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Given that we are constantly being bombarded with news about species of animals becoming extinct, it is refreshing to hear that there are also new ones constantly being discovered - What is surprising is that every year, nature lovers and scientists find not one or two, but thousands of never before seen species.
For the last six years, Arizona State University's International Institute for Species Exploration has provided a venue to showcase what scientists believe are their best finds, new or otherwise, and asked the general public to vote for their top ten. Here are some of the coolest ones that made the 2013 list, from the 140 that were submitted this year.
Even the most avid haters of cockroaches will reluctantly admit that finding one that lights up is pretty cool. The amazing part is that there are over a dozen species of this ancient insect that have the ability to light up - All however, are rare and seem to reside in remote areas that not affected by light pollution.
Sadly enough, the species of L. Lukae, which made it to the top ten list this year, may even be extinct today. That's because while it was submitted by the scientists in 2013, the only specimen of it was found 70 years ago, near the active Tunguraha volcano in Ecuador. And though there are other members of its species that can light up, this one was/is special because of its relatively large size and the placement of its lamps, which mimics that of the toxic luminescent click beetles, suggesting to experts that the smart insect may have used its light-up power to keep predators at bay.
Discovery of this gorgeous new species of the Lacewing butterfly that has been named Semachrysa jade can be credited to our growing penchant for social media. Kuala Lumpur resident Hock Ping Guek first came across the butterfly at a local park and decided to take a picture and share it on photo-sharing site Flickr. Amazingly enough, California-based Shaun Winterton who happens to be an entomologist by profession, saw it and was intrigued. He contacted the photographer who managed to capture a specimen and send it to Stephen Brooks, at London's Natural History Museum. The expert confirmed what Shaun had suspected - It was indeed a new species!
The World's Smallest Vertebrate
Measuring an average of 7 millimeters, this newly discovered species of frog is so small that it occupies only a third of a US dime, making it the world's smallest vertebrate, a title that had been held by the miniature Southeast Asian cyprinid fish, since 2006. Just like other similar frogs, it resides under moist leaves in the tropical wet forests of Papua,New Guinea.
While at first glance it may appear to be a delicate sculpture, this gorgeous structure is actually a large carnivorous sponge that resides deep inside the ocean (about 2.2 miles), in the northwest Pacific Ocean, just off the California coast. Each of its two to four offshoots hold up to 20 vertical branches that are capped with a ball-like structure. Scientists believe that the unique shape helps the sponge maximize its surface area and capture as much of the tiny plankton that it preys on, as possible.
This pensive-looking monkey is only the second new species of the animal to be discovered in Africa in the past 28 years. While rarely seen in the dense jungles of Lomami Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it resides, it can be heard for miles, thanks to its loud dawn booming sound. While the locals have known about the Lesula for years and scientists since 2007, when they managed to capture a juvenile, it was never recorded as a new species, until this year.
Though it may seem fascinating that we continue to discover new species, Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), believes we have just scratched the surface. He maintains that we have only discovered about 2 million of the total of 10-12 million species waiting to be found. But if scientists are right and we lose half of all species by the end of the century, the process of discovering new ones needs to be accelerated, especially given that fact that most of them are already on the brink of extinction.
Resources: ASU international Institute for Species Exploration