Researchers describe 71 new species in 2019

New species from 5 continents and 3 oceans include geckos, goblin spiders, flowering plants, and Mediterranean ants.

Fish with very large eyes with large black vertical pupil.

The newly described cat-eyed cardinalfish. Image © 2019 Mark Erdmann.

On December 5, 2019, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences announced the addition of 71 new plant and animal species to Earth’s tree of life. The new species for 2019 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.

The academy scientists, along with many more international collaborators, discovered these new plants and animals across 5 continents and 3 oceans, from Croatian caves, extreme ocean depths and savanna forests. Shannon Bennett is Academy Chief of Science. She said in a statement:

Despite decades of tirelessly scouring some of the most familiar and remote places on Earth, biodiversity scientists estimate that more than 90% of nature’s species remain unknown. A rich diversity of plants and animals is what allows life on our planet to thrive: the interconnectedness of all living systems provides collective resilience in the face of our climate crisis. Each newly discovered species serves as an important reminder of the critical role we play in better understanding and preserving these precious ecosystems.

Below are a few highlights from the 71 new species described by the Academy in 2019.

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Squashy-looking oval creature covered with red-tipped points.

A stunning new-to-science sea slug. Image via Terry Gosliner © 2018 California Academy of Sciences.

Flat, diamond-shaped gray fish with 3 streamer-like tail features at one end.

New-to-science skate, Dipturus lamillai, from the Falkland Islands. Since the 1970s, the Falkland Island fisheries have been one of the largest distributors of skates – cartilaginous ray-like fish that live at depths down to almost 2,000 feet (600 meters). The fish are particularly popular in Korea, where they are fermented or filleted into steaks. Image © 2019 Francisco Concha.

Brownish-red lizard with scales arranged in rings around its body and tail.

This girdled lizard is found on the second highest mountain peak in Angola. Image © 2019 Ishan Agarwal.

Vertical flower stem with tiny lavender flowers.

A marvelous new flowering plant from Mexico. Image © 2019 Jonathan Amith.

Orange coral that looks like a twig with 2 branches with litle knobs on them.

This coral is found in the deep sea just off the coast of California. Image via Gary Williams © 2019 California Academy of Sciences.

Closeup of flat, translucent orange spider.

Myrmecicultor chihuahuensis, The firsta – nd only – species in a new family of “ant-worshipping” spiders. These curious arachnids spend most of their time underground in ant mounds, although scientists aren’t sure why. It wasn’t until a recent expedition to Mexico’s Chihuahuan desert – the spider’s namesake – that scientists were first able to witness the species in the wild. But since they were found scattered around the surface of a collapsed ant nest, their underground behavior remains a mystery. Image © Durrell Ubick 2019 California Academy of Sciences.

Leafy stem of plant with elongated white flower buds.

Emeritus Curator of Botany Frank Almeda, described a rare white-blossomed plant Trembleya altoparaisensis this year based on several specimens collected over 100 years ago by the famous 19th-century botanist Auguste François Marie Glaziou. As rare now as it was then, the plant proved difficult to find in the wild. Luckily, Ricardo Pacifico, a Ph.D. student working with Almeda, was able to track down a living specimen on a recent expedition to the lush canyons of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park in Brazil. Image © 2019 Ricardo Pacifico.

Bottom line: Researchers described 71 new species in 2019.

Via California Academy of Sciences

Eleanor Imster