A newly described species of bacteria has joined the ranks of those of us who depend on caffeine for survival. The little microbe, Pseudomonas putida, uses specialized enzymes to break the precious compound into carbon dioxide and ammonia, scientists say.
This planet is home to some incredibly awesome things, and every year we enjoy hearing about the new creatures that had, until recently, escaped biologists' attention. Among scientists' top 10 new species for 2010: A leech with gigantic teeth, a bioluminescent fungus, a mushroom with gills for breathing underwater and a spider that spins material 10 times stronger than Kevlar.
See them all in our gallery.
Meet the Durrell’s vontsira (Salanoia durrelli). It ain’t pretty, but this small, mongoose-like critter—pronounced “voontseera”—has the distinction of being the first carnivorous mammal discovered in 24 years. The last was the related Grandidier’s vontsira, which, like the new creature, was found on Madagascar.
This animal, which lives more than a mile and a half below the ocean’s surface, is one of three potentially novel species of acorn worms discovered on a deep-sea expedition in June. Expedition participant Monty Priede and his team from Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland are currently analyzing the creature’s DNA while another member of the expedition,
Nicholas Holland, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, compares specimens with two species of acorn worm already described.
Forget the Orkin Man; with pests like this, you might need to call Ripley. Scientists have recently discovered two new, giant versions of common pests.
In this corner, hailing from Papua New Guinea and weighing in at a hefty 3.3 pounds comes the the Bosavi woolly rat. And in the other corner, in the bright yellow outfit and representing Malaysia, please welcome Heteropoda davidbowie, "the Spider from Mars."
Scientists estimate the number of species on Earth to be close to 10 million -- and each year, the number of known species grows. The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of taxonomists recently released its "Top 10" list of new species described in 2008.