Newly discovered species caught on camera in 2019
A global spotlight has shone on a variety of plant and animal species over the past few weeks, but for all the wrong reasons: As bushfires across Australia continue to rage, burning since early October, biological diversity on the continent is one of the biggest victims. It is estimated that more than 1 billion mammals, reptiles, and birds have been killed so far, according to the University of Sydney.
As Australia is home to a particularly large number of endemic species, this means that many rare animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth will go extinct in the coming months. Though iconic animals like the koala and kangaroo are not in danger of extinction, lesser-known and ecologically significant species like the long-footed potoroo and glossy black cockatoo are losing their chances of survival. These losses will undoubtedly have devastating reverberations on the species and ecosystems that survive.
There is a silver lining, however: Amidst the loss of so many species, many new ones are emerging as well. Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences discovered and characterized 71 new species in 2019. Here, Stacker describes and shows photos of 30 of them—including one coral, two reptiles, four sea slugs, four flowering plants, five spiders, and 14 fish—using photos from California Academy of Sciences researchers. All data was released in December 2019.
As the press release introducing the research and debuting the species summarized, “The new species include 17 fish, 15 geckos, eight flowering plants, six sea slugs, five arachnids, four eels, three ants, three skinks, two skates, two wasps, two mosses, two corals, and two lizards. More than a dozen Academy scientists—along with many more international collaborators—described the new species discoveries.”
These discoveries are projected to have a positive impact on the expansion of ecological research, identifying previously overlooked areas as biologically diverse regions worth paying attention to.
Read on to discover 30 new species located across the globe, how they were discovered, and what distinguishes them from similar species we already know.
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- Scientific name: Chromoplexaura cordellbankensis
The Gorgonian octocoral was first spotted off the rocky coast of San Francisco during summer 2018, by researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. After a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) allowed scientists aboard the ship to collect specimens of the deep sea coral, the same species was found in the Channel Islands and Monterey Bay as well.
Damselfish (C. bowesi)
- Scientific name: Chromis bowesi
The Damselfish was found in Batangas Bay in the Philippines, collected using hand nets at a depth of 75 to 150 meters—at least twice the depth of a recreational scuba diving limit. It is named after William K. Bowes Jr., a lead donor of the Hope for Reefs initiative.
Fairy wrasse (C. wakanda)
- Scientific name: Cirrhilabrus wakanda
If the fairy wrasse’s scientific name sounds familiar, it is because the purple fish is named after Wakanda, the kingdom in the film “Black Panther” in which the color purple figures prominently. After the species was detected in coral reefs over 60 meters below the ocean surface in Tanzania, special equipment was required to reach and collect specimens.
Long-snout skate (D. lamillai)
- Scientific name: Dipturus lamillai
It was first thought that Dipturus lamillai was its close relative Dipturus chilensis, a skate popularly sold as steaks in Korea. Researcher David Ebert, however, noticed differences that led to the establishment of Falkland Islands-native lamillai as a separate species, including a more elongated snout and lighter spots on the body surface.
Blenny fish (E. springeri)
- Scientific name: Ecsenius springeri
The range for the Blenny fish is so narrow—found only at the Fakfak Peninsula in West Papua, Indonesia—that it is classified as a micro-endemic reef fish. Six specimens were first collected during a Conservation International-led survey of the peninsula in March 2018. Though Ecsenius springeri closely resembles Ecsenius bicolor, it can be distinguished by a narrower black mid-lateral stripe, more distinct mid-side white strip, and a larger posterior orange area.
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Dwarfgoby (E. gunawanae)
- Scientific name: Eviota gunawanae
Like the Blenny fish, the Dwarfgoby is another micro-endemic fish species found in the Fakfak peninsula, originally collected by researchers conducting a reef fish biodiversity survey in March 2018. Though Eviota gunawanae was initially mistaken for Eviota tetha, scientists eventually recognized disparities in coloration between the two, leading to E. gunawanae’s classification as a separate species.
Sand tilefish (H. andamanensis)
- Scientific name: Hoplolatilus andamanensis
When the sand tilefish was found in the Andaman Islands off the coast of Myanmar, scientists thought it could be Hoplolatilus fourmanoiri, a close relative. Andamanensis has an additional dorsal spine and slightly different coloration, however, leading to its establishment as a new species.
Rough skate (L. elaineae)
- Scientific name: Leucoraja elaineae
A survey conducted by the research vessel R/V Fridtiof Nansen off the coast of Kenya led to the discovery of the rough skate, the third species in the genus Leucoraja to be found in the Western Indian Ocean. Though it closely resembles Leucoraja wallacei, elaineae can be distinguished by its long snout, as well as the pairs of white spots on its dorsal surface.
Basslet (L. incandescens)
- Scientific name: Liopropoma incandescens
Basslet specimens were collected near Pohnpei, Micronesia, using hand nets from a rocky crevice 130 meters below the ocean’s surface, a depth so staggering that divers required mixed-gas, closed-circuit rebreathers. Specimens were brought alive all the way to San Francisco, where researchers at the California Academy of Sciences separated them into a new species from their relatives based on coloration, snout length, and number of fin rays.
Cardinalfish (S. arnazae)
- Scientific name: Siphamia arnazae
A woman was scuba diving off of Papua New Guinea in December 2016 when she spotted Siphamia arnazae, leading scientists to return to the spot over the following years to collect specimens and classify it as a new species. The discovery has furthered the importance of the Milne Bay Province in ecological research, confirming that the area is one of the richest across the globe in reef fish diversity—currently home to at least 1,284 species and counting.
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