2011’s top ten new species

May 24, 2011 • 10:23 am

Each year the Arizona Institute for Species Exploration issues its list of the “top ten new species of the year.”  The mission of the AISE, at Arizona State University, is to promote taxonomy and the exploration of the Earth’s biodiversity.

Their list for 2011, which includes only species first described scientifically in 2010, has now been published, and there are some amazing species on it.   They include two fungi (a bioluminescent mushroom and the world’s only mushroom known to fruit underwater), a spider that builds the largest orb-style web ever described, a new halophilic bacterium found eating rust off the Titanic, a cricket that pollinates an orchid on Reunion Island (the only cricket known to pollinate a flowering plant), a two-meter-long monitor lizard from the Phillipines (it was already known to the locals), a jumping cockroach that looks like a grasshopper, and, perhaps most amazingly, a brand-new species of duiker (antelope), found in a bushmeat market in Africa (it’s hard to believe an antelope has gone undescribed!).

The descriptions on the AISE pages also give the journal references where the species were described.  A few of them:

Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini) from Madagascar.  Look at the size of that web, spun by a single individual! (Images © Matjaž Kuntner):

A new leech (Tyrannobdella rex) found feeding in the nostrils of two children in South America.  (The PLos One article describes one as being nearly three inches long).  T. rex is unique because it’s the only known leech with a “single armed jaw with such large teeth.”

The first known underwater mushroom, Psathyrella aquatica, from Oregon! (Photos copyright by Robert Coffan). You can see a short video of it at this link:

A jumping cockroach, Saltoblattella montistabularis, from South Africa (photo courtesy of Mike Picker).  Resembling a grasshopper, it’s a remarkable example of convergent evolution between insects from two different orders. The website says this:

This new species of cockroach exhibits unusual morphology.  It has legs that are highly modified for jumping. Prior to its discovery jumping cockroaches were only known from the Late Jurassic. This extant cockroach has jumping ability that is on par with grasshoppers. In addition to the leg modifications, it has hemispherical shaped eyes that protrude from the sides of the head instead of kidney shaped and the antennae have an additional fixation point to help stabilize them during jumping.

And my favorite, the Louisiana Pancake Batfish (Halieutichthys intermedius; photo by Prosanta Chakrabarty).  It was discovered right before the BP oil spill, and in the same area. Let’s hope it’s still around:

Think of all the weird and wonderful stuff that’s still out there and undescribed!  Much of it never will be, either, if we keep despoiling our planet.

21 thoughts on “2011’s top ten new species

  1. Ooh how cool! Another fruit eating monitor…that makes 3 I believe. I have a special place in my heart for varanids.

  2. …and I generally find spiders fascinating, but I would hate to find that Bark spider in my bedroom. Shudder.

    1. I felt that way for a long time– ’til I started photographing spiders and actively looking for species I’d not yet seen. It’s as much fun as birds, now:-)) Check! Two days ago, a spider *did* come in– kids shouted “Mama! There’s a big spider on the ceiling!” Me: “Where? Ooh! Pretty! Move you guys, I can’t see..what kind..it is. Go get the bug book!” My husband walked in at that moment and said “That was a weird reaction!” And I realized that I was just not scared of spiders anymore. I would be off my head with *joy* if that Bark Spider were to condescend to pay a visit to my home. Photo op!
      Are there some color pics of the Bark Spider at the AISE site? (I suppose I can just go find out for myself…)
      (The spider on the ceiling was Philodromus auricomus, a silvery beige crab spider with pretty markings:-))

      1. How interesting! Yes, I can sometimes be creeped out by a spider – even though they are beautiful. However, I am one of those that would be pleased as punch to find just about any type of reptile in my dwelling.

      2. [shameless self-promotion following]Since I’m the co-author of a book on the evolution of spider silk, the discovery of this bark spider was a real thrill for me. Spiders are even more fascinating than most of us know and they can teach non-biologists (like me) lots about evolution. If that sounds intriguing to you, check out our web site. I use WEIT as my main source of evolution news and insight these days, so it’s nice to be able to maybe contribute something back to you all.

  3. But how long until Ken Ham trots out the fruit monitor as evidence that animals we think of as carnivorous are sumetimes found to be vegitarians, thus supporting the notion that no animal ate meat before the fall?

    Those leeches are nightmare fuel.

    1. Erm what? Are you kidding me? I thought I’d heard a lot of creationist bullshit…but….what???? I’d like to see him offer an apple to a hungry, drooling Komodo dragon.

    2. The leeches – why you do not put your face into the water in a tropical river. I have read similar stories before. Once a leech finds itself in a nose it has a perfect environment – warm, damp & plenty of food. It reminds me of an article I saw in which someone presented at a casualty department with a cockroach in each ear, so the doctors saw it – to their own mirth – as an opportunity for comparing two removal methods!

    3. No need to worry, Ken Ham would use anything as evidence for his outrageous claims, anyway. Vegetarian lizards? Evidence for Eden! No vegetarian lizards? Evidence for the Fall! Underwater mushrooms? Evidence for the Flood! He can’t lose while he plays by his own rules.

  4. So, they called the leech Tyrannobdella rex? I bet the individuals of a certain species of reptiles would be deeply offended, should they still be alive.

  5. I guess you meant top ten “newly discovered” species. “New species” would make creationists pee their pants. Or maybe that is the plan.

  6. That’s batfish insane.

    I like the water shrooms and cockhoppers. Grassroaches. Hoproaches.

    Technically they still hop from grass, so whatever.

    1. If “cockhopper” isn’t a euphemism yet it will be in about thirty seconds 🙂

      Everything on this list is more evidence for my “The Intelligent Designer is completely out of his head on crack” hypothesis.

  7. Wierd and wonderful is fun, but any taxonomist (except perhaps those working on vertebrates) can tell you there are lots of undescribed “normal-looking” species out there, too. The fascinating thing about these is that what might earlier have been thought to be very abundant, “boring”, generalist species, turn out to be complexes of finely differentiated and genetically isolated populations, evolutionarily finely attuned to particular ecological, feeding, host species, biogeographic, etc. circumstances. And all this hiding in plain view, so to speak! (Empidonax flycatchers come to mind as a comparable vertebrate example.)

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