Science in the News Article: Top 10 New Species of 2013 Announced

My personal favorite is the  sweet eyed Olinguito found in Ecuador! It just goes to show that we still have a lot to learn about the other living organisms in which we share the planet with.

May 22, 2014 by
An awesome mammal from Colombia and Ecuador, a leaf-tailed gecko from Australia and a snail with semi-transparent shell from Croatia are among the new species identified by the SUNY-ESF International Institute for Species Exploration as the top 10 new species discovered in 2013.

Established in 2008, the annual top-10 list calls 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, president of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration.

Scientists believe 10 million species await discovery, about 5 times the number that are already known to science.

1. Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), a new carnivorous mammal from Colombia and Ecuador:

The Olinguito, Bassaricyon neblina, in the wild. Photo credit: Mark Gurney.

This animal resembles a cross between a slinky cat and a wide-eyed teddy bear. It lives secretively in cloud forests of the Andes mountains in Colombia and Ecuador. It is an arboreal carnivore that belongs to the family Procyonidae, which includes the familiar raccoon.

The olinguito is smaller, though, typically topping out at about 2 kg. It is the first new carnivorous mammal described in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.

2. Kaweesak’s Dragon Tree (Dracaena kaweesakii), a new tree from Thailand:

Dracaena kaweesakii and its flowers. Credit: Warakorn Kasempankul / Parinya Siriponamat / Paul Wilkin.

The Kaweesak’s Dragon Tree grows up to 12 m tall. Beautiful, soft, sword-shaped leaves with white edges and cream-colored flowers with bright orange filaments are the hallmarks of this plant.

The tree is found in the limestone mountains of the Loei and Lop Buri Provinces in Thailand and may also be found in nearby Burma. Valued as a horticultural plant, its small number – perhaps 2,500, and the fact that it grows on limestone that is extracted for the manufacture of concrete, has earned this species a preliminary conservation status of endangered.

3. Andrill anemone (Edwardsiella andrillae), a new marine anemone from Antarctica:

In an underwater image, Edwardsiella andrillae anemones protrude from the bottom surface of the Ross Ice Shelf. They glow in the camera's light. Image credit: Frank Rack / ANDRILL Science Management Office, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Edwardsiella andrillae is a small creature, less than 2.5 cm. It has pale yellow body and two dozen tentacles.

It lives under a glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and was discovered when the Antarctic Geological Drilling Program (ANDRILL) sent a remotely operated submersible vehicle into holes that had been drilled into the ice.

4. Skeleton shrimp (Liropus minusculus), a new crustacean from an island off the coast of Southern California, the United States:

Liropus minusculus, male. Image credit: SINC / J.M. Guerra-García.

This shrimp, the smallest in the genus, was identified from among specimens originally collected from a cave on the island of Santa Catalina.

The Skeleton shrimp has an eerie, translucent appearance that makes it resemble a bony structure. The male’s body measures just 3.3 mm; the female is even smaller at 2.1 mm.

5. Orange penicillium (Penicillium vanoranjei), a new fungus from Tunisia:

Penicillium vanoranjei. Image credit: Cobus M. Visagie / Jan Dijksterhuis.

The Orange penicillium was named as a tribute to the Dutch royal family, specifically His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange.

This species produces a sheet-like extra-cellular matrix that may function as protection from drought.

6. Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius), a new lizard from Australia:

The Cape Melville Leaf-tailed Gecko with regenerated tail. Image credit: Conrad Hoskin.

Discovered on rocky terrain in isolated rain forests of the Melville Range of eastern Australia, this species has an extremely wide tail that is employed as part of its camouflage. With longer limbs, a more slender body and larger eyes than other Saltuarius species, the gecko has a mottled coloration that allows it to blend in with its surroundings.

Native to rain forests and rocky habitats, the Cape Melville Leaf-tailed gecko is a bit of a night owl. It is found on the vertical surfaces of rocks and trees as it waits for prey. Surveys of similar habitat near the area where this species was found did not reveal additional populations, so this may be a rare species.

7. Amoeboid protist (Spiculosiphon oceana), a new one-celled organism from Mediterranean Sea:

Two specimens of Spiculosiphon oceana. Image credit: Manuel Maldonado.

This species was discovered in underwater caves 30 miles off the southeast coast of Spain. It grows up to 5 cm long – a giant in the world of single-celled organisms. It gathers pieces of silica spicules, which are actually sponge fragments, from its surroundings and uses them like so many Lego blocks to construct a shell.

It ends up looking much like a carnivorous sponge as well as feeding like one, extending pseudopods outside the shell to feed on invertebrates that have become trapped in the spiny structures.

8. Clean room microbe (Tersicoccus phoenicis), a new aerobic, gram-positive bacterium from French Guiana and Florida, the United States:

Tersicoccus phoenicis. Image credit: Leibniz-Institute DSMZ / Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

Tersicoccus phoenicis was independently collected from the floors of clean rooms in Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and Center Spatial Guyanais, Kourou, French Guiana. While frequent sterilization reduces the microbes found in clean rooms, some resistant species persist.

Found in the cleanest places on our planet – where spacecraft are assembled, this bacterium could potentially contaminate other planets that the spacecraft visit.

9. Tinkerbell fairyfly (Tinkerbella nana), a new insect from Costa Rica:

Micrograph of Tinkerbella nana magnifies the delicate fairyfly structure. Scale line - 100 μm (Jennifer Read / Natural Resources Canada)

This species was named for Peter Pan’s fairy sidekick. It measures just 250 micrometers and is among the smallest insects. It is the latest addition to the 1,400 or so known species of the parasitoid wasp family Mymaridae.

The Tinkerbell fairyfly was collected by sweeping vegetation in secondary growth forest at LaSelva Biological Station in Costa Rica.

10. Domed land snail (Zospeum tholussum), a snail with semi-transparent shell from Croatia:

The cave-dwelling snail Zospeum tholussum. Image credit: J. Bedek.

This snail was discovered about 980 m below the surface in the Lukina Jama-Trojama caves of western Croatia.

It measures only 2 mm in length and moves slowly, creeping only a few mm or cm a week.

The species lacks eyes as they’re not necessary in the total darkness of the caves, and has no shell pigmentation giving it a ghost-like appearance.

Only one living specimen was collected in a large cavern among rocks and sand with a small stream of running water nearby, however many shells were also found in the area.

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