Friday, July 23, 2010

New Species of 2009

Thought this morning I would review just a few of new species that were discovered last year. Let's go first to California.

The bomb-dropping worm, Swima bombiviridis, below is among the top 10 species discovered in 2009, according to the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. The annual roundup winnows down a list of about 20,000 species described each year to just a few mind-benders.

"It is a great way of getting the public involved in biodiversity," says Mary Liz Jameson, a biodiversity scientist at Wichita State University and chair of this year's selection committee. While the criteria for selection include scientific significance, Jameson admits that "the cool factor" also plays a part.

For example, the bomb-dropping worm found off the coast of California "has these green gills it can kind of throw off, and the predator will follow the gill instead of following the [worm], so it is tripping up the predator," Jameson said. "It's really cool."

You have to love a rat eating plant!

The cool factor of the giant pitcher plant from the Philippine island of Palawan is pretty obvious: Rodents and insects that fall into the football-sized "pitcher" can be trapped and slowly consumed by the plant's enzymes. Yup, it's a plant that eats rats.

What's more, the plant, dubbed Nepenthes attenboroughii, is named after Sir David Attenborough, a British TV naturalist who is a patron of Philippine conservation efforts. The plant is known only from a single locality and is "critically endangered," notes Jameson.

The Flat-faced Frogfish Below
  • A frogfish with forward-facing eyes and a psychedelic skin pattern that could spark flashbacks to a trippy Grateful Dead show made the list, from Jameson's perspective, because it's "an absolutely gorgeous animal and here it is being described in 2009. You'd think that something that is that outstandingly beautiful would have been discovered before now."

    Image: Psychedelic frogfish

    The psychedelic frogfish, Histiophryne psychedelica, is found in Indonesian waters. Scientists said its colorful pattern may help it blend in with the venomous corals of its surroundings, offering it protection from predators.

This is a scary fellow! In this age of vampire hysteria, a minnow with toothlike fangs is a shoo-in for a top 10 list.

The translucent Dracula minnow, Danionella dracula, is a member of the Cyprininform group of fish, most of which lost their teeth about 50 million years ago. Males of the Dracula minnow species, however, re-evolved fanglike structures that protrude from the jaw bone.

The freshwater minnow was discovered in Myanmar. Scientists say the males use their fangs for sparring with each other. Females lack the vampiresque structures.


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