January 16, 2014
The Great Species Discoveries Of 2013
Every day new species of plant, animal, insect, bird, reptile, fish, and even microbe, bacterium, and dinosaur are discovered. There are tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of undiscovered species both living and extinct in the world. 2013 definitely saw some great discoveries in species. Time.com lists and explains what it deems as the top 10 of these in its “Top 10 of Everything” series. Let’s take a look at what Time reckons as some of the best species discoveries of 2013.
Number 10: The Carnivorous Olinguito
A more aggressive cousin to the raccoon (although I’ve got a raccoon who frequents my back porch that puts the scare on my pets and me regularly), the carnivorous olinguito poses a particular concern. See, it so closely resembles its olinguito family members, including the raccoon, that for a long time it has been mislabeled in museums and zoos. In fact, Time speculates that many an olinguito probably was placed to mate with a raccoon, but obviously was not so amorous to the cousin thus did not produce. Poor carnivorous olinguito! It has spent its life mistaken. Well, no longer.
Number 9: Giant Amazon Freshwater Arapaima
The common food staple of the arapaima has a complicated history. At first, scientists thought there were four species but then decided that the differences were so minute that they re-gathered them into one species. Then recently a biologist confirmed that the initial thought of four species of arapaima was correct. And, in fact, 2013 brought about a fifth. Happy eating!
Number 8: Cape Melville Shade Skink
Right from the great down under, this gold-colored skink eats insects and even leaps about on rocks. The latter is atypical of the skink and often leads to death from predators, but the Cape Melville discovery shows that skinks can frolic and live since this species has been around for about a half a billion years.
Number 7: Leaf-tailed Gecko
Another reptile species discovery of 2013 comes in the form of the leaf-tailed gecko named Saltuarius eximius. And it is one odd looking bugger. As the Time article explains that herpetologist Partrick Couper says, “[this new gecko is] the strangest new species to come across my desk in 26 years working as a professional herpetologist.”
Number 6: The Carolina Hammerhead
Yeah, just what the world needs…another hammerhead shark. Ugly, mean, and large are all adjectives used to describe hammerheads, but the Carolina Hammerhead really only fits ugly and large. The difference between it and its family members is that it has ten fewer vertebrae. Oh, and it is not terribly aggressive like its cousins.
Number 5: Glow-in-the-dark Cockroach
All I have to say is still ewww! But kinda cool…
Number 4: NASA’s New Microbe
Time wrote it best:
“NASA keeps looking for new species of microbes on Mars, but what it didn’t expect was to find one in a clean room at the Kennedy Space Center. As their name suggests, clean rooms are, you know, clean, which not only keeps dust out of spacecraft, but prevents terrestrial organisms from hitching a ride on them and contaminating other worlds. Scientists regularly sample the air and surfaces in the rooms to check for spotlessness, and at Kennedy, they found a bacterium they’d never seen before, the berry-shaped Teriscoccus phoenicis. As it turns out, the only other place in the world the microbe has been identified is in a European Space Agency clean room in French Guiana. And no, no, no, that does not mean the bugs are extraterrestrial. What it means is that they require exceedingly little to eat and, unlike most other microbes, can thus get by in so nutrient-poor an environment. A related species has also been found in only two places: yet another clean room in Florida and a bore hole in a Colorado molybdenum mine, 1.3 mi. (2.1 km) underground.”
Number 3: New Turkish Scorpion
And like the glow-in-the-dark cockroach, again all I can say is ewww! Oh and totally still dangerous.
Number 2: Panthera Blythae
You should definitely check out the pic of the stunning new old species of big cat. Okay, so that is confusing, I know, but hear me out. See Panthera blythae last prowled Earth 4.4 million years ago. That’s right…this species was thought extinct, but here she is in all her mighty and striking glory. She may only weigh in at 50 pounds, but is still a powerful, capable, beautiful beast. Go check her out. Now.
Number 1: T. Rex’s Great Uncle
Okay, so Panthera blythae would have been my number 1 new species of 2013, but I totally get why Time picked another member of the T. Rex fam. This new species lived 80 million years ago, which is about 10 million older than previously thought. Oh, and this guy is dubbed “king of gore.” Seriously, his scientific name is Lythronax argestes, and Lythronax means “king of gore.” Man, am I glad I missed out on this one!?!
I love the stories about animal discoveries, animal science, and just about animals as a whole. I seriously love learning about the new species discovered every day. 2013 did not disappoint.
Image Credit: Thinkstock