Scientists find 71 new species of plant and animal to add to the tree of life in 2019


A total of 71 species have been added to the ever-expanding list of plant and animal species on Earth in the year 2019.

They were found by scientists in some of the most remote regions of planet Earth, spanning five continents and three oceans. 

The list of newly-described species includes:  17 fish, 15 geckos, eight flowering plants, six sea slugs, five arachnids, four eels, three ants, three skinks, two skates, two wasps, two mosses, two corals, and two lizards. 

Academics plumbed the deepest oceans and trawled across deserts and through forests in search of the never-seen-before lifeforms.  

A fish named Wakanda, a gaudy sea-slug and an endangered colourless arachnid lurking in the perennial darkness of Croatia’s caves headline the list, released by the California Academy of the Sciences. 

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A Sydney-based expert confirmed the dazzling ‘Wakanda’ fish (pictured) more than 60 metres beneath the ocean’s surface off the coast of Tanzania. The six centimetre-long fish with deep purple scales has been named Wakanda after the mythical nation from the Marvel comics and Black Panther movie

This cat-eyed cardinalfish was one of the new species discovered in 2019. Academics plumbed the deepest oceans and trawled across deserts and through forests in search of the never-seen-before lifeforms

 This cat-eyed cardinalfish was one of the new species discovered in 2019. Academics plumbed the deepest oceans and trawled across deserts and through forests in search of the never-seen-before lifeforms

WHAT IS THE TWILIGHT ZONE?

The middle zone of Earth’s oceans is known as the ‘twilight zone’ and receives only faint, filtered sunlight during the daytime.

Also known as the mesopelagic zone, it typically between 660 to 3,300 feet (200 to 1,000 metres) below the surface.

Because seawater absorbs sunlight, the region lacks enough light for photosynthesis to take place, so no plants live in the zone.

Animals in the region are adapted to life in near-darkness, cold water and high pressure.

Many of the animals in this zone have large eyes, helping them see at dark and murky depths.

Most are small, dark and thin to help camouflage them, and many have large teeth and jaws.

A Sydney-based expert confirmed that the dazzling ‘Wakanda’ fish more than 60 metres beneath the ocean’s surface off the coast of Tanzania was a new species.

The 2.3-inch (six centimetre) long fish with deep purple scales was named Wakanda after the mythical nation from the Marvel comics and Black Panther movie.

It was spotted by deep-diving scientists from the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative and confirmed with the help of University of Sydney taxonomy specialist Yi-Kai Tea. 

Mr Tea said the fish was found in the ‘twilight zone’ of dimly lit, deep coral reefs in eastern Zanzibar.

‘When we thought about the secretive and isolated nature of these unexplored African reefs, we knew we had to name this new species after Wakanda,’ he said.

A microscope was used to examine the fish’s scales, fin rays and spines in order to distinguish it from another seven species in the group, and from relatives in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Mr Tea said the various species fit around the two oceans ‘like a jigsaw puzzle’. 

A rare white-blossoming flowering plant, named Trembleya altoparaisensis, has also been found in 2019. The plant posed some issues for the discoverers, due the fact it kept moving. 

‘People don’t think plants move but they do. When an environment changes, plants will move to areas that better suit them,’ Emeritus Curator of Botany Frank Almeda said. 

A girdled lizard (pictured) was found on the second-highest mountain peak in Angola in 2019. It is one of only two new lizard species discovered this year by academics

A girdled lizard (pictured) was found on the second-highest mountain peak in Angola in 2019. It is one of only two new lizard species discovered this year by academics 

This coral is found in the deep sea just off the coast of California this year. Coral is under threat by climate change as warming waters damage it and cause bleaching

 This coral is found in the deep sea just off the coast of California this year. Coral is under threat by climate change as warming waters damage it and cause bleaching 

This gaudy sea slug was one of six discovered this year. All six were found by Terry Gosliner form the California Academy of Sciences

This gaudy sea slug was one of six discovered this year. All six were found by Terry Gosliner form the California Academy of Sciences

Terry Gosliner form the California Academy of Sciences is a world leader in finding sea slugs. 

In his role as curator of invertebrate zoology at the Academy, he has found around a quarter of the world’s known sea slugs, including six this year. 

One of which, called Madrella amphora, closely resembles the snail eggs that tend to surround their habitat

‘We recently confirmed through genetics that sea slugs mimic the colours of other species’ says Dr Gosliner, ‘but it’s rare to see sea slugs mimic other animals entirely.’

A range of spiders and other arachnids have also made their way onto the list, including Myrmecicultor chihuahuensis, which lives on a diet of ants in the Mexican Chihuahuan Desert. 

‘[They] spend most of their time underground in ant mounds, although scientists aren’t sure why,’ said Darrell Ubick, Curatorial Assistant of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences.

‘The only way to see what they’re doing is to dig them up. But then they’re no longer in their natural state.’ 

Another arachnid described for the first time ever this year is the Lola konavoka, a transparent eight-legged creature which lingers in the dark world of Croatia’s cave networks. 

A rare white-blossoming flowering plant has also been found in 2019 was named Trembleya altoparaisensis (pictured) which posed the discovers some issues due the fact it kept moving

A rare white-blossoming flowering plant has also been found in 2019 was named Trembleya altoparaisensis (pictured) which posed the discovers some issues due the fact it kept moving

A range of spiders and other arachnids have also made their way onto the list, including Myrmecicultor chihuahuensis, which lives on a diet of ants in the Mexican Chihuahuan Desert

A range of spiders and other arachnids have also made their way onto the list, including Myrmecicultor chihuahuensis, which lives on a diet of ants in the Mexican Chihuahuan Desert



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