devil’s worm from South Africa. “It showed up in a bore hole in a very deep mine, almost a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep. And no one had any idea that a multicellular organism might be living down there.”

Only a couple of dozen mammals are described each year. Included  is a sneezing monkey with black fur and a white beard, found, Wheeler says, by scientists conducting a survey of gibbons in the mountains of Myanmar. 

“And sure enough, if you go out in the rain you can hear these poor guys sneezing.  They have a very open nasal cavity.  So rain gets in there very easily and prompts them to sneeze.  And reportedly they sit in the rain and tuck their head down between their knees, trying to protect that.”

Since the early 18th century, when a system was devised to categorize all known varieties of plants and animals, about two million species have been named, described and classified.  18,000 are added each year.  Wheeler says, while that may seem a lot, there may be as many 10 million additional species of plants and animals awaiting discovery.

Wheeler says baseline data is needed to monitor and respond to changes in biodiversity. He adds that scientists have only begun to scratch the surface to understand the many ways organisms can adapt to their environment. 

“And by studying their adaptations we get so many clever ideas for design and for engineering our way through sustainable solutions to the environmental problems we face. To truly understand our place in the natural world we really need to study all of our relatives and get the big picture of evolution.”
     
Wheeler is one of an international team of scientists, engineers and scholars that has designed a plan that would use powerful computers to catalog 10 million species over the next 50 years.  He says the  project is a necessary step to sustain the planet's biodiveristy.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid