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Scientists discovered 71 new species in 2019

Wednesday, December 11th 2019, 3:30 pm - Earth’s tree of life got a little bit bigger in 2019.

Researchers at the California Academy of Science added 71 new plant and animal species to their official list in 2019. These species were found across three oceans and five continents and the discoveries include fish, geckos, flowering plants, sea slugs, spiders, ants and corals, among others.

Over a dozen scientists and international collaborators ventured into caves, dove to extreme ocean depths, and surveyed savanna forests to make their discoveries. The Academy’s mission is to explore, explain, and sustain life and estimates that 90 per cent of nature’s species remains unknown.

“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,” states Shannon Bennett, PhD, and Academy Chief of Science.

Below are some highlights from the Academy’s discoveries this year.

Ecsenius springeri

Ecsenius springeri (© 2019 Mark Erdmann) Mark Erdmann © 2019 California Academy of Sciences

This blenny fish was discovered in an isolated region within the Fakfak Peninsula, West Papua Indonesia. The researchers that discovered this fish say that is was found in a geographically isolated habitat with an “unusual combination of conditions” including low levels of salinity in the waters and elevated sea-surface temperatures that can reach up to 31°C.

Lola konavoka

Lola konavoka (© 2019 R Ozimec) R Ozimec © 2019 California Academy of Sciences

Researchers had to lift up deeply embedded stones in a dark cave to discover this harvestman spider. The cave, which is located on the Island of Hvar in Croatia, is 14 metres long, 4 metres deep, completely dark, and the spiders were only found in the parts of the cave that had dripping water.

Janolus flavoanulatus

slug combo Terry Gosliner © 2018 California Academy of Sciences

Academy Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Terry Gosliner, PhD, has described approximately 25 per cent of all colourful sea slug species that are currently known. Gosliner’s photos show the fascinating bodies of the newly discovered sea slugs from the Philippines that have purple rings around the tips on their translucent bodies.

Chromoplexura cordellbankensis

big coral Gary Williams © 2019 California Academy of Sciences

This yellow coral can be found from central Oregon to southern California in ocean waters between 86 and 106 metres deep. Invertebrate Zoology Curator Gary Williams, PhD, says that discovering new types of coral are increasingly important to understand how marine areas can be protected from climate change and damage from other human activities, such as pollution.

Cirrhilabrus wakanda

wakanda fish Gary Williams © 2019 California Academy of Sciences

The Acadamy describes the appearance of this purple fish as having “armour-like scales of [a] vibranium fairy” and named this fish after a material found in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda in Marvel’s Black Panther. This fish was found in the coral reefs of eastern Zanzibar, Tanzania, at a depth of over 60 metres.

Trembleya altoparaisensis

Trembleya altoparaisensis (© 2019 Ricardo Pacifico) (1) Ricardo Pacifico © 2019 California Academy of Sciences

This rare white-blossomed plant is only found in the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park in Goiás, Brazil. It was initially found over 100 years ago by the famous 19th-century botanist Auguste François Marie Glaziou.

Nucras aurantiaca

Nucras aurantiaca (© 2019 P. leFras and N. Mouton) P. leFras and N. Mouton © 2019 California Academy of Sciences

The Academy notes the “striking orange colouration” of this lizard that was found in Lambert’s Bay Strandveld of the Western Cape Province, South Africa. This lizard lives in mostly consolidated sand dunes and scientists say that this species is threatened by agricultural activity and tourism-related development.

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