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05/27/2013

Top 10 new species of 2012

You know who is really sad about the loss of biodiversity on the planet today? This guy:

Lesula_Monkey1

Photo credit: Maurice Emetshu

 Those soulful -- and creepily human -- eyes, as well as the Lesula monkey's electric blue butt, were what led judges to vote the animal onto this year's Top 10 New Species List.

Every year on Carl Linnaeus' birthday, The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University releases a top 10 list of species discovered in the previous calendar year. The list is chosen by an international team of taxonomy experts. 

"Many scientists believe that as many as half of all living species could face extinction before the end of the 21st century," said Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the insitute, in an email. "Yet the rate at which we discover species has remained more or less constant since before World War II."

In other words, we are losing species faster than we can discover they ever existed. 

The top 10 list is an attempt to raise awareness about biodiversity loss and the role that science institutes and natural history museums play in conservation and study.

Without further ado, here are some of the weirdest and wildest:

1. Lightning roach

08a_lucihormetica_luckae
Lucihormetica luckae. Photo credit: Peter Vrsansky & Dusan Chorvat

This rare glow-in-the-dark roach is, sadly, probably already extinct -- its only habitat was destroyed by the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador in December 2010. The species was named based on a single specimen collected over 70 years ago. Luminscence among terrestrial animals is rare, but scientists began discovering glowing cockroaches in 1999 and have named about a dozen since, all in places far from possible light pollution, according to the IISE.

2. Lyre sponge

LyreSponge1

Chondrocladia lyra. Photo credit: 2013 MBARI

This deep-sea sponge boasts more than just good looks. The Lyre sponge is a carnivore, and its two to six vertically-limbed "vanes" do more than just look fanstastic: they are adept at catching drifting plankton. The sponge was discovered off the coast of California in waters that are on average 3399 m deep, the IISE says. 

3. Lesula monkey

03b_cercopithecus_lomamiensis
Cercopithecus lomamiensis. Illustration credit: K. Honda.

The Lesula monkey is found in a remote part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is only the second new monkey discovered in Africa in the last 28 years, the IISE says. Natives of the area have long known of the monkey, however, and hunt it for bushmeat, which has led to its listing as "vulnerable." The males have a bare patch on their bottoms that is electric blue.

 

4. Tiny frog

06a_paedophryne_manuensis
Paedophryne amanuensis. Photo credit: Christopher C. Austin

This tiny frog, discovered in Papua New Guinea, is the smallest vertebrate known to science -- 3,000 times smaller than the largest, the blue whale. The average adult is only 7.7 mm. It stole the record of tiniest vertebrate from a miniscule fish found in southeast Asia, discovered in 2006. 

For the whole list, go here.

Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her online at @katecallen.

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