Do you know what’s so great about the Earth? You know, other than the fact that we can live here and breathe the air and stuff. It’s so great because it’s so alive. There’s so much stuff to discover and study. We’re finding new things all the time. In fact, we’re only halfway through 2013 and we’ve already discovered a bunch of species previously unknown to science. These are just a few of the species humans have discovered in the last month. You heard me. Just the last month.
1. Cambodian Tailorbird
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This bird was recently discovered in a very unlikely place: Phnom Penh. A city isn’t exactly the first place you think of when you are trying to discover a previously unknown species, but there you have it. It’s about the size of a wren, with white cheeks, and a reddish-brown cap. There are 12 other species of tailorbirds, which get their name from how they make their nests. Even though it was just described this year, the bird was first caught in 2009. But, at the time, the team that caught it didn’t realize it was a previously unknown species.
2. Three Stinky Fungi
Even more recently is the publication of the discovery of three mushroom species in New Zealand. The three fungi are members of the same genus, and they also happen to be members of the same family as the Shiitake mushroom. These, however, are total stink-monsters. Their smell has been likened to rotting cabbage or garlic. They grow on dead tree trunks or at the bottom of the trunks of trees that are still alive.
The discovery of these fungal species is part of an ongoing study of the New Zealand’s fungal population. There are 8,000 species, only 2,000 of which are indigenous. The lead author of this study, Dr. Jerry Cooper, says that they are trying to more fully understand the origins of southern hemisphere fungal species.
3. Burying Beetle
This new species of burying beetle from the Solomon Islands went unnoticed in a museum for over 40 years. It wasn’t until a graduate student did her doctorate work on burying beetles. While on vacation, she happened upon six specimens at the Bishop Museum while on vacation in Hawaii. Talk about some good luck.
As far as we know, this beetle has never been seen alive. So while it’s safe to say that this beetle probably buries small, dead animals like its better-known cousins, any additional guesses at behavior are purely speculative.
4. The Sun Moth
The Sun Moth is a newly described owlet moth, so called because of how robust its body is. It was found in northwest China in 2012, but the results were only published in June 2013. It’s called the sun moth because of the orange circles found on the wings that resemble a rising sun. Only one male was captured in a wide river valley near mountain mixed forests.
5. Stripey Scorpion
Credit: Species ID
This new scorpion was discovered in the Ecuadorian Andes. The scorpion is about 5 cm long, or about an two inches long, and it has three brown stripes down its back. There are about 200 species of scorpion in this particular genus, and they range in size from 3 cm to 12 cm. This species can produce venom that is deadly to humans. So, you know, be careful if you’re ever in the Ecuadorean Andes.
6. Four-Fin Blenny
This little, two centimeter long fish was discovered while researchers were looking for something else. But, as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP), this little guy was caught instead. It’s quite a lovely little fish with iridescent fins. It was caught in kind of a weird place; too deep in the ocean for scuba divers to go, yet more shallow than deep sea submersibles usually go. Deep reefs exist farther under water than tropical reefs, and because of that are less studied. Who knows how many new and interesting species lurk there!
7. Another Chinese Moth
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
A new species of the slug moth – a medium-sized yellow moth whose larvae resembles a slug – was discovered in China. It looks like this new species has been confused with two other species of moth in the past, so people who study this type of thing will have some details to hammer out.
This particular type of moth is called a slug moth because, instead of the caterpillars we typically think of when we think of moths and butterflies, slug moth larvae looks like, well, slugs. They are flatter than caterpillars, and, instead of legs, they have suckers and move in a kind of a rolling wave.
8. Cool New Corals
As the Cambodian Tailorbird proves, you don’t have to be out in the middle of a remote jungle to find a new species. Along the Pacific coast of North America, researchers have found two new species and one new genus of soft coral. One of the new species had actually been misidentified. These new species are a very pretty pink and reddish color. There are about 3,400 species of soft coral, and most of these species were described in the 19th and early 20th century. However, they haven’t been very deeply studies, so they still continue to surprise us.
Image credit: Flickr