In the past couple of years, there have been some mind blowing animal discoveries. Mind blowing mainly because we thought we had already figured out at least the large animals! But new mammals, snakes, and frogs have been popping up in spite of our long history of discovery. It is simply testament to the wondrous diversity of nature.
NB: I’m not alone in writing a post like this, but it is super fun to go through and read about these exciting new species, so I did it for my own erudition as much as yours. 🙂 I think the coolest thing I’ve learned is that there are way more new species than I can cover in one blog post!
Araguaian Boto This is a new species of river dolphin; the article detailing its discovery was published on January 22, 2014 (Hrbeck et al. 2014, open access). According to the BBC, it is the first river dolphin species to be discovered since 1918, so it has been almost a century. With only five extant river dolphin species, and one recently extinct (the Yangtze River Dolphin), this is exciting news indeed. The research suggests that this species branched off 2 million years ago…hopefully we humans can keep it alive for at least another decade.
Olinguito This was an amazing discovery (August 2013) because the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) is a carnivorous terrestrial mammal (Helgen et al 2013). We’re not so surprised when we find new fish or new insects, but we pretty much thought we had the large terrestrial mammals figured out. Indeed, this is the first carnivorous land mammal discovered in the Americas since 1978. The olinguito is also popular because it’s, well…cute.
Lesula The Lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) was discovered in 2012 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Hart et al 2012). It struck a chord and went viral on the internet because it “looks very human.” Indeed, people have been assigning emotions as human as melancholy to the animal.
Gerp mouse lemur An adorable contribution from Madagascar, this mouse lemur (Microcebus gerpi) was discovered in April of 2012 (Radespiel et al 2012). At 68 grams (2.4 oz), the mouse lemur is among the heavier of the mouse lemurs.
Durrell’s vontsira (Salanoia durrelli) This is a small carnivore…another contribution from Madagascar. This is another species in danger. It exists in a very limited area threatened by development. Indeed, there was a recent bird extinction in these same marshes (Alaotra grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus)). It is sad to think we can lose such a species after we’ve only just discovered it.
Maybe you don’t love insects as much as you love mammals, you classist. If you have an opinion, keep it to yourself, because insects are awesome, especially bees, but also this….
Glow in the dark Cockroach! Go ahead and tell me this little guy is not amazing. This is actually one of a dozen glowing cockroach species, but its recent discovery is what marks it for this list. Though the species was described in 2013, the type specimen has been sitting in a museum for 70 years.
Bazinga Bees I wrote a post about this new species of Euglossine bee a while back, but I definitely think it should be included on this list. Described in 2012, the bee was named Euglossa bazinga after a quote on a famous television show (The Big Bang Theory).
Gotham’s Bee (Lasioglossum gotham) Discovered right in the heart of New York City in 2009 and described in 2011, this is a tiny metropolis bee that nests in the ground (Gibbs 2011). This genus of sweat bees, Lasioglossum, is one of the most difficult to identify…the species look so similar to each other (as I can attest), that there is literally only one person on the face of the Earth who can identify some of them…Jason Gibbs himself.
Lord Howe Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) Okay, so this species doesn’t exactly fit the same category as the others. It is exceptional, however, so I wanted to include it. Last seen in 1920, this stick insect was thought to be extinct after the introduction of black rats by European explorers. In 2001, some individuals were discovered on a dangerous spire of rock sticking out the ocean, and now scientists are trying to breed the insects back into a sustainable population size.
Lilliputian Beetle (Canthidium minimum) This ruby red beetle has the distinction of being the “second smallest dung beetle in South America.” Humble pride aside, this beetle is a nice addition to the list; it was discovered last year in Suriname.
REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS
Cocoa Frog (Hypsiboas sp.) Too adorable not to include, this frog was discovered on the same trip to Suriname that yielded the Lilliputian beetle above. The scientists discovered 60 new species in just that one trip. Just look at those big eyes.
Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuarius eximius) An example of awesome camouflage, this gecko seems like it would be very difficult to spot among the fallen leaves in a forest! This wonderful contribution comes from a region of Australia that was thought to be relatively well explored, so it was an exciting surprise. Two other species were discovered on the same trip: a skink and a frog, but seriously look at this gecko.
Giant Jellyfish This species was literally discovered as I was writing this post so I absolutely must include it. Although the scientist that discovered it is calling it “magnificent“, Gizmodo Australia rather thinks it looks like a “giant snot.”
Pink Slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei) Couldn’t have a new species post without mentioning Australia’s spectacular pink slug, discovered in 2013 in New South Wales. I think…I think I might love Australia more for its carnivorous snails and terrestrial leeches than for its koalas.
Okay, I’ll leave the aquatic animals and birds for another post!