January 6, 2013

Top 10 New Species Discovered in 2012. ~ Rhett Butler & Jeremy Hance

Thousands of species were described for the first time by scientists in 2012.

Some of these were “cryptic species” that were identified after genetic analysis distinguished them from closely related species, while others were totally novel.

Here are 10 of the “new species” highlights from 2012.

Photo by Ch’ien Lee

In December, researchers described three new species of slow loris in the American Journal of Primatology.

The species were identified after genetic and morphological work on Nycticebus menagensis, a primate that is imperiled by the pet trade. The new species are Nycticebus bancanus, Nycticebus borneanus, and Nycticebus kayan. All are from Borneo.


Illustration by Joe Tomelleri

In November, scientists named five newly discovered species of fish after former and current American presidents and vice-presidents: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter and Teddy Roosevelt.

The descriptions were published in Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

The fish are all species of darter, a group that is found widely in the United States. The species were identified after research on the Speckled Darter (Etheostoma stigmaeum) concluded that it could be divided into nine separate species. These include the Spangled Darter (Etheostoma obama) from Tennessee; the Cumberland Darter (Etheostoma gore) and the Bluegrass Darter (Etheostoma jimmycarter) from Tennessee and Kentucky; the Highland Darter (Etheostoma teddyroosevelt) from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma, and the Beaded Darter (Etheostoma clinton) from Arkansas.

Photo by Luis A. Coloma

In July, herpetologists formally announced the discovery of a stunning new species of frog from highly endangered clouds forests in Ecuador.

They named it Hyloscirtus princecharlesi in honor of the Prince of Wales for the royal’s work to preserve tropical forests, including his efforts to mobilize political and financial support for a program to compensate developing countries for conserving their rainforests. The species was described in Zootaxa.

Shortly after the description of Hyloscirtus princecharlesi, scientists in Berkeley announced the number of known amphibians now exceeds 7,000. Roughly 3,000 more than were known just 25 years ago.


Photo by R. Bentani 

Published in ZooKeys, a Brazilian researcher described nine new species of tarantula from the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado.

All the new species are arboreal tarantulas, which are generally smaller and leaner than their better-known terrestrial cousins.


Photo by Richard Randrianambinina 

In January, primatologists introduced a new species of mouse lemur from Madagascar through the journal Primates.

The diminutive primate is named Gerp’s mouse lemur (Microcebus gerpi) after a GERP (Groupe d’Étude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar), a local lemur research group.

It was discovered during surveys in 2008 and 2009 in Sahafina Forest, a fragment of rainforest just 50 km away from the well-known Mantadia National Park, which lies east of Madagascar‘s capital city of Antananarivo. The lemur was confirmed as a “new species” after genetic analysis of small biopsies collected during the surveys. Lemurs were not killed to make the determination that it was an undescribed species.



Photo by Bryan Lessard, CSIRO

In January, singer and performer Beyoncé was accorded with a new honor: entomologists in Australia named a new horse fly after her. The horse fly, dubbed Scaptia beyonceae, is found in Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands.



Photo courtesy of Peter Vrsansky et al.

In 2010, Peter Vršanský and colleagues encountered a light-producing cockroach, Lucihormetica luckae, in Ecuador.

The species wasn’t described until this year when its description was published in the journal Naturwissenschaften. The roach represents the only known case of mimicry by bioluminescence in a land animal. Like a venomless king snake beating its tail to copy the unmistakable warning of a rattlesnake, Lucihormetica luckae’s bioluminescent patterns are nearly identical to the poisonous click beetle, with which it shares its habitat.

The species may already be extinct: it may have been wiped out by the 2010 eruption of Tungurahua Volcano, its only known habitat. No individuals have been seen since.


Photo courtesy of Hart et al. 

In September, researchers announced the startling discovery of a new monkey species in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The new primate, the lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis), was described in a paper in the open access PLoS ONE journal.

Photo by Sebastian Lotzkat 

Herpetologists, writing in the September issue of Zootaxa, used the discovery of a new snake to highlight a critical threat to its existence.

The new serpent, Sibon noalamina (“no to the mine” in Spanish), was named to draw attention to mining and deforestation issues in Panama’s remote Tabasará mountains.

“No to the mine” is used by members of the indigenous Ngöbe communities to push their protests against mining interests. According to the article, “The specific name is given in recognition and support of the Ngöbe’s struggle to protect their territory and environment, which is home to the new species described herein and many others, from profit-driven destructive interventions.”

Courtesy of F. Glaw et al. 

In February, scientists announced the discovery of four new species of super-tiny chameleons in Madagascar.

The smallest of the new species, Brookesia micra, is found only on the small island of Nosy Hara and has been dubbed the smallest chameleon in the world, measuring from nose to tail 29 millimeters (1.14 inches) at its largest. Scientists believe it represents a notable example of island dwarfism. The descriptions of the new species were published in PLoS ONE.

*From of our friends at Mongabay.com, click here for more.


Mongabay.com provides news, information and analysis on environmental issues, with a special focus on tropical rainforests. The website features more than 70,000 photos and has a section about forests for children available in nearly 40 languages.

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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assist: ShaMecha Simms

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