Courtesy of The International Institute for Species Exploration and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry comes the top 10 new species discovered in 2016.
First up, the tiny Eriovixia gryffindori, found in Karnataka, India, which is perfectly camouflaged to the dead leaves of its home. The 2-millimetre spider's resemblance to the crumpled Sorting Hat from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books has seen the spider named after Godric Gryffindor, the hat's first owner. And Rowling? She totally approves of the name.
A new species of Katydids, a type of cricket, has been discovered in the forests of Borneo, Malaysia. The 40-millimetre-long Eulophophyllum kirki are marked out by the spectacular pink colouring of the female of the species. It was found quite by accident by researchers looking for something entirely different -- tarantulas and snakes. It was named for the expedition's photographer, Peter Kirk.
This Indonesian rat (also known as the slender root rat, because Australians are cheeky), Gracilimus radix, was named for being an omnivore, feasting on both insects and tree roots. This is notable because its closest relative -- the Sulawesi water rat -- is fully carnivorous, which makes the Gracilimus radix seem like an "evolutionary reversal."
The newly discovered millipede Illacme tobini of the Sequoia National Park, California, has a massive 414 legs. The eyeless, cave-dwelling Illacme tobini grows more and more body segments throughout its life, with new pairs of legs. Who knows how big it can get? It also has over 200 poison glands (two on each body segment) that secrete an unknown chemical when the insect is threatene. Its weird mouth is probably adapted for a liquid diet and four of the male's legs function as gonopods -- or penises -- to transfer sperm to the female.
Two new species of tiny ants discovered in Papua New Guinea are so wild-looking, covered in thorny spines, that their discoverers were moved to name them after the dragons mothered by Daenerys in "Game of Thrones." These are the gold-coloured Pheidole viserion, for the dragon of the same hue; and, making this list, Pheidole drogon, after Dany's black one. The spines of these ants were thought primarily to serve as a defence mechanism, but CT scanning revealed another purpose for some of them -- a skeletomuscular support structure for the large heads of the soldiers.
This new species of rounded stingray has been crowned king of the Tocantin River in Brazil, its only habitat. It is one of the roughly 125 identified fish species found nowhere else on Earth and very large for its genus, with the type of specimen coming in at 1.11 metres. It's this size, as well as the stingray's glorious orange spots, that give it its name, Potamotrygon rex.
Caption byMichelle Starr / Photo by Image courtesy of Marcelo R. de Carvalho
If you don't like centipedes, you're not going to be very comfortable with Scolopendra cataracta, also known as the waterfall centipede, found in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. It's very large, growing up to 20 centimetres (7.9 inches); venomous; and it can get around. It's the first known centipede that's amphibious -- it can scurry about on land and underwater, running along the bottom of the body of water on its 20 legs just as it runs along on land. It can also swim like an eel. The surface of its body is hydrophobic: When it emerges from the water, the drops just roll off. It's also very shy, running away when threatened; and, sadly, its habitat is under threat of destruction.
This lovely plant is a type of tomato native to Australia, found in the continent's northwest. Its name, Solanum ossicruentum, translates roughly to "blood bone tomato" because its fruit does something like no other plant. They're enclosed in a spiny case. When the case is opened and the unripe fruit is sliced, its greenish-white flesh turns from red to blackened red in under two minutes, becoming shrivelled, leathery and hard. It's not known what causes this, although oxidisation is a possibility. The plant was named with the help of 150 seventh-grade life science students in Pennsylvania, the US. The researchers don't believe the fruit is edible.
Telipogon diabolicus, hailing from Colombia, is a lovely addition to the orchid family. It has delicately translucent flowers with clawed petals; and, at their heart, a deep red gynostemium (the fusion of male and female reproductive parts) with a striking resemblance to a devil's face, for which the plant is named. Although only just discovered, the plant is considered critically endangered. Only a single population of 30 plants is known to exist in a habitat currently threatened by road construction.
You don't want to take a bite out of this churro! Because in spite of its name, Xenoturbella churro, this is not a delicious fried dough snack at all. It's a deep-sea Gulf of California marine worm cunningly disguised as a churro!
Found in the Bathypelagic zone at 1,722 metres (5,600 feet), the worm is believed to feed on molluscs on the ocean floor. It has an orange-pink body with four deep furrows, and is rather sack-like. It has a mouth, but no anus. It doesn't have a brain, eyes, gills or kidneys, either. Because it's so simple and primitive, it's thought to belong near the base of the evolutionary tree of bilaterally symmetrical animals.