Meet the top 10 new species for 2016

Galapagos-Tortoise Chelonoidis donfaustoi: Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos | Photo credit: esf.edu/Washington Tapia

A species on humans' family tree, hominin, and an ape nicknamed "Laia" that might provide clues to the origin of humans are among the top 10 new species of 2016.

The list by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) also includes a new kind of giant Galapagos tortoise, which could serve as a poster species for conservation and evolution and two fish, a seadragon in stunning shades of ruby red and pink and, conversely, an anglerfish that would not win an undersea beauty pageant.

Rounding out this year's Top 10 are three invertebrates—a tiny isopod that builds its own mud shelters, a beetle named after a fictional bear who traveled from Peru to London and a damselfly with a suggestive name, and two plants—a carnivorous sundew that was considered endangered as soon as it was found and a tree that was hiding in plain sight.

Brazil and Gabon each contributed two new additions to the planet's biodiversity. The others hail from Ecuador, South Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, Australia, Spain and Peru.

The list is compiled annually by ESF's International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE). The institute's international committee of taxonomists selects the Top 10 from among the approximately 18,000 new species named during the previous year. The list is made public around May 23 to recognize the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th century Swedish botanist who is considered the father of modern taxonomy.

Established in 2008, the list calls attention to discoveries that are made even as species are going extinct faster than they are being identified. "In the past half-century we have come to recognize that species are going extinct at an alarming rate. It is time that we accelerate species exploration, too. Knowledge of what species exist, where they live, and what they do will help mitigate the biodiversity crisis and archive evidence of the life on our planet that does disappear in the wild," said Dr. Quentin Wheeler, ESF president and founding director of the IISE.

Scientists believe 10 million species await discovery, five times the number that are already known to science.

"The rate of description of species is effectively unchanged since before World War II. The result is that species are disappearing at a rate at least equal to that of their discovery. We can only win this race to explore biodiversity if we pick up the pace. In so doing we gather irreplaceable evidence of our origins, discover clues to more efficient and sustainable ways to meet human needs, and arm ourselves with fundamental knowledge essential for wide-scale conservation success," Wheeler said.

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Topics : #Science | #Evolution

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