The International Institute for Species Exploration has released its top 10 list for 2016
Among notable new species are a beautiful sea dragon and an ugly anglerfish
Scientists believe that 10 million species still await discovery around the world. And every year – on the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist considered the father of modern taxonomy – the International Institute for Species Exploration releases its list of the top new species (from among about 18,000 found over the previous 12 months).
Here are 2016’s top 10:
Giant tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi)
Location: Galapagos, Ecuador
The giant tortoises of the Galapagos might all look similar, but the ones found in the eastern part of the island are actually a new species. There are only about 250 of them left. So this discovery has immediate conservation implications. The new species is called Chelonoidis donfaustoi in honor of a park ranger, Don Fausto, who worked for four decades to conserve them.
Giant Sundew (Drosera magnifica)
Here’s to social media. This giant sundew is believed to be the first plant species discovered through photos posted on Facebook. Drosera magnifica, as this plant is called, is massive: at 48 inches, the largest sundew ever seen. So why’d it take so long to find it? It exists only at the summit of a single mountain in Brazil, 5,000 feet above sea level.
Hominin (Homo naledi)
Location: South Africa
Say hello to another member of your family tree. Homo naledi, discovered in South Africa, shares some features with modern humans (similar size and weight) and some features with earlier ancestors. For instance, its brain case is similar in size to that of Homo species that lived 2 million to 4 million years ago. This discovery is significant because once scientists are able to pin down the exact age of the remains, it’ll give us a clearer picture of our evolutionary timeline.
Isopod (Iuiuniscus iuiuensis)
Isopods are crustaceans that live in water or on land. And this little guy (a third of an inch long) is blind and unpigmented and has a whole bunch of legs. It does a thing that no one else in the isopod family does: It makes shelters of mud. It needs it too – because when it’s shedding its exoskeleton, it’s vulnerable to predators. This species, found in Brazil, has a tongue-twisting name: Iuiuniscus iuiuensis
Anglerfish (Lasiognathus dinema)
Location: Gulf of Mexico
This anglerfish takes the award for the ugliest entry in this year’s list. Scientists found the 2-inch-long Lasiognathus dinema in the Gulf of Mexico while assessing damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That fishing pole-like thing you see over its head is called the esca, and it’s nifty: Bacteria that emit light hang out in the esca, which is great when you’re swimming in the deep, dark ocean. The bioluminescent bacteria also help attract prey.
Seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea)
This beauty is ruby red with pink vertical bars. And its discovery off the coast of Western Australia is a big deal because this is now only the third known species of seadragons. As scientists point out, if ruby red dragons that live in shallow waters and are nearly a foot long have only now been discovered, what else don’t we know?
Tiny beetle (Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington)
This tiny beetle is named Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington, after Paddington Bear. Scientists hope that just like in the kids’ books about the lovable bear, people will look after this beetle. It’s really small. You’d have to line up 25 of them before you’d reach the one-inch mark on a yardstick. This species was discovered in Peru, making its home in the pools of water that collect in the hollows of plants, such as tree holes.
New primate (Pliobates cataloniae)
This small ape found in a landfill in Catalonia raises a big, interesting possibility: Could we be more closely related to gibbons than great apes? Her discoverers named her “Laia” after “Eulàlia,” original patron saint of Barcelona. She lived about 11.6 million years ago, and she appears to be related to humans, apes and gibbons.
Flowering tree (Sirdavidia solannona)
If we needed more examples of how species are just waiting to be discovered under our very noses, this is Exhibit A. This new tree species was found just feet from the main road at Monts de Cristal National Park in Gabon. But it probably eluded discovery because scientists focused on larger trees. The Sirdavidia solannona is less 20 feet high, with a diameter of just 4 inches.
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Sparklewing (Umma gumma)
Sixty new species of dragonflies and damselflies were reported in one single publication; that’s the most for any single paper in more than 100 years. We love the name scientists gave this discovery: Umma gumma. (You don’t have to be a Pink Floyd fan to get that).