A fish called Wakanda (Photo from California Academy of Sciences)
Just when we thought there is nothing new left to find…
In 2019, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences discovered 71 new plant and animal species.
Their discoveries cover species of geckos to goblin spiders, flowering plants, and Mediterranean ants—spanning five continents and three oceans.
Finding out about these new species allows for a greater understanding of environments and biomes, as well as targeted conservation efforts.
“Despite decades of tirelessly scouring some of the most familiar and remote places on Earth, biodiversity scientists estimate that more than 90% of nature’s species remain unknown,” said Academy Chief of Science Shannon Bennett. “A rich diversity of plants and animals is what allows life on our planet to thrive: The interconnectedness of all living systems provides collective resilience in the face of our climate crisis. Each newly discovered species serves as an important reminder of the critical role we play in better understanding and preserving these precious ecosystems.”
Here are 5 of the researchers’ favorites.
5. Wakanda fish
The fictional advanced city of Wakanda exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Scientists believe that they have found Wakanda’s counterpart underwater. A fish that play like a warrior lives some 260 feet below the surface and it is accented with bright purple color.
This type of fish was unknown before. It lives in dark coral reefs, called “Twilight Zone” reefs, in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania.
The purple color of this fish is deeply pigmented into its scales such that the color remains even after it is preserved for research. Usually, color is lost in this process.
The fish is called Cirrhilabrus wakanda, or the vibranium fairy wrasse, in honor of Wakanda and “Black Panther.”
Five new species of spiders were discovered in 2019.
A species that stood out from the rest is a group of “ant-worshipping” spiders that live in ant mounds. The reason for them doing this remains unknown. Scientists found these spiders in the Chihuahuan desert in Mexico, spotted in an array around an ant nest that had collapsed.
These spiders are usually just underground.
3. Deep-sea coral
With the help of remotely operated vehicles, a charming yellow coral called Chromoplexura cordellbankensis was discovered off the coast of California. This happened during a 2018 NOAA expedition.
Additionally, two new diverse corals were discovered this year in the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, 60 miles from San Francisco’s coast.
2. Sea slugs
Sea slugs are known to be a master of disguise so finding even existing ones can be challenging. In 2019, a new species of sea slugs were found called Madrella amphora. These sea slugs look like snail eggs that can be found in their habitat.
In addition to these egg-looking slugs, scientists also discovered five other types of colorful sea slugs with quirky disguises, unique colors and small sizes compared to their other well-known counterparts.
1. “Plants that move”
“People don’t think plants move, but they do,” said Ricardo Pacifico, a Ph.D. student working with Frank Almeda, emeritus curator of botany at the Academy. Apparently, plants do this because they have to search for environments that can satisfy their needs.
Trembleya altoparaisensis is a lovely plant with white flowers that was initially collected only once more than 100 years ago by Auguste François Marie Glaziou, a famed botanist. Trying to track it down in modern times to actually describe the plant proved difficult.
Pacifico and Almeda found Trembleya altoparaisensis living in Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park’s canyons in Brazil.
Aren’t these new discoveries interesting? What do you think?
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