New Species Discovered Recently Highlight Urgency to Protect Biodiversity
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Even today, scientists are finding new species on our amazing planet. For example, hundreds of new species were discovered in 2020 alone, despite being an otherwise dismal year.
Space may be the final frontier, but there’s plenty for us to discover and protected here at home.
Finding new species is always incredible news, particularly in a world facing the 6th mass extinction event. With each discovery, we get a reminder that our world is endlessly fascinating.
Moreover, we’re connected to all other species and part of a delicate system. Therefore, it’s critical to protect the environment and the irreplaceable wildlife we all share in the days ahead.
Here’s a look at a several new species discovered recently.
New ‘Orangutan-Hued’ Bat
It’s not every day that a new flying mammal is discovered, but that’s what we have with Myotis nimbaensis. The Times described the species as “orangutan-hued.”
Notably, the scientists suggest the species “looks like it was designed for a Halloween display,” with orange and black wings.
Researchers surveying old mining tunnels in Guinea’s Nimba mountains had set a trap to catch bats. They spotted the orange bat standing out from brown bats in the net. At first look, they suspected it could be a new species. After further study and genetic analysis, they verified their suspicions.
Amazingly the pumpkin-colored bat may only live on one isolated mountain range. Thus, conservationists face an even more urgent call to try and save it.
Dr. Nancy Simmons, a curator of mammals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, says the bat’s tiny range makes it more vulnerable.
“As far as we know, it’s limited to the top of this mountain range in Guinea,” Dr. Simmons said. “It’s probably endangered just by virtue of living in this small part of the planet.”
In West Africa, people persecute bats due to superstitions and association with various diseases. Unfortunately, habitat loss is also a threat. However, bats serve a vital role in controlling insects, pollinating plants, and dispersing seeds.
“In the age of extinction, a discovery like this offers a glimmer of hope,” said Dr. Winifred Frick, Chief Scientist at Bat Conservation International. She says the discovery shows how important conservation efforts are to protect biodiversity, “even for species we have yet to discover and describe.”
See the orange bat from GeoBeatsScience below:
Critically Endangered Primate Discovered
Central Myanmar is home to a newly discovered primate, the “Popa langur,” or Trachypithecus popa. The name comes from the sacred mountain Mount Popa, where about 100 of the estimated 260 langurs live. Since the area is subject to habitat loss and hunting, researchers believe they may soon be extinct.
According to genetic studies, the Popa langur separated from known species about one million years ago. The DNA analysis of a century-old specimen from the London Natural History Museum confirmed they are a new species.
See more about the Popa langur below:
The Joaquin Phoenix Spider
Spider researchers found a species of tiny velvet spider from Iran with brilliant colors that reminded them of the Joker as portrayed by actor Joaquin Phoenix. Notably, the spider’s genus is named after Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed in 2012: Loureedia phoenixi.
The colorful spider is the first velvet spider discovered living outside the Mediterranean. Researcher Alireza Zamani first saw L. phoenixi in a social media photo. So far, only two males have been found in Iran’s Alborz province. However, the female is yet to be found.
Part of the reason the spiders have remained undiscovered is they live underground in burrows. Males may emerge for about three weeks a year, but females may remain in their burrows most of the time. Now, the researchers will follow male spider movements closely, hoping it leads them to the female.
See more about the “Joker Spider” from LiveScience below:
A New Species of Sting Ray
Sometimes, new fish species turn up outside the water. For example, taxonomists found a new shark species in a Taiwanese fish market in 2011. In other cases, new species of monkey, lizard, and a bird thought extinct wound up discovered “en route to the dinner plate,” as National Geographic reported.
In other cases, new species turn up in museum collections. For example, scientists recently discovered a new stingray in a glass jar in Vienna’s Natural History Museum. There, the male and female preserved specimens sat for over 115 years, collecting dust.
Then, researchers studying sharks and rays spotted the specimen in the collection, now called Hemitrygon yemenensis.
After inspection, they realized the rays from Yemen’s Arabian Peninsula were unknown to science. Today, Yemen’s ongoing wars make it impossible to learn more about the rays. Thus, we don’t know if the rays are already extinct in the wild.
Shark and ray specialist Alec Moore dubbed the creatures “Heins’ stingray,” after the Austrian husband and wife team, Wilhelm and Marie Hein. The couple collected zoological specimens while under house arrest in the coastal town of Qishn in 1902.
So Many Species Newly Discovered!
Along with these three new species, researchers discovered many others recently. For example, a new species of beaked whale was found north of Mexico’s San Benito Islands.
Amazingly, divers found one of the longest animals ever recorded near deep-sea canyons in Western Australia. The 150-foot siphonophore is a gelatinous floating colony of tiny individual zooids stringed together.