New species discovered in the last decade

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November 27, 2019
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New species discovered in the last decade

From a praying mantis that mimics a wasp to an elusive orangutan that lives in the remote jungles of Sumatra, the species discovered in the last decade showcase the biodiversity of our planet and the interplay of changing environmental factors.

In the last few years, scientific advancements like DNA testing have made it easier to identify new species and classify those that were for decades sitting in plain sight. For example, scientists have finally been able to describe the Narluga, a hybrid animal that's a cross between a Beluga whale and Narwhal, after seeing it for the first time 30 years ago. 

However, species identification is not an easy process even if there are better tools at hand for modern scientists. There are hundreds of hours of field study, lab work, previous data research, and analysis before a species is finally given a name and identified as new to science.  

Stacker looked at a variety of scientific sites to compile this list of 30 unique species newly described by scientists (or, formally accepted as new species through published scientific papers) in the last decade. The species are organized by the year in which they were described.

The list includes tiny frogs, giant whales, and unusually named creatures that honor people, places, characteristics, and favorite celebrities. Read on to gain a greater understanding of life on Earth. 

Louisiana pancake batfish

- Scientific name: Halieutichthys intermedius
- Described in: 2010

This fish is so small it can easily fit on the palm of your hands. Discovered in 2010 in its native habitat in the Gulf of Mexico, the Louisiana Pancake Batfish is a bottom dweller and looks like a spiky pancake with bulging eyes. This unique fish prefers to ‘walk’ on the ocean floor using its fins. It was also declared endangered the same year it was discovered after they were found in the area of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. However, the fish is no longer under threat and has been given the status of "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Nose leech (T. rex)

- Scientific name: Tyrannobdella rex
- Described in: 2010

The T. rex of the leech world was discovered in the Peruvian Amazon in 2010. Dubbed Tyrannobdella rex, meaning "Tyrant leech king," the species has only one jaw but eight enormous teeth. It was first discovered in the nostril of a 9-year-old girl who frequently bathed in the Amazon streams.

"The earliest species in this family of these leeches no-doubt shared an environment with dinosaurs about 200 million years ago when some ancestor of our T. rex may have been up that other T. rex's nose," researcher Mark Siddall told Live Science at the time of discovery.

Nematode (H. mephisto)

- Scientific name: Halicephalobus mephisto
- Described in: 2011

Before the discovery of this nematode or roundworm, scientists believed that only single-celled organisms like bacteria lived so deep under the earth. This subsurface area has very little oxygen and extremely high temperatures around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is usually intolerable for surface-dwelling nematodes. However, Halicephalobus mephisto was found lurking in these very conditions in South Africa’s gold mines at a depth of about 1.3 kilometers. Tullis Onstott, a geomicrobiologist at Princeton University in New Jersey who helped discover the species, said: "it was like finding Moby Dick in Lake Ontario."

[Pictured: Similar nematode, Heterodera glycines]

Yeti crab (K. puravida)

- Scientific name: Kiwa puravida
- Described in: 2011

The yeti crab has hair-like bristles covering its arms and lives in the ocean off the coast of Costa Rica. What makes this crab unique is this crab’s ability to grow bacteria on its claws, which it later eats. This is the second crab species of its kind discovered by the same researchers. The first, Kiwa hirsuta, was found in 2005, and the crab has even more hair than Kiwa puravida. The crab has been observed waving its claws to stir up the water to supply oxygen to its bacteria garden.

Spongiforma squarepantsii

- Scientific name: Spongiforma squarepantsii
- Described in: 2011

This unusual mushroom reminded its discoverers so much of SpongeBob that they named it after the cartoon character. Spongiforma squarepantsii was found in the forests of Borneo, Malaysia, by researchers from San Francisco University. It resembles a sea sponge and has a fruity smell. The researchers also observed that the spore-producing area of this mushroom looked like a seafloor covered with tube sponges under a microscope. The scientists believe that this species lost its stem and cap like other mushrooms to adapt to its humid environment. When the mushroom dries out, it quickly absorbs moisture from the air to keep the spores alive.

