Scientists just discovered these 10 bizarre and beautiful animal species that show what it takes to survive on Earth against the odds

ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration
  • The State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry just released its list of the “top 10 new species for 2018.”
  • These newly discovered and named species demonstrate how large, small, beautiful, and bizarre the unknown life out there really is.
  • The list is released annually on May 23 in recognition of the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who developed the modern system of taxonomy that we use to classify animals.

There’s an astonishing amount of life out there that we still know almost nothing about.

But if we’re not careful, most of those creatures could be lost before we get a chance to get to learn how they’re uniquely adapted for life on Earth. Every year, approximately 18,000 new species are named and classified. But we believe about 20,000 species go extinct annually.

Highlighting the need to preserve biodiversity is the motivation behind the annual “Top 10 New Species for 2018” list, which is put together by the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

Since 2008, ESF has selected 10 newly discovered and named species that demonstrate how large, small, beautiful, and bizarre the unknown life out there really is. The list is released every May 23 in recognition of the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who developed the modern system of taxonomy that we still use to classify animals down to their genus and species.

The newest list includes a tree that can stretch more than 130 feet into the sky and a single-celled creature that was discovered in an aquarium and doesn’t fit neatly into any known group of similar organisms. A beetle that disguises itself as part of an ant and an extinct marsupial lion that used to roam Australia are also featured.

“So many of these species – if we don’t find them, name them and describe them now – will be lost forever. And yet they can teach us so much about the intricacies of ecosystems and the details of evolutionary history,” ESF president Quentin Wheeler said in a news release. “Each of them has found a way to survive against the odds of changing competition, climate and environmental conditions. So each can teach us something really worth knowing as we face an uncertain environmental future ourselves.”

There are the ESF’s top 10 new species for 2018.

The <em>Ancoracysta twista</em> is a single-celled eukaryote. It uses the flagella visible in this image to propel itself around as it hunts other tiny organisms.

Denis V. Tiknonenkov

Ancoracysta twista was discovered in an aquarium in San Diego, California, USA. It’s a new single-celled protist that has challenged scientists to determine its nearest relatives.

These <em>Dinizia jueirana-facao</em> trees, also known as Atlantic forest trees, are found only in and near the Reserva Natural Vale in Espirito Santo, Brazil.

Gwilym P. Lewis

A Dinizia jueirana-facao tree weighs an estimated 62 tons (56,000 kg). The tree species is limited – there are only 25 known individuals, about half of which are in a protected area, making it critically endangered.

The <em>Epimeria quasimodo</em> amphipod is about two inches long and comes from a genus that’s abundant in glacial waters.

Cédric d’Udekem d’Acoz, copyright Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Epimeria quasimodo is one of 26 new species of amphipods of the genus Epimeria from the Southern Ocean. It is named for Quasimodo the hunchback in reference to its shape.

The <em>Nymphister kronaueri</em> isn’t an ant — it’s a tiny beetle that disguises itself as the abdomen of an army ant.

D. Kronauer

Nymphister kronaueri is a beetle that lives exclusively among one species of army ant, Eciton mexicanum. The beetle’s body is the precise size, shape, and colour of a worker ant’s abdomen. The beetle uses its mouth-parts to grab the skinny portion of the host abdomen and hang on, letting the ant do the walking.

When the nomadic ant colonies stop for a few weeks to make raids, the beetles move about, but they reattach before the ants move on.

The <em>Pongo tapanuliensis</em> orangutan was recently discovered to be a distinct species of great ape.

Andrew Walmsley

Pongo tapanuliensis is the most imperiled great ape in the world. Only an estimated 800 individuals exist in its fragmented habitat in Sumatra. Here we see an adult male Tapanuli orangutan named Togos.

<em>Pseudoliparis swirei</em>, also known as the Mariana snailfish, is the deepest known fish in the sea.

Mackenzie Gerringer, University of Washington. ©Schmidt Ocean Institute

Pseudoliparis swirei is a small, tadpole-like fish measuring a little over 4 inches in length (112 mm). It appears to be the top predator in its community at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

<em>Sciaphila sugimotoi</em> is one of the few plants in existence that’s heterotrophic, meaning it gets sustenance from other organisms. These flowering plants have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus that gives them nutrition.

Takaomi Sugimoto

Sciaphila sugimotoi is just under 4 inches in height (10 cm), and produces small blossoms in September and October.

A colony of <em>Thiolava veneris</em> first appeared after a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands.

Miquel Canals, University of Barcelona, Spain

Thiolava veneris was the first colonizer after a 2011 eruption of the underwater Tagoro volcano off the coast of the Canary Islands. Scientists discovered the bacteria three years after the eruption – it formed a half-acre sized white mat around the volcanic cone.

This reconstruction of <em>Wakaleo schouteni</em> shows a marsupial lion that weighed about 50 pounds and stalked the forests of northwestern Queensland 23 million years ago.

Peter Schouten

Scientists from the University of New South Wales recovered fossils in Australia’s Riversleigh World Heritage Area that proved to be a previously unknown marsupial lion. They determined that Wakaleo schouteni roamed the open forest habitat in northwestern Queensland in the late Oligocene, which ended about 23 million years ago.

The <em>Xuedytes bellus</em> beetle resembles others that have adapted to life in the permanent darkness of caves.

Sunbin Huang and Mingyi Tian

Xuedytes bellus is less than half an inch in length (about 9 mm). It has a dramatically elongated head and prothorax (the body segment immediately behind the head to which the first pair of legs attach). It was discovered in a cave in Southern China.

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