8 Animals “Discovered” in 2019
Climate change is wreaking havoc on animals the world over, but there's still some good news.
This past May, a United Nations report found that 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction and that rates of extinction are accelerating. It’s terrifying news for anyone who cares about biodiversity and the health of our planet. The wee bit of good news: Scientists continue to find new species every year, and 2019 was no exception. Can we make enough of a change to global conservation policies to ensure the continued existence of these new-to-us animals?
Nelloptodes gretae beetle
Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg got a special honor this past October: a millimeter-long—dare we say adorable—beetle named in her honor. According to the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom, whose scientist, Michael Darvy, described the tiny bug, it’s one of the “smallest known free-living creatures,” belonging to the Ptiliidae family. It was collected in Kenya in the late 1960s and not studied until recently. It’s thought to live in leaf litter and soil and to eat fungi and, as far as we know, isn’t considered a pest, like these Asian lady beetles are.
Auanema sp. worm
As if 1 million species of worm worldwide weren’t enough, just this past September scientists discovered a new one—an extremophile living in the highly salty, alkaline Mono Lake in California’s Eastern Sierra mountains. Wait, it gets weirder. According to Science Daily, the microscopic critter “has three different sexes, can survive 500 times the lethal human dose of arsenic, and carries its young inside its body like a kangaroo.” Discover the strangest animal found in each state.
Loureedia colleni spider
Scientists in the United Kingdom have quite a penchant for naming new species after celebrities. This vividly-patterned black and white velvet spider, the first of its kind found in Europe, is named after Lou Reed. Described by Sergio Henriques, a researcher at the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology, Looreedia lives in a burrow, the opening for which it covers with an insect-trapping web that’s as distinct as the webs shown here. It likes hot, dry climates and tasty beetles from the Tenebrionidae family for its dinner.
Uroplatus fetsy leaf-tailed gecko
Indeed, this gecko from the deciduous forests of Madagascar has a tail shaped like a leaf. Once mistaken for a highly similar species, scientists recently confirmed, through genetic analysis, that Uroplatus—from the Malagasy word for “shy”—was its own lizard. They then discovered another distinction: its totally black, rather than red-spotted, inner mouth. Scientists are already calling for it to be classified as near threatened or endangered due to the severe threat from logging and ranching to its habitat. Check out these strikingly beautiful animal photos you need to see.
Smithsonian scientists recently managed to determine that one common species of electric eel in the Amazon was actually three species of electric eel: Electrophorus electricus, once considered ubiquitous throughout Brazil and now thought to be confined to a small highland region; Electrophorus voltai, a more southerly new find that can discharge up to 860 volts of electricity, which is the highest for any known animal; and Electrophorus varii, also newly described, which likes “murky” waters in the lowlands. Don’t miss these 13 of the weirdest deep-sea creatures.
Podocerus jinbe amphipod
Hundreds of the shell-less crustaceans were found by Japanese scientists in the mouth of a whale shark back in 2017. They’ve since been studied and named (jinbe is the Japanese word for whale shark). The three centimeter long creatures feed on decaying matter; in fact, the whale shark they were found in was weakened and dying. Still, it’s not known whether the sharks are usual hosts for these amphipods, or if the presence of the tiny organisms in one’s mouth was a fluke. Whale sharks are pretty weird to start with on their own.
Epinephelus fuscomarginatus fish
Who knows how many folks in Australia brought these fish home from the market to cook for dinner, without realizing they were a brand new and unnamed species? Impossible to say. The “mystery grouper” was finally identified by ichthyologist Jeff Johnson of the Queensland Museum this year, who’s written that it’s commonly found at depths of 720 feet off the Great Barrier Reef. Its plainness, thinks Johnson, is one reason no one paid it much mind as they munched it. These are 10 more animal distinctions no one knows about.
Spectacled Flowerpecker (Passeriformes: Dicaeidae)
This beautiful but unassuming-looking bird is one of 13 species of flowerpecker found on the island of Borneo, but it’s been shown to be completely unique—not least because of its “spectacled” white markings above and below its eyes. It lives in Borneo’s lowland forest canopy and favors a diet of a parasitic mistletoe. It, too, is seeing its habitat destroyed. Check out some of these other rare birds—also under threat in the wild.