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.
Topping our list of favorites is the “tyrant leech king,” Tyrannobdella rex, measuring just 2 inches in length but with a single jaw and massive teeth. This bloodsucker was found attached to the nasal mucous membrane of a person in Peru, scientists said.This monster is followed closely by the Louisiana pancake batfish, a flat, gloopy-looking pale creature that lives in the area covered by last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The pale Halieutichthys intermedius bottom-dweller hops awkwardly on its arm-like fins, resembling a walking bat.
John Sparks, one of the scientists who reported the discovery and who is curator of ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, said: “If we are still finding new species of fishes in the Gulf, imagine how much diversity, especially microdiversity, is out there that we do not know about.”
Here are some other highlights:
There are other insects, a fruit-eating lizard, and a cute mini antelope, too. Check out our photo gallery to see all the top 10.
These bizarre creatures are probably only the tip of the iceberg, scientists say. The top 10 list is intended to highlight the importance of ecological preservation and biodiversity, and it was announced today to celebrate the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, who started the modern system of plant and animal names and classifications.
Scientists' best guess is that all species discovered since 1758 represent less than 20 percent of the plants and animals living on Earth, said Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist who directs the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.
"A reasonable estimate is that 10 million species remain to be described, named, and classified before the diversity and complexity of the biosphere is understood," he said.
Pretty impressive when you think about it. Here we are looking for life on other worlds, but there is so much left undiscovered right here, under our noses. Or inside them, as it were.
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