SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has announced the Top 10 New Species for 2015. The annual list, established in 2008, calls attention to discoveries that are made even as species are going extinct faster than they are being identified.
This year the Tillandsia religiosa native to Mexico makes the list.
Despite long having been incorporated into religious Christmas displays in Mexico, Tillandsia religiosa is brand new to the scientific community. Sporting rose-colored spikes and flat green leaves, the flowering bromeliad grows up to 5 feet tall in the rocky northern areas of Morelos, Mexico. They are found at altitudes of 6,000 feet or higher.
Others in the Top 10 include:
With a mixture of bird and dinosaur features, Anzu wyliei is from a bird-like group of dinosaurs that lived in North America. A contemporary of the more famous T. rex and Triceratops, this species made nests and sat on the eggs until they hatched. These omnivores appear to have lived on floodplains eating vegetation, small animals and possibly eggs. Three well-preserved partial skeletons were discovered in North and South Dakota in the Hell Creek Formation. The Anzu wyliei is about 10 ft in length, 5 ft in height and weighs 600 pounds. Location: U.S.
This parasitic plant, discovered and almost immediately considered endangered, has elongated, repeatedly branching and rough-textured above ground tubers. These peculiar tubers give the Balanophora coralliformis root parasite a coral-like appearance distinct from the more typical underground tubers of related species. Because so few plants are known to exist, and the narrow area in which they live is unprotected, the scientists who described it consider the plant critically endangered. Location: Philippines.
The Cebrennus rechenbergi uses a gymnast’s trick to escape from threatening situations. When danger lurks, the spider first assumes a threatening posture. If the danger persists, the spider runs and, about half the time, that running turns into cartwheeling, which is twice as fast. Even before the spider had been officially named, its behavior inspired a biomimetic robot that can similarly walk or roll. Location: Morocco.
Mysterious Multicellular ‘Fossils’
The best information suggests that the multicellular Dendrogramma enigmatica (and a second new species, D. discoids) is related to the phylum Cnidaria (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones and hydras) or Ctenophora (comb jellies), or both. But, the new animals lack evolutionary novelties unique to either and could be an entirely new phylum. They also resemble fossils from Precambrian time, perhaps making them living fossils. The mystery surrounding this animal accounts for its name, and its relationships are likely to remain enigmatic until specimens can be collected suitable for DNA analysis. Location: Australia.
This wasp has a unique way to protect its offspring. The Deuteragenia ossarium constructs nests in hollow stems with several cells, each separated by soil walls. The wasp kills and deposits one spider in each cell for her developing young. Once her egg is laid, she seals off the cell and hunts a spider for the next cell. Rather than provisioning the final or vestibule cell with a spider, she fills it with as many as 13 dead ants. Camouflage is supplied by a veil of volatile chemicals emitted by the dead ants, thwarting enemies that hunt wasp larvae by scent. Location: China.
Unlike other frogs, Limnonectes larvaepartus gives birth to tadpoles that are deposited in pools of water. Fewer than a dozen of the world’s 6,455 frog species have internal fertilization and all except this new species lay fertilized eggs or give birth to tiny froglets. The frogs live in natural and disturbed forest habitats, often in areas occupied by one to five other species of the same genus. Location: Indonesia.
While this new stick insect is not the world’s longest, it belongs to a family known as giant sticks. At 9 inches in length, Phryganistria tamdaeoensis is evidence that, in spite of their size, more giant sticks remain to be discovered and our knowledge of these masters of camouflage is far from complete. This giant stick is common in the town of Tam Dao visited by many entomologists, yet it escaped notice until now. Location: Vietnam.
Beauty Runs Deep
This sea slug is the “missing link” between slugs that feed on hydroids and those that feed on corals. Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum also contributed to a better understanding of the origin of an unusual symbiosis in other species of the genus. Related sea slugs have multi-branched guts in which algae called zooanthellae live. These algae have a primary symbiotic relationship with the corals on which the sea slugs feed. Once sequestered in the gut, the photosynthetic algae produce nutrients of benefit to the host. Location: Japan.
Underwater Crop Circles
Torquigener albomaculosus, a new species of pufferfish, construct intricate circles with geometric designs about 6 ft in diameter as spawning nests. The nests feature double edges and radiating troughs in a spoke-like geometry. Scientists discovered the ridges and grooves of the circle serve to minimize ocean current at the center of the nest. This protects the eggs from the turbulent waters and possibly predators too. Location: Japan.