2012 Top Ten New Species List Highlights Need to Protect Biodiversity
May 23, 2012 marked the 305th birth anniversary of Carl Linnaeus, known Swedish botanist and recognized as the father of modern taxonomy. To mark the event the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University in collaboration with a committee of international scientists worldwide released their top ten list of new species described in 2011, Science Daily reports.
The institute releases a top ten list of new species every year with the goal of highlighting biodiversity, species exploration and taxonomy. According to Quentin Wheeler, entomologist at the International Institute for Species Exploration at ASU, the list is intended to “bring attention to the biodiversity crisis” that concerns the world at present. He also mentioned the work of unsung heroes as well who continue the centuries-old tradition of discovering and describing millions of new species with whom humans share the planet.
Nominated species that are especially attention-grabbing because of their uniqueness and even bizarreness were given special consideration in the selection, shares Mary Liz Jameson, chairperson of the international selection committee and associate professor at Wichita State University. Not only species with unusual names were given special attention but also those which highlighted how little science knows about the rich biodiversity of the planet.
The 2012 Top Ten New Species listed with their common names are:
Sneezing Monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri) – is the first snub-nosed monkey to be discovered from Myanmar, reported by a group of scientists conducting a gibbon survey. Its name strykeri is given in honor of the President and Founder of Arcus Foundation, Jon Stryker. The species got its common name from its characteristic sneezing whenever it rains.
Bonaire Banded Box Jelly (Tamoya ohboya) – Don’t miss the unusual name of this tantalizing box jelly, which comes from the exclamation “Oh boy!” (presumably the first thing people exclaim when they see it – or when they are stung by it). Citizen scientists submitted hundreds of names for the venomous box jelly but this clever name was high school biology teacher Lisa Peck’s idea. It is found locally in Divi Flamingo, Bonaire, Netherlands (Dutch Caribbean).
Devil’s Worm (Halicephalobus mephisto) – So named because it was found 1.3 km deep in the Earth’s crust, the Devil’s Worm also has the incredible ability to live under huge underground pressure and high temperatures. According to carbon dating tests, its borehole water found in a South African gold mine has not been in contact with the earth’s atmosphere for at least 4,000 years.
Night Blooming Orchid (Bulbophyllum nocturnum) – This mysterious orchid has the distinction of being the first night blooming flowers recorded from 25,000 known orchid species. It starts to bloom around10:00 at night and closes the next morning after about 12 hours. It is found locally at New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
Dive-Bombing Wasps (Kollasmosoma sentum) – Its common name may make you think of high-altitude kamikaze dives to the ground, but this parasitic wasp actually cruises at the comfortable altitude of just 1 centimeter above the ground. It attacks target ants by diving from the air and depositing their eggs in them on an average of just 0.052 seconds. Its type locality is listed as the Institute for Agriculture and Food Research and Technology, Madrid, Spain.
Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom (Spongiforma squarepantsii) – So named for its resemblance to the popular cartoon character, this mushroom species brings attention to the rich biodiversity of our planet’s forests. Among its characteristics are its fruity smell and the sponge-like ability to return to its original shape after being squeezed. No burger flipping skills were listed. Kidding aside, this unusual species can be locally found in Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak, island of Borneo, Malaysia.
Nepalese Autumn Poppy (Meconopsis autumnalis) – This species thrives in central Nepal at an elevation of 10,827 to 13,780 feet. IISE stated in its description that the species have been already collected twice: first in 1962 and again in 1994, but was not reported in both times. Its name was given to reflect the season when it blooms. It can be found locally at Ganesh Himal (Rasuwa District), central Nepal.
Wandering Leg Sausage (Crurifarcimen vagans) – IISE gives an explanation for its unusual name in this species’ etymology description, for those who might raise their eyebrows: “…genus name Crurifarcimen from the Latin words “crus” for leg and “farcimen” meaning sausage; species epithet vagans from the Latin word “vagans” meaning wandering or itinerant; thus, the full species name means the “wandering leg sausage.” ”
Aside from its remarkable etymology, this species also holds the record for being the largest millipede inEaster Arc Mountains,Tanzania, known to be as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
Walking Cactus (Diania cactiformis) – belonging to the extinct class Xenusia, this animal measures only 2.4 inches and has the distinctive appearance of a pink walking cactus. Scientists say its discovery is significant because its segmented legs gives support to the theory that arthropods were descended from lobopodian ancestors. It was discovered in the Chengjiang deposit in Southwest China, among 520 million year old Cambrian deposits. Its type locality is listed as Yunnan, southwestern China.
Sazima’s Tarantula (Pterinopelma sazimai) – this unusually blue tarantula has the distinction of being the first new species from Brazil to be included in the top ten. Its name sazimai was given in honor of Dr. Ivan Sazimai, a distinguished Brazilian zoologist who collected the species’ exemplars in the 1970s and 1980s. Its type locality is listed as the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina, Bahia, Brazil.
The IISE at ASU’s other top ten lists over the years as well as their Retro SOS 2000-2009 are available here.
New species discoveries like these are exciting reminders that our planet is amazingly rich in biodiversity. But alongside the vivid descriptions of some hang the various threats that imperil them even as they are being introduced to science and the world. Rhinopithecus strykeri is believed to be critically endangered and both Pterinopelma sazimai and Bulbophyllum nocturnum are considered vulnerable due to threats to their habitats. IISE made the list to represent “species treasures” from around the world, and expects several species to become “icons for conservation”. With the so-called “sixth extinction” proceeding at a not-so-sluggish pace, IISE’s top ten new species list reminds us that we might be losing species before we have even discovered them. Protecting our planet’s rich biodiversity helps in preventing our world becoming poorer before it has even known how blessed and rich it is.
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