Kuttal caecilian

- Scientific name: Chikila fulleri
- Described in: 2012

In 2012, an entire family of limbless amphibians was discovered in northeast India with seven new species. The caecilians are amphibians like frogs and toads but resemble earthworms because of the absence of limbs. They live underground and give birth to young in underground nests. These caecilians can grow up to 1 meter long. The species, which remains somewhat elusive, is already facing anthropogenic pressures in the area where they are found.

[Pictured: The Bombay caecilian, similar to Kuttal caecilian]

Lyre sponge

- Scientific name: Chondrocladia lyra
- Described in: 2012

The lyre sponge or the harp sponge lives off the coast of California at depths between 10,800 and 11,500 feet. It looks like a delicate harp, but this deep-sea predator can catch prey using the tiny hooks covering each of its limbs. The lyre sponge catches and digests prey by covering the prey with a delicate membrane.

Orchid bee (E. bazinga)

- Scientific name: Euglossa bazinga
- Described in: 2012

The name of this Brazilian bee was inspired by the character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper from "Big Bang Theory" and his catchphrase "Bazinga." Andre Nemesio, the scientist who discovered this orchid bee species, wanted a different name for it, which could be easily recognizable and thus make people more interested in the newly discovered species. E. bazinga was very similar to another orchid bee called E. ignita, and so when the team finally proved it to be a different species, they all said "Bazinga!"

Acorn worm (Y. purpurata)

- Scientific name: Yoda purpurata
- Described in: 2012

Here is another real-life creature whose name was inspired by a fictional but a hugely popular character from "Star Wars." Yoda purpurata means purple Yoda, and the name of this reddish-purple creature refers to the lips on both sides of its head region that's shaped like the space hero. The acorn worm is found about 1.5 miles beneath the surface in the Atlantic Ocean.


- Scientific name: Bassaricyon neblina
- Described in: 2013

According to its discoverers, the Olinguito looks like a mix between a house cat and a teddy bear, and it is the first carnivore species to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. There is an interesting story behind its discovery too. Found in the misty Andean Mountains, the animal looks similar to another Andean Mountain mammal called Olingo. Many decades-old specimens were kept and marked as Olingos in the Field Museum in Chicago. However, Kristofer Helgen, a mammal curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, thought they looked a bit different and prompted research teams to gather more evidence at Ecuador by observing and gathering DNA sequences from live specimens. The hard work paid off after researchers discovered this new carnivore species.

Ghost shark (C. carophila)

- Scientific name: Chimaera carophila
- Described in: 2014

Chimaera carophila, a new species of ghost shark, was discovered in New Zealand in 2014. The brown-colored chimaera was found most commonly at depths beyond 1,000 meters on continental slopes and plateaus. According to the research team, the newly discovered shark raised the number of chimaera species to three in New Zealand and 16 around the world.

Galapagos tortoise (C. donfaustoi)

- Scientific name: Chelonoidis donfaustoi
- Described in: 2015

In 2015, a group of 250 tortoises living in the arid inland area of the Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos Islands was described as a distinct species—the Chelonoidis donfaustoiAdalgisa Caccone, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University, described the new tortoise after DNA evidence proved that it was different from other resident tortoises. It is also commonly known as Eastern Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise, and it's been marked as Critically Endangered by IUCN. This discovery raised the number of Galapagos tortoise species to 12.

Black-eyed satyr

- Scientific name: Euptychia attenboroughi
- Described in: 2015

The black-eyed satyr was discovered in the upper Amazon basin in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil in 2015. This butterfly was named after naturalist and conservationist Sir David Attenborough. The butterfly is considered to be rare as all individuals were found within 500 kilometers of each other. Euptychia sophiae was also discovered at the same time by the same team.

Leucothoid amphipod (L. eltoni)

- Scientific name: Leucothoe eltoni
- Described in: 2015

This shrimp-like crustacean was discovered living in the coral reefs of Indonesia and the Philippines. The discovery was made by Dr. James Thomas from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Florida, who was so fascinated by Elton John’s song that he named his discovery in honor of the singer. The species is found living inside other invertebrates in what is known as a commensal association where they do not cause any harm or benefit to the host. The species is now reported as an invasive species on the Hawaiian coast.

