An iridescent blue tarantula, a sneezing monkey, and a teensy attack wasp are among the top 10 new species described last year.
Based on their unique appearance or bizarre traits, the creatures were selected from over 200 nominations by an international committee of scientists in conjunction with the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) at Arizona State University.
“Some of the new species have interesting names; some highlight what little we really know about our planet,” said committee chair Mary Liz Jameson from Wichita State University in a press release.
This is the award’s fifth year with the results announced every May 23 to celebrate the birthday of Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, founder of the taxonomy system.
“The top 10 is intended to bring attention to the biodiversity crisis and the unsung species explorers and museums who continue a 250-year tradition of discovering and describing the millions of kinds of plants, animals and microbes with whom we share this planet,” said entomologist Quentin Wheeler, director of IISE, in the release.
“The more species we discover, the more amazing the biosphere proves to be, and the better prepared we are to face whatever environmental challenges lie ahead.”
Other picks included the only known night-blooming orchid; a jellyfish that looks like a box kite; the devil’s worm, which is the deepest known animal, living 1.3 km (0.8 miles) below ground in a South African gold mine; and the walking cactus, an extinct arthropod that, in fossil form, looks rather like fern.
The Bonaire banded box jellyfish
“It is impossible to do justice to the species discoveries made each year by singling out just 10,” Wheeler said. “Imagine being handed 18,000 newly published books packed with fantastic information and stories and before having the opportunity to read them, being asked to pick the best 10.”
“With the help of an international committee of experts we do the best we can by picking those with flashy jackets, surprising titles and unexpected plot lines in an effort to draw attention to the whole lot.”
Apart from environmental reasons, work such as this has ethical considerations for future generations and also increases our knowledge of sustainable ideas for designs and materials based on nature via the field of biomimetics.
Jameson said the award is “all about exploration and discovery, and learning more about our planet.”
“Members on the committee come from many places around the world and from many backgrounds, so we bring our own biases to the process; some of us like photosynthesizers, some like predators, some like ocean-dwelling critters,” she concluded.
This wasp attacks desert ants to lay eggs in them, making the ants food for the larvae.
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