Ten of the best - amazing new species list for 2012

By Martin Leggett - 24 May 2012 21:9:5 GMT
Check out these ten amazing newfound species while you can

Credit: © Sara Pennak/International Institute for Species Exploration/Arizona State University

The numbers speak for themselves - 1,700,000 species that are know to science; as many as 40,000,000 species waiting for science to catch up with them; 18,225 species newly revealed by scientists back in 2008; and as many as 120,000 species blinking out of existence, each year, before science has even had a chance to discover them. With many believing us to be in the midst of the sixth great extinction events in the Earth's history, it's little wonder that there's a desire to treasure each and every one the newest entries to the biological textbooks.

But some stand out head-and-tentacles above the rest - and the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University (IISE) have got together with leading biologists to compile this years top-most ten. Bizarre, beautiful or just downright weird, let's run through two handfuls specially selected from last years most amazing scientific discoveries; species that remind us that 'preserving biodiversity' is a whole lot more than just a dry ecological afterthought.

Sazima's tarantula (Pterinopelma sazimai): This is a real beauty-and-the-beast entry from Brazil; a striking iridescent-blue tarantula found wandering the tabletop mountains close the Atlantic coast of Brazil. Sadly, the amazing blue color of this colorful creepy-crawly may put it at risk - exotic pet traders tend to target such brightly colored arachnids.

Nepalese Autumn Poppy (Meconopsis autumnalis): There's nothing beastly about this elegant new addition to the botanist's collection. This graceful yellow-flowered poppy stands tall and proud high up the Nepalese mountains. So high, in fact, that it has long evaded identification by botanists, who have under-explored the 10,000-13,000 slopes where Meconopsis autumnalis nods its heads.

Wandering Leg Sausage (Crurifarcimen vagans): Another new species that packs plenty of creep and crawl into its many-legged body - this 5-inch long (16cm) millipede has 112 legs - Crurifarcimen vagans was found chomping on rotten wood in Tanzania's mountain forests. It is in fact the largest millipede to be found in this biodiversity hot-spot - big enough to wonder why it took scientists so long to trip over it.

Walking 'cactus' from the Cambrian (Diania cactiformis): It may look like a cactus, but you won't find this oddity anywhere near the desert. Instead, Diana cactiformis, a type of velvet worm from 500 million years ago, rippled its tubular legs along the muddy bottom of the Cambrian seas. Some scientists think that arthropods, like crabs, evolved from velvet worms like these, which appear to have crude segments.

Sponge-bob Square-pants (Spongiforma squarepantsii): Who said mycologists aren't fun guys? This bright little yellow-orange fungus struck its discovers as so sponge-like that they had to name-check the king of cartoon sponges - Sponge-bob himself - tagging 'squarepantsii' into its official name. These little sponge blobs are found in the damp humid jungles of Sarawak, in Malaysia Just follow your nose, apparently - this fungus has a distinctly fruity smell.

Dive-bombing Wasps (Kollasmosoma sentum): These wasps may sound scary, but bear in mind that they're only 1/10th of an inch long. And they're intended victims aren't us - but ants. For Kollasmosoma sentum ants aren't food in and of themselves, but cozy snug homes for the next generation of wasps. K sentum performs its aerial maneuvers in order to deliver a deadly payload - tiny eggs that will hatch into larvae and feast upon the hapless ant victim.

Night-blooming Orchid (Bulbophyllum nocturnum): As its name suggests, this orchid avoid the blaring competition among day-time flowers and blossoms, choosing instead to unfurl its petals at night. In fact, it's believed to be the only night blooming orchid from 25,000 described species. It is found in New Guinea, but for how much longer is uncertain - logging threatens much of its natural habitat.

Devil's Worm (Halicephalobus mephisto): From the fragile elegance of orchids, to deeply-buried wrigglies - Devil' worms, living examples of the tenacity of life, having penetrated themselves deep into the planet's rocky outer layers. These tiny nematode worms were found wriggling at the high pressures and temperatures of a South African gold mine nearly a mile below the surface. And their discovery was a rude one for the worms - they may not have been in contact with the surface for thousands of years.

Bonaire Banded Box Jelly (Tamoya ohboya): As is often the case, locals knew about this sumptuously colored (but poisonous) jellyfish long before scientists got round to documenting them. Found near the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. When scientists were giving this swimming jellyfish its official name, they turned to citizen scientists who had reported on it. And so 'ohboya' it was, after the 'Oh Boy' exclamation from being stung by one of its tentacles!

Sneezing Monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri): Finally, hankies at the ready for this one - not because its the end of the list, but because this final top-rated discovery may just shower you, during its trademark sneeze. Newly discovered mammals are a rarity, but this one was tracked down by its 'atish-oos'. Local people in the mountainous part of Myanmar where Rhinopithecus strykeri is found were able to take scientists to it - but only once it started raining. When the heavens open, this member of the gibbon family , starts a-sneezing. Then it's simply a matter of following your ears to the source!

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Topics: Insects / New Species / Primates / Fish