Sichuan bush warbler

- Scientific name: Locustella chengi
- Described in: 2015

The Sichuan bush warbler was discovered by an international group of ornithologists. Reports reveal that the bird breeds in Shaanxi, Sichuan, Guizhou, Hubei, and northwest Hunan, with a single record from NW Jiangxi, according to Sci-news. The bird is about 13 centimeters in length, with a white throat, pale brown-grey sides, and with a yellow tinge. It is difficult to spot as it lives in dense brush and tea plantations of mountainous areas. However, its songs are easy to hear, which scientists describe as “a low-pitched drawn-out buzz, followed by a shorter click, repeated in series.”

Petite Praslin caecilian

- Scientific name: Hypogeophis pti
- Described in: 2017

As the name suggests, the Petite Praslin caecilian is a little legless amphibian that was discovered from the island of Praslin in Seychelles. The island has seven caecilian species, including this one, which has a longer snout compared to the other island caecilians. According to scientists, these amphibians are common but hard to find as they live underground and are hardly encountered by people. In Seychelles, they believe the caecilians have been evolving for 64 million years.

Polka-dot tree frog

- Scientific name: Hypsiboas punctatus
- Described in: 2017

The South American polka dot tree frog, discovered in 2017, represents the first time fluorescence was seen in amphibians. Under normal light, this tree frog shows greens, yellows, and reds, but turn it into UV light, and it can give off a bright blue and yellow glow. Before the discovery of this frog, such kind of fluorescence was only observed in parrots and scorpions. The discovery team is now trying to understand whether the frogs can see their own fluorescence.

Robin Moore's night frog

- Scientific name: Nyctibatrachus robinmoorei
- Described in: 2017

The Robin Moore’s night frog is merely 12.2 millimeters. According to Indian amphibian biologist SD Biju, “It is one of the smallest frogs known from India, probably even the smallest frog. It is also among the smallest frogs in the world.” The frog is unique to other night frogs because it can make insect-like sounds during the night and day. The frog was named in honor of Global Wildlife Conservation’s communication director Robin Moore for his work in the amphibian world. The Indian scientist discovered six more species of night frogs from the Western Ghats in India during the same time, four of which are less than 14 millimeters in length.

[Pictured: Similar, Nyctibatrachus acanthodermis]

Orangutan (P. tapanuliensis)

- Scientific name: Pongo tapanuliensis
- Described in: 2017

The first rumors of its existence were heard around the 1930s when researchers believed there was an isolated population of orangutans in Batan Toru forests of western Sumatra. With the help of genetic tests, field observations, and the comparison of male skeleton structures of numerous orangutan specimens, it was confirmed in 2017 that Pongo tapanuliensis was indeed a different species. It has a smaller head and flatter face compared to other orangutans known from Sumatra and Borneo. Although they live in Sumatra, scientists think they are closer to the Bornean orangutans than the Sumatran ones.

Vangunu giant rat (vika)

- Scientific name: Uromys vika
- Described in: 2017

This was the first new rodent species described from the Solomon Islands in more than 80 years. Unfortunately, it is also said to be close to extinction. The Vangunu giant rat is brown colored, lives in trees, and eats coconuts, fruits, and other nuts. Most of the animals found in the Solomon Islands are not found anywhere else in the world because of their isolated habitat. But logging is a significant threat to these species, pushing them towards extinction.

[Pictured: Similar, Uromys caudimaculatus]


Pelican spider (E. milajaneae)

- Scientific name: Eriauchenius milajaneae
- Described in: 2018

Are these pelicans, or are these spiders? The unusual pelican spiders are so named because of their “extended, arching carapace and two extra-long mouthparts (called chelicerae), creating the illusion of a neck and beak,” reports the Smithsonian. The spider was one of the 18 new species of pelican spiders described by scientists in 2018. Scientists think that the appearance makes it easier for these spiders to hunt other spiders, which is the only thing they eat. Scientists believe the pelican spiders have lived in Madagascar since the Pangean time 180 million years ago, before Madagascar was an island.

