The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) at Arizona State University and a group of taxonomists from around the world have decided upon their chioces for the top 10 new species described in 2010. The motley crew includes a leech with giant teeth, a glowing mushroom, and a flat hopping fish, among other curious and amazing new species that we are lucky to share the globe with.
Here they are, in no particular order:
Darwin’s Bark Spider (Caerostris darwini)
This orb-weaving spider builds the largest orb webs known to man–large enough to span rivers, streams and lakes. It’s no surprise that the silk spun by these spiders is incredibly strong. In fact, it is “the toughest biological material ever studied, over ten times stronger than a similarly-sized piece of Kevlar” and more than two times stronger than any other known spider silk. The unusual ways of this impressive arachnid will allow researchers to better study size dimorphism, mate guarding, and…self castration. (I’m not sure how that plays into biological imperative, but I’m sure they have a plan.)
Etymology: The species description was prepared on 24 November 2009, exactly the 150th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species. The species is named in honor of Charles R. Darwin, 200 years after his birth.
(Image: Matjaž Kuntner)
Eternal Light Mushroom (Mycena luxaeterna)
This rave-ready new species comes from some of the last remaining Atlantic forest habitat near São Paulo, Brazil. It emits a bright yellowish green light, constantly, from its gel-covered stems. Of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi on earth, only 71 species are known to be bioluminescence–this one is one of the most visually striking of them all. Lewis Carroll would be proud.
Etymology: lux = light (L.), aeterna = eternal (L.), referring to the 24-hour light emitted by the basidiomes. The name was inspired by and borrowed from Mozart’s Requiem (Communio).
(Image: Cassius V. Stevani/IQ-USP, Brazil)
Titanic Bacterium (Halomonas titanicae)
Found at the bottom of the sea, this new species of iron-oxide eating bacteria was discovered on a ‘rusticle’ from the RMS Titanic. Apparently, it sticks to steel surfaces creating knob-like protrusions of corrosion that are contributing (with other microorganisms) to the deterioration of the Titanic‘s metal–which will eventually lead to the complete dissolution of the Titanic. Interestingly, it has been suggested that this bacterium could be used for the disposal of old naval and merchant ships that have sunk in the deep ocean.
Etymology: titanicae (ti.ta´ni.cae. N.L. fem. n. titanica the ship Titanic; N.L. fem. gen. n. titanicae of or from the ship Titanic).
(Electron micrograph (negative staining) of Halomonas titanicae (Society for General Microbiology); Closer view of rusticles formed on RMS Titanic wreck (RMS Titanic Inc.); ESEM showing stacked mineralized individual bacterium in the form of a stalagmite shape occurring inside a rusticle.)
Sierra Madre Forest Monitor or Golden Spotted Monitor (Varanus bitatawa)
This huge fruit-eating lizard lives in trees only in the Northern Sierra Madre Forest, Luzon Island, Philippines. The forest monitor lizard can grow to more than 6.6 feet in length, but only reaches about 22 lbs–which seems pretty heavy for a lizard, but really isn’t that much at all considering its length. Amazing that this giant, brightly-colored lizard has escaped the eyes of biologists throughout its existence, although it has long been known by locals in the area.
Etymology: The specific epithet is derived from bitatawa, the Agta tribespeoples’ common name for the new species.
(Images: Holotype, adult male, taken by J. Brown; paratype, juvenile male, taken by A.C. Diesmos)
Pollinating Cricket (Glomeremus orchidophilus)
This species is the only pollinator of the rare and endangered orchid Angraecum cadetii on Réunion island in the South Western Indian Ocean. Go Glomeremus orchidophilus!
(Image: Sylvain Hugel; image of orchid: C. Micheneau)
Walter’s Duiker (Philantomba walteri)
This duiker from West Africa was first found at a bushmeat market. (Boo.) According to the listing, “The discovery of a new species from a well-studied group of animals in the context of bushmeat exploitation is a sobering reminder of the mammalian species that remain to be described, even within those that are being exploited on a daily basis for food or ritual activities.”
Etymology: The species is named Walter’s Duiker in honor of the late Walter N. Verheyen (1932–2005), in recognition of his work on African mammals. Moreover, he collected the first specimen at Badou (Togo) in 1968.
(Drawing: Yann Le Bris)
T-rex Leach (Tyrannobdella rex)
What’s better than a leech with teeth? How about a leech with teeth that was discovered feeding from…just wait…the nostril of a 9-year old girl in Perú? Ack. It is unusual because it is the only known species of leech with a “single armed jaw with such large teeth.” (Thankfully, in my opinion.)
Etymology: Tyrannobdella: tyrannos (G.) – ‘‘tyrant’’ + bdella (G.) – ‘‘leech’’; rex: rex (G.) – ‘‘king’’.
(Images: PLoS ONE)
Underwater Mushroom (Psathyrella aquatica)
This is the first report of a mushroom species that is able to fruit underwater. The gilled mushroom was found in the northwestern United States in the flowing waters of the upper Rogue River in Oregon.
Etymology: In reference to the aquatic habitat.
(Images: Robert Coffan)
Leaproach (Saltoblattella montistabularis)
Nice, a cockroach that has legs that are highly modified for jumping! Prior to its discovery jumping cockroaches were only known from the Late Jurassic (where they belong, in my opinion). This cockroach has jumping ability comparable to grasshoppers. In addition to the leg modifications, it has specially shaped eyes that protrude from the sides and antennae that have an additional fixation point to help stabilize them during jumping. So, they’re really precise jumpers.
Etymology: Saltoblattella is the Latin translation of “jumping small cockroach.” The species name refers to “Mons tabularis,” the old Latin name of Table Mountain near Cape Town where the species has been found; montistabularis is the genitive of “Mons tabularis” and therefore indeclinable.
(Images: Mike Picker)
Louisiana Pancake Batfish (Halieutichthys intermedius)
This cutie-pie (with an even cuter name) was discovered just before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010–its entire known distribution is in the area of the spill. Sigh. Not only is it flat (as a pancake) but also has spikes, huge bulging eyes….and hops on its fins. Its discovery and unstable existence due to the oil spill made it a media darling–including this article on cnn.com and a number of others.
Etymology: The specific epithet, intermedius, refers to ‘intermediate’ character states observed in this taxon when compared to H. aculeatus and H. bispinosus in the complex.
(Image: Prosanta Chakrabarty)