Humanity seems to have conquered the entire planet, but its wild places still hide a surprising number of secrets. In 2021 scientists discovered the world’s tiniest lizard, a new type of octopus, a type of ant named after a rock musician…
Every year, researchers discover hundreds of new species of plants and animals. However, they are still only a small part of the living things in nature. Scientists say a large part of life on Earth remains unknown.
The discovery of a new species might conjure up images of adventurers trekking through the jungle in search of legendary creatures. Tropical rainforests are indeed “hotspots” of biodiversity, yielding considerable discoveries. But as DNA testing technology developed, many new species were discovered in familiar places and even in museum archives, organisms that looked similar but were actually genetically different.
Scientists need to scrutinize every detail of new species to identify every physical and genetic trait that sets them apart from similar organisms. They also had to make sure that no one else documented the species first. If they can do that, the next step is to publish a scientific report that formally describes the new species and gives it a name. The entire process can take years.
Sadly, many of the newly discovered creatures are already on the brink of extinction. According to the Living Planet Index, a 2020 report by the World Wildlife Federation, between 1970 and 2016, the total global population of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish declined by an average of 68%. Hundreds of species have gone extinct, and that’s just what we’ve found.
Here are some newly discovered animals reported by some scientists in 2021.
Nanochameleon Brooksia Nana
Nana may be the smallest reptile known to science, and it’s not even as big as a human fingernail. Researchers found two of these tiny lizards — a male and a female — in the mountain rainforest of Madagascar. Although Brooksia Nana is a member of the chameleon family, it does not change color. Its brown skin resembles dead leaves, allowing it to blend into the forest without being easily spotted.
bumble bee hiding in plain sight
Scientists studying bumblebees in the Rocky Mountain forest were surprised to find that the bumblebees here fall into two different genetic clusters — they thought they were one species, but there were actually two! These two species live in harmony in the mountain meadows of the United States and Canada.
ant named after a rock star
The tiny ant with its impressive jaws lives in the Choco-Daren region of northwestern Ecuador. The area is one of many unique habitats in the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot that stretches along the west coast of South America from Ecuador to northern Peru. Yale University entomologist Douglas Buch confirmed the ant was indeed a new species and named it with the help of the band’s rock star Michael Stipe after their mutual friend, the artist Jeremy Eyre. Ernesto named the ant.
Deep Sea Emperor Dumbo Octopus
This enigmatic cephalopod makes its underwater home in the North Pacific Ocean and is one of the deepest octopuses known to science. Like other types of Dumbo octopuses, it has two ear-like fins on its head. Although the octopus was dead when scientists pulled it out of the ocean, scientists studying its anatomy peer into its internal organs, providing a clearer picture of the anatomy than traditional dissections and ensuring the safety of this hard-to-find sea creature. The only specimen survived intact.
The bat, named after the Nimba Mountains in West Africa where it was found, can be found in caves and mining tunnels. This bat has striking orange fur. This bright orange bat is only found in this particular mountain range, so protecting the area is critical to the species’ survival. Fortunately, most of the area here is already a nature reserve.
Suzhen Ring Snake
After decades of camouflage, a deadly new species of snake has been discovered, researchers say. The researchers named the snake after Bai Suzhen, a powerful snake god in traditional Chinese mythology. “This black-and-white striped Suzhen ring snake is the most similar to a white snake in nature, so we decided to name it after Bai Suzhen,” the researchers said in a statement.
The new species was found in southwestern China. and a venomous snake found in northern Myanmar that had previously been classified as the coral snake. However, morphological and genetic differences such as its teeth and black-and-white striped skin, as well as its particularly painful and deadly bite, are enough to classify this reptile as a separate species.
”This is very dangerous because krait snakes are highly deadly and understanding their species diversity and geographic distribution is crucial to saving human lives,” said the researchers from the German Association of Herpetology in Southeast Asia.
Reclassified Les Whales
Rice’s whales were formerly known as “Blade’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico,” named after biologist Dale Rice, who first documented them in the 1960s. In 2014, genetic testing confirmed that Gulf whales are genetically distinct from Bryde’s whales in other oceans. The classification of Rice’s whales as a new species was done through necropsy of the whales off the coast of Florida’s Everglades National Park in 2019. In a new paper published in Marine Mammal Science, researchers studying the remains of the whale show that the animal is one of a newly discovered species that has never been cataloged before. At present, there are very few Rhys whales left in the wild, less than 100.