From creatures the size of office buildings to those only visible when viewed under the finest of microscopes, these 10 newly-discovered animals, plants, and microbes are both bizarre and beautiful.
Each year, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry announces the Top 10 New Species on May 23 in a tribute to the 1707 birthday of taxonomy’s founding father, Carl Linnaeus. Started in 2008, the list is meant to serve as an annual reminder of the diversity of our planet’s species and that as much as 20,000 species go extinct each year.
Without further ado, here are the winners:
Discovered on a brain coral in a San Diego aquarium, scientists aren’t sure how to determine its nearest relatives; it doesn’t fit within any known group. This microscopic eukaryote is a predatory flagellate that uses its “whip-like” flagella to harpoon its organelles into meal-worthy protists.
Jueirana-facão (Dinizia jueirana-facao)
Until now, the legume genus Dinizia was thought to contain just one Amazonian tree species. There are only 25 known individuals of the tree – about half of which are in protected areas – making the woody giant critically endangered.
It’s easy to see where this 50-millimeter-long (2 inch-long) amphipod got its name. With its somewhat humped back, Quasimodo’s namesake is one of 26 vibrantly colored new species of Epimeria amphipods found in the glacial waters of the Southern Ocean.
It’s no wonder these little hitchikers have gone so long without being noticed. Measuring 1.5 millimeters in length, 16 of them could line up along just 2.5 centimeters (1 inch). They live exclusively among one species of army ant in Costa Rica. The beetle hangs out with the nomadic ants when feeding and flies with them when the colony moves on to a new location.
Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)
The isolated population of Sumatran orangutans in the south were recently recognized as a separate species through morphometric, behavioral, and genomic evidence, separating from the northern Sumatran and Borneo about 3.8 million years ago.
Swire’s Snailfish (Pseudoliparis swirei)
This teeny tadpole-like fish measures just 10 centimeters (4 inches) in length and yet scientists believe it could be a top predator in the deep ocean – it was captured at depths of between 6,700 to 7,900 meters (22,000 and 26,000 feet).
Just a handful of plants are heterotrophic, meaning they get their sustenance from other organisms rather than through photosynthesis. This 10-centimeter (4-inch) Japanese flower is symbiotic with a fungus and only flowers for a short time in September and October. They are considered critically endangered.
Venus Hair (Thiolava veneris)
Three years after a volcanic eruption wiped out much of the ecosystem off the coast of the Canary Islands, scientists have discovered a new proteobacteria colonizing the ocean floor. This new species produces long, hair-like structures to form a white mat extending nearly 2,000 square meters (half an acre) and 130 meters deep (425 feet). The bacteria’s early colonization is “paving the way for development of early-stage ecosystems.”
Recently uncovered fossils from 23 million years ago reveal an omnivorous 50-pound (23-kilogram) marsupial lion once roamed northwestern Australia. Scientists believe that the husky-sized predator spent most of its time in trees and it was one of two species of marsupial lions that were present on the continent.
Adapting to a life in permanent darkness, this cave beetle has a compact body, spider-like legs, and has lost its wings, eyes, and pigmentation. The troglobitic ground beetle measures about 9 millimeters (less than half-an-inch) and resides in a part of southern China that is home to the greatest diversity of cave-dwelling ground beetles in the world.