December 29, 2011

Celebrating new species

Not all has been doom and gloom in 2011 – we have also discovered many new species,

Since it is the end of the year, we thought we might celebrate the wide range of new species revealed to the world by science during 2011.  With improved genetic analysis available and more intensive studies of our threatened biodiversity hotspots, like tropical rainforests, it seems that more new species are being found than ever before.  Having said that, two species of rhino have disappeared from the wild in the last 12 months and scientists claim that species loss over the rest of this century will be the highest since the arrival of the human race.

The Amazon is home to around 30% of the world’s species and boasts astonishing variety – a single bush here can contain more ant species than the whole of the UK and one hectare of forest may have over 480 tree species.  Many of the new species finds, however, are from other parts of the planet.  More than 200 animals and plants were revealed for the first time after two months of surveying in the little-explored Nakanai and Muller mountain ranges in Papua New Guinea. These discoveries include two mammals, 24 species of frog, nine plants, nearly 100 new insects including damselflies, crickets and ants, and around 100 spiders.  Across the world, many other species were discovered this year:



A new species of titi monkey was discovered in the Brazilian Amazon (the second new titi monkey discovered in the Amazon in three years)


A tube-nosed fruit bat described by the Daily Mail as appearing reminiscent of the Star Wars Jedi Master Yoda was discovered in a remote rainforest of Papua New Guinea as well as new bats in the Caribbean.


A strange new ferret-badger like animal was found in Vietnam.


An orange spider was also discovered in New Guinea


A beautiful yellow-spotted frog was found for the first time this year in the mountainous forests of Papua New Guinea.; and a tiny 2cm (tic tac sized) frog which calls for a mate in the afternoon – unlike most frogs in the area which call at night.  Several more frogs were discovered in Vietnam, including one which sings like a bird, and more again were found for the first time this year in India and Sri Lanka.


Three viper type snake species were first described in 2011, including two pit vipers in Southeast Asia and a striking looking new viper in Tanzania.



Mice and shrews

A new mouse with a white tipped tail discovered in New Guinea and seven new mice species were discovered in the Philippines, and one new mouse turned up in Brazil; while as many as four previously unknown species of shrew were discovered on Sulawesi island, Indonesia


A ‘SpongeBob’ mushroom in Borneo, a species of zombie-creating Ophiocordyceps fungi in Brazilian Atlantic forest

Wasps and bees

A giant insect called the ‘Komodo dragon’ of wasps was discovered as well as a new bee with the world’s longest tongue relative to its body size.

Eels and crabs

An ancient eel was found off Palau and, in the depths of the ocean, more weird creatures were found including a massive one-celled organism – xenophyophore and a Yeti crab which farms its own food by cultivating bacteria on its claws.


This year Australian scientists realised for the first time that a bottlenose dolphin in southeast Australia is a species distinct from other bottlenose dolphins.


A new forest elephant species was described in Central Africa and determined as genetically distinct from the better-known savanna elephant species.




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