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The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University has announced its annual list of top 10 new species. A global committee of taxonomists – scientists responsible for species exploration and classification – made its top 10 selection from more than 140 nominated species that were described and officially named in 2012.
The top 10 new species list draws international attention each year from both the media and the public. Articles have appeared in the U.S., Germany, Brazil, France, UK, Canada, Australia, Romania, Norway and Austria, to name a few.
The top 10 list includes an amazing glow-in-the-dark cockroach, a harp-shaped carnivorous sponge and the smallest vertebrate on Earth: a tiny frog. Also making the list is a snail-eating false coral snake, flower bushes from a disappearing forest in Madagascar, a green lacewing discovered through social media and hanging flies that mimicked gingko tree leaves millions of years ago. Rounding out the top 10 – a new monkey with a blue backside, a tiny violet and a black, staining fungus that is threatening rare cave paintings in France.
“We have identified only about two million of an estimated 10 to 12 million living species, and that does not count most of the microbial world,” said Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at ASU. “For decades, we have averaged 18,000 species discoveries per year, which seemed reasonable before the biodiversity crisis. Now, knowing that millions of species may not survive the 21st century, it is time to pick up the pace.”
Sarah Sloat with Pacific Standard magazine writes that while interest in recent images of the top 10 new species will eventually diminish, the importance of taxonomy continues – especially in the face of changing animal habitats around the world.
She says, "So it’s important – urgent, even – to establish a baseline of species to give us the necessary facts to monitor these changes as they happen. Without a major taxonomic initiative, Wheeler told me, 'We are literally flying blind into a storm and hoping for a safe landing.'"