An endangered 62-ton tree, a protist found in an aquarium in San Diego, an “imperiled” great ape: These are just three of the fascinating new species to make the 11th annual Top 10 New Species List.
The list is compiled by the International Institute of Species Exploration, which is part of State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and it is released in May each year to honor Carolus Linnaeus’s birthday. Linnaeus is known as the “Father of Taxonomy,” and according to the University of California, Berkeley, “his system for naming, ranking, and classifying organisms is still in wide use today (with many changes).”
The top 10 organisms — plants, bacterium, fish, and even extinct mammals — are just a sampling of new species discovered, and they are chosen by members of an international selection committee.
“We name about 18,000 [species] per year but we think at least 20,000 per year are going extinct,” Quentin Wheeler, ESF president and founding director of the IISE, said in a statement.
“So many of these species — if we don’t find them, name them and describe them now — will be lost forever,” Wheeler continued. “And yet they can teach us so much about the intricacies of ecosystems and the details of evolutionary history. Each of them has found a way to survive against the odds of changing competition, climate and environmental conditions. So each can teach us something really worth knowing as we face an uncertain environmental future ourselves.”
Here are the top 10 species:
1. Ancoracysta twista
Ancoracysta twista is a new single-celled protist, which was discovered in a tropical aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Calif. Its origins in the wild remain unknown.
2. Dinizia jueirana-facao
Dinizia jueirana-facao is a critically endangered tree that is found in Brazil. There are only 25 known trees (half of which are in a protected area). It can be up to 130 feet tall and weigh around 62 tons.
3. Epimeria quasimodo
As you may have guessed, Epimeria quasimodo was named after Victor Hugo’s hunchbacked character Quasimodo, because of its shape. According to ESF, it is one of “26 new species of amphipods of the genus Epimeria from the Southern Ocean.”
4. Nymphister kronaueri
These tiny beetles live in Costa Rica, and it would take 16 of them lined up to reach the length of an inch. They live amongst a species of worker ants and hitchhike on the back of the ants to travel — their bodies are the same size, shape and color of the ants’ abdomen. “The beetle uses its mouthparts to grab the skinny portion of the host abdomen and hang on, letting the ant do the walking as they move from place to place,” an ESF release explains.
5. Pongo tapanuliensis
Pongo tapanuliensis, or the tapanuli orangutan, is an endangered great ape that lives in Sumatra. There are only around 800 of them left.
6. Pseudoliparis swirei
The swire’s snailfish (Pseudoliparis swirei) lives in the deepest part of the ocean the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean, where this four-inch tadpole-shaped fish appears to be a top predator.
7. Sciaphila sugimotoi
This four-inch-high flower is found on Ishigaki Island in Japan. Unlike most plants, which sustain themselves through photosynthesis, Sciaphila sugimotoi is heterotrophic meaning it gets its nutrients from other organisms. “In this case, the plant is symbiotic with a fungus from which it derives nutrition without harm to the partner,” ESF explains.
8. Thiolava veneris
Thiolava veneris was discovered three years after the submarine volcano Tagoro, located off the coast of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, erupted in 2011. This proteobacteria form “long, hair-like structures composed of bacterial cells within a sheath,” according to ESF.
9. Wakaleo schouteni
Unlike others on this list, scientists only have fossil evidence of the Wakeleo schouteni. Around 23 million years ago, during the late Oligocene era, this marsupial lion roamed in northwestern Queensland, Australia.
10. Xuedytes bellus
This beetle is adapted to the darkness, and it was discovered in a cave in Du’an, Guangxi Province, China.