[Pictured: Similar, Austrarchaea griswoldi]

Aphrodite anthias

- Scientific name: Tosanoides aphrodite
- Described in: 2018

St. Paul’s Rocks is a barren islet in Brazil where researchers discovered this tiny fish. Researchers were so enamored by the fish’s beauty and psychedelic purple, yellow, and red colors that they wrote in their research that they did not even notice the large shark that came close to them while they were collecting the specimen. The maximum size recorded for this species is 84 millimeters.


- Scientific name: Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) x narwhal (Monodon monoceros) hybrid
- Described in: 2019

Scientists discovered this species after studying the DNA of a whale skull from 30 years ago that had been kept by an Inuit hunter. DNA evidence revealed that the skull belonged to a hybrid between a beluga whale and a narwhal. The marine animal was gray, had beluga whale-like flippers, and a narwhal-like tail. In 1990, Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen, a scientist who studies marine mammals, saw the skull and thought it was a narluga. His theory was confirmed decades later in June 2019 when advanced DNA testing revealed that the species had a beluga father and a narwhal mother.

[Pictured: Beluga whale]

Spectacled flowerpecker

- Scientific name: Dicaeum dayakorum
- Described in: 2019

The spectacled flowerpecker was first seen in the lowland forests of Borneo, Malaysia, in 2009. A decade later, scientists gave the world a new species of a fruit-loving passerine bird after they managed to capture and examine a female. The spectacled flowerpecker is not closely related to any of the known flowerpecker species. It also feeds on mistletoe berries, which is a characteristic trait of the family, according to researcher Dr. Christopher Milensky and Dr. Jacob Saucier from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

[Pictured: Similar, Dicaeum erythrorhynchos]

Dravidogecko lizard (D. septentrionalis)

- Scientific name: Dravidogecko septentrionalis
- Described in: 2019

The Dravidgecko lizards are small-sized and found only in the Western Ghats of India. The first one was discovered in 1875, and it was believed to be the only one of its kind until 144 years later herpetologist R. Chaitanya found six new species of the lizard. It's thought that the lizards came to India 58 million years ago through island-hopping when India was not attached to Asia. “At different points in our planet’s history, the sea levels have been quite low. The species could just have island-hopped their way to the floating Indian peninsula,” said the scientist, according to news reports.

[Pictured, Similar, Hemidactylus leschenaultii]

Grouper (E. fuscomarginatus)

- Scientific name: Epinephelus fuscomarginatus
- Described in: 2019

The discovery of this species of fish turned into a chase for the discoverer Jeff Johnson, an ichthyologist with Australia’s Queensland Museum, when he had to retrieve it from a fish market before it could become someone’s dinner. The scientist had seen pictures of the grouper but could never examine a live specimen. In 2017, he was sent another photo of the fish by a fisherman, and this time he made sure he got a specimen by tracking the fish to a market in Brisbane. After careful genetic testing by a team, the fish was ultimately described as new to science.

[Pictured: Similar, Epinephelus corallicola]

Dragonfly (G. vargasi)

- Scientific name: Gynacantha vargasi
- Described in: 2019

This beautiful newly discovered dragonfly was found in the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica. It is part of a genus that has almost 100 other species of dragonflies found throughout the tropics and subtropics of the New World, Africa, Asia, and the western Pacific. It was named in honor of Costa Rican naturalist Ronald Vargas Castro.

[Pictured: Similar, Gynacantha dorhni]

Asian jumping spider (M. sachintendulkar)

- Scientific name: Marengo sachintendulkar
- Described in: 2019

One researcher in India is such a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar, the cricketing legend that he named a recently discovered species of jumping spider after him. The spider was discovered in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat. Researcher Dhruv Prajapati collected the specimen in 2015, and the identification was completed by 2017.

[Pictured: Similar, Menemerus bivittatus]

Porcelain crab (P. socialis)

- Scientific name: Polyonyx socialis
- Described in: 2019

Polyonyx socialis, a porcelain crab, was discovered in October this year in the South China Sea of Vietnam. The species was found living symbiotically with other organisms, including another porcelain crab Polyonyx heok, “in the compact tube-like shelters built by the polychaete worm Chaetopterus sp.” The false crabs attach themselves tightly to the walls to avoid becoming an obstruction to other organisms. The researchers believe