A fish that builds elaborate "crop circles" on the ocean floor and a fanged frog that gives birth to live tadpoles instead of laying eggs have been named among the top 10 new species of 2015.
The 10 were chosen by a panel of scientists from about 18,000 new species given scientific names last year and were announced today by the International Institute for Species Exploration at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Most of those thousands of new species are living, but a few are extinct fossils, including one dinosaur nicknamed the "chicken from hell," that appears on this year's top 10.
"I'm consistently just impressed every year with what people are continuing to discover," said Quentin Wheeler, the college president and founding director of the institute.
The International Institute for Species Exploration has been compiling a top 10 list annually since 2008. In order to qualify, an animal or plant must have been placed somewhere on the evolutionary tree of life among its closest relatives, described in a scientific journal and given a scientific name, making it officially known to science for the first time during the past year.
Some 'new' species well-known to locals
Some of the species that are new to science, such as a pink bromeliad that appears on this year's list, are well-known to local people, but haven't been added to the body of scientific knowledge.
"There are probably about 50,000 species that are used by humans and I have no doubt that there are probably quite a few that are undescribed to science," Wheeler said.
He thinks connecting species to science is important for several reasons:
- Conservation, which relies on scientists knowing what species exist and which ones are disappearing or invading other places.
- Understanding evolution, which relies on new species to fill gaps that may remain unfilled forever if a species goes extinct.
- Preserving nature's ingenious ideas for solving problems of survival, which can inspire human technology.
According to the institute, scientists think there are still 10 million undiscovered species — five times the number that are known to science today.
This year's top 10, in alphabetical order, are as follows:
- Anzu wyliei, or "chicken from hell," a feathered dinosaur that lived in North American about 67 million years ago.
- Balanophora coralliformis, a highly endangered parasitic plant in the Philippines that looks like coral.
- Cebrennus rechenbergi, a spider from Morocco that can turn cartwheels.
- Dendrogramma enigmatica, a mushroom-like marine animal found off the coast of Australia that may belong to an entirely new phylum or scientific group.
- Deuteragenia ossarium, a wasp from China that uses the smell of dead ants to hide her offspring.
- Limnonectes larvaepartus, a fanged frog from Indonesia that gives birth to live tadpoles instead of laying eggs.
- Phryganistria tamdaoensis, a giant stick insect in Vietnam that grows to be 23 centimetres long.
- Tillandsia religiosa, a bromeliad found in the cloud forests of northern Mexico used by the locals as part of Christmas celebrations.
- Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum, a sea slug found off the coast of Japan that is a "missing link" between sea slugs that eat corals and those that eat animals called hydroids.
- Torquigener albomaculosus, an artistic Japanese pufferfish that builds elaborate, geometric "crop circles" on the ocean floor.