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Life forms announced during the year 2016

Kelsey Bingham, Staff

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Scientists believe that there are roughly ten million species on Earth. However, they have only identified and named two million. Each year, thousands of new organisms are identified by hard working scientists. To celebrate these accomplishments, The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), an organization dedicated to the exploration, inventory, and classification of Earth’s species, compiles a list of ten notable discoveries of the previous year.

 Some animals are found to be new species only when scientists analyze their genetic code, because they look outwardly similar to another species. An example being the newly discovered Giant Tortoise, scientific name Chelonoidis Donfaustol. Experts had long believed that the two giant tortoise populations on the Santa Cruz island were the same species, but genetic testing proved this to be wrong. Scientists and conservationists are hoping the discovery will aid in protecting and restoring the tortoise, which is considered vulnerable, with an estimated population of 250.

The most commonly discovered new species are typically insects, because they have a high degree of biodiversity. The Sparklewing Damselfly is a new type of dragonfly discovered in Gabon, a country in Central Africa.  Its scientific name is Umma Gumma, which is a very unique name. It was named after the 1969 Pink Floyd album of the same name. Founding director of IISE, Dr. Quentin Wheeler states, “Given that the genus name is Umma, it was quick work to give this lovely and delicate damselfly a name that might be familiar to rock-and-roll fans: the band Pink Floyd named its 1969 double album Ummagumma.”

There are more than 200 species of anglerfish that live in depths with no sunlight and immense pressure, which makes it difficult to discover new types. Different species of anglerfish can be distinguished visually by the unusual structure called the esca that is projected over their heads like a fishing pole. This new form of angler was found in the gulf of Mexico and sizes between half an inch and two inches.

Another animal discovered in the sea is a new form of seadragon, it was discovered off the coast of western Australia. Up until this year, there have only been two known species of seadragons, the leafy and weedy. The ‘Ruby Seadragon’ recently added onto that exclusive list. Scientists believe the new found sea dragon dwells in deeper waters than others of its kind, as the red would be absorbed at that depth and serve as an effective camouflage.

The Giant Sundew, scientific name Drosera Magnifica, is the first new species of plant to be discovered over social media. Reginaldo Vasconcelos, an ametuer botanist, posted the photo to Facebook after a hike in Brazil. A plant researcher at the University of São Paulo, Gonella, realized this species was new. Gonella told Smithsonian.com via Facebook Messenger, “The plants in the photo looked very different from all the other species I know.” Although it is new, the sundew is believed to be extremely endangered. Scientists continue their search for new specimen to add to the extending list of life on Earth.  

Sparklewing Damselfly (Umma gumma). This species is just one of dozens of new species of damselflies and dragonflies that were discovered in Gabon. It was named after the 1969 Pink Floyd album Ummagumma.

Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustol). A species of giant tortoise was discovered on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos off the coast of Ecuador.

 

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