Top 10 coolest new species in 2016

The Top 10 New Species list is compiled annually by ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE).

Established in 2008, the list highlights discoveries that are made even as species are going extinct faster than they are being identified.

This year, a hominin in the same genus as humans and an ape nicknamed “Laia” that might provide clues to the origin of humans are among the Top 10 List.

Scientists believe 10 million species await discovery, five times the number already known to science. You have to wonder – what bizarre new lifeforms are awaiting discovery in 2016?

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Image : Wikipedia

10. The Ruby Sea-dragon

You might wonder how this beautiful and bizarre was missed. Nearly one foot long, this Ruby Sea-dragon or Phyllopteryx dewysea is a bright shade of ruby red with pink vertical bars and light markings on its snout. Related to the seahorse, it’s only the third known species of seadragon to be found – and the first for 150 years. The discovery was made off the coast of Western Australia.

The discovery team believes the animal’s coloring suggests it inhabits deeper waters than the Leafy and Common Seadragons, where its red shading would serve as camouflage.

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Image : Wikipedia

9. Ugly anglerfish

The anglerfish or Lasiognathus dinema isn’t going to win any beauty awards. It’s the only fish that looks like it’s carrying a fishing pole, a structure called an esca, projecting from its head. It was discovered during a Natural Resource Damage Assessment process conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Even more wierdly, the esca is thought to possibly help attract mates as well as lure prey when it glows (thanks to bacteria that live on some species of the fish and help them shine).

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Image : Wikipedia

8. Giant carnivorous plant

This is believed to be the first social media plant. The meat-eating new species of plant was discovered through photographs posted on Facebook. It is also a record-setter, being the largest sundew ever seen in the New World, growing to 123 cm (48 inches).

Like other sundews, it secretes a thick mucus on the surface of its leaves that entraps unsuspecting insects that are then digested to bulk out its diet.

Only just discovered, it’s already fast-tracked to endangered. It’s known to exist only at the summit of a single mountain in Brazil, 1,550 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level.

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Image : Wikipedia

7. Small Ape – Big Ideas

Fragments of an ape nicknamed “Laia” by her discoverers, were discovered in a landfill in Catalonia. She was a small female who lived about 11.6 million years ago, climbing trees and living on fruit.

Though she was only about 43 cm (17 inches), she carries huge implications for the origins of humans. She lived before the lineage containing humans and great apes had diverged from its sister branch, the gibbons, and she appears to be related to all three.

She raises the possibility that early humans could have been more closely related to gibbons than the great apes.

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Image : Wikipedia

6. Randy damselfly

The new species, named Umma gumma, is British slang for sex as well as the title of Pink Floyd’s fourth studio album. It’s just one of 60 dragonflies and damselflies recently identified in Africa by a team of three.
Most of these 60 new ones are distinguishable as unique by their size, shape, and color.

Naming so many became a challenge. Some names are descriptive, such as Notogomphus gorilla, which is “large and dark as the famous ape that shares its Ugandan habitat,” the dragonfly hunters wrote in an email. Another, the Robust Sparklewing Umma gumma  is named after a Pink Floyd album, and the Blue-spotted Pricklyleg, Porpax mezierei, honors the team’s high school teacher, who in his spare time working in Gabon netted 15 new species not yet found any place else.

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Image : Wikipedia

5. Galapagos tortoise

Lonesome George may be gone but we’ve found one of his relatives. Genetic data was used to determine that a group of 250 slow-moving reptiles was distinct from another tortoise species on Santa Cruz island.

The new species was named in honor of a park ranger known as “Don Fausto,” who worked 43 years to conserve the giant tortoises of Galapagos. Yale University biologist Gisella Caccione, who led the team of scientists, said the shell of the tortoises had a more compressed shape than other species.

Scientists and conservationists are hoping the discovery will help to protect and restore the tortoise, which is considered vulnerable, with an estimated population of 250.

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Image : Wikipedia

4. Tiny Beetle: Please Look After This Species

This species owes its adorable Latin name – Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington – to Paddington Bear, a lovable character in children’s literature. As the story goes, he showed up one day in Paddington Station, London, with a sign that said, “Please look after this bear.” Like him, the new beetle hails from Peru. The researchers hope the new species’ name will draw attention to the threatened Andean spectacled bear that inspired the Paddington books.

They are tiny; you’d have to line up 25 to reach the one-inch mark on a yardstick. They live in the pools of water that collect in the hollows of plants, such as tree holes. This is a featherwing beetle, the family that includes the smallest known group of beetles and which is named for the distinctive shape of their wings.

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Image : Wikipedia

3. Colourless crustacean

While neither cute nor cuddly, this tiny, blind and colourless crustacean is unique. Called Iuiuniscus iuiuensis, it’s found in a cave in Brazil where it builds mud shelters – a first for this family of animals. It retreats into these irregularly shaped dwellings while moulting, perhaps because at that time it’s more vulnerable to predators.

It represents an entirely new subfamily, genus and species of isopod (crustaceans that can get by on land or in the water).

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Image : Wikipedia

2. Human relative

The latest member of the human family was discovered in a cave in South Africa in a region nicknamed the Cradle of Humankind for the trove of human fossils found there.

A skull of Homo naledi was found alongside remains of 15 other individuals, possibly a tribe or family – making it the biggest collection of a single species of hominin ever found in Africa.

The adult male stood 1.5 metres tall, and the structure of the feet suggest it was bipedal for much of the time. The curvature of the fingers, however, similar to that seen in ape ancestors, and the shape of the shoulders, show that Homo naledi was also at home in the trees.

The brain is much smaller, only about the size of a gorilla’s and a third the size of ours. The bones have such a strange mixture of primitive and modern features that we don’t yet know how H. naledi fits into the human family tree.

The exact age of the remains, once determined, will have implications for the early history of our genus.

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Image : Wikipedia

1. Flowering Tree: All aBuzz

We couldn’t see this tree for the forest. This new flowering tree species was “hidden” just meters from the main road in the Monts de Cristal National Park, in Gabon, which was thought to have already been well explored by science. Its small size, less than 6 meters (20 feet) might have caused it to be overlooked in favour of larger trees.

The generic name Sirdavidia honors Sir David Attenborough, for his influence on the life and careers of the scientists who discovered it. Sirdavidia is, in fact, the first plant genus named after him, although several plant species already bear his name.

According to the team, its flowers are probably ‘buzz pollinated,’ a very specific type of pollination whereby bees use the vibration of their wings to extract the pollen grains onto their bellies. Buzz pollination is unknown in about 10,000 species worldwide.

Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.