May 23 is here, which can only mean one thing for science enthusiasts: The top 10 new species of 2018 list is out! And, as you might have expected, the famous Tapanuli orangutan is among this year’s stars, deservedly so after being recognized as the world’s third orangutan species.
As it has been customary for the past decade, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) at the State University of New York released its annual top 10 list of animal, plant, and microbe species that are new to science.
These lists feature the best discoveries of the previous year, which means that all the candidates for 2018 have been either discovered or placed in the evolutionary tree of life since the beginning of 2017. In addition, to make it on the list, the new species must be described in a scientific journal and given a scientific name over the past year.
This year’s list brings into focus some truly captivating creatures and includes a volcanic bacterium, a protist, three arthropods, two plants, two mammals, and the deepest-dwelling fish in the sea.
These creatures hail from all over the world, starting with Brazil and Costa Rica and all the way to Australia, Indonesia, and China. One mystery entry remains of unknown origin since it was discovered in an aquarium and no one knows exactly where it exists in the wild.
ESF president Quentin Wheeler commented on the rich biodiversity mirrored in this year’s new species list, the 11th to be publicized since this tradition began in 2008.
“I’m constantly amazed at how many new species show up and the range of things that are discovered.”
Wheeler is the founding director of ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration, which makes the selections for each annual list.
As he explains, each year scientists name around 18,000 new species, of which the most interesting make it on ESF’s list. However, an estimated 20,000 species go extinct on a yearly basis, Wheeler points out.
“So many of these species — if we don’t find them, name them and describe them now — will be lost forever. And yet they can teach us so much about the intricacies of ecosystems and the details of evolutionary history,” he said in a statement
“Each of them has found a way to survive against the odds of changing competition, climate, and environmental conditions. So, each can teach us something really worth knowing as we face an uncertain environmental future ourselves,” Wheeler added.
Meet The Top 10 New Species Of 2018
1. Protist (Ancoracysta twista)
The first species to be named on the ESF list is a eukaryote, a single-cell organism made up of just a nucleus surrounded by a membrane. This is the 2018 candidate of mysterious origin and was found on a brain coral inside a tropical aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Although it has been described as a protist, the ESF notes that this creature doesn’t fit with any other known groups of protists. In fact, this predator, which cannibalizes other protists by trapping them with whip-like flagella, “appears to be a previously undiscovered, early lineage of Eukaryota with a uniquely rich mitochondrial genome.”
2. Atlantic forest tree (Dinizia jueirana-facao)
Discovered in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which houses half of the country’s threatened species, this massive tree stands 130 feet tall and weighs about 62 tons (56,000 kg). These trees bear giant woody fruits that grow to the impressive size of about 18 inches (0.5 meter).
Only 25 Atlantic forest trees remain in the world, which makes this species a critically endangered one. Half of these trees are found in a protected area within the Reserva Natural Vale in the northern Brazilian state of Espirito Santo.
3. Amphipod (Epimeria Quasimodo)
Found in the Antarctic Ocean, this little crustacean is a mini-shrimp famous for its humped back. Named after Victor Hugo’s renowned character, this amphipod dwells in the icy waters south of the Polar Front and is one of the 26 new species described in the iconic genus Epimeria.
Just like its cousins, the humpback mini-shrimp, which is only two inches (50 mm) long, shares all the best qualities of the Epimeria genus, which include mesmerizing colors and a fantastic diversity of morphological features, such as awe-inspiring spines and glorious crested adornments that make these arthropods look like mythological dragons.
4. Baffling beetle (Nymphister kronaueri)
Native to Costa Rica, this minuscule 15-millimeter-long beetle takes up residence in a good neighborhood with great public transport, so to speak. The beetle always settles near a colony of nomadic army ants and hitches a ride on the abdomen of a worker ant each time it needs to get around.
Because the beetle is virtually the same color and size as its host’s abdomen, no one even notices it’s there each time the colony packs up and moves to a new location. This is why ESF has dubbed N. kronaueri the “camouflaged hitchhiker.”
5. Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)
As the Inquisitr previously reported, the world only knew of two orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan and the Bornean orangutan, until P. tapanuliensis was identified in the remote Batang Toru forest in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Indigenous to the Tapanuli mountain range, the newly-classified third species of orangutan has also become the eighth known species of great ape on the planet.
6. Swire’s snailfish (Pseudoliparis swirei)
This tadpole-like fish resides deep within the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean and has gained the title of world’s deepest-living fish, the Inquisitr reported in November. This fish is just 4 inches (112 mm) long and can live at depths of between 22,000 and 26,000 feet (6,898 and 7,966 m).
7. Heterotrophic flower (Sciaphila sugimotoi)
This spectacular flower uncovered on Ishigaki Island in Japan relies on a fungus for sustenance. The two species live in a symbiotic relationship and have been discovered in just two locations within the island’s forest.
This flower is extremely delicate and only grows to be almost 4 inches (10 cm) tall, producing gorgeous small blossoms in September and October. Just like the other plant species on ESF’s 2018 list, S. sugimotoi is considered to be critically endangered, with just about 50 plants ever discovered on the Japanese island.
8. Volcanic bacterium (Thiolava veneris)
Similar to most bacteria that dwell in underwater volcanic vents, T. veneris also thrives in the toxic environment produced after a volcanic eruption. In this case, it was the submerged Tagoro volcano that set everything in motion when it erupted off the coast of the Canary Islands in 2011.
This new bacterium emerged three years later and multiplied into a white mat stretching for half an acre around Tagoro’s volcanic cone. The volcanic bacterium lives at depths of about 430 feet (129-132 m), where scientists believe it is setting the stage for new ecosystems.
9. Marsupial lion (Wakaleo schouteni)
This now-extinct creature once roamed the ancient territory of modern-day Australia. Dating back to the late Oligocene, or about 23 million years ago, this marsupial lion was an omnivore tree-dweller weighing about 50 pounds (22.6 kg). The animal was identified from fossils found in Queensland’s Riversleigh World Heritage Area.
10. Cave beetle (Xuedytes bellus)
Researchers stumbled upon this bizarre arthropod in a cave in Guangxi province, southern China. Because it lives in permanent darkness, it has evolved adaptations that make it look nothing like ordinary beetles. Measuring just half an inch (about 9 mm) in length, this strange beetle has no pigmentation whatsoever. Its peculiar elongated head lacks eyes, and its compact body has traded flight wings for long spider-like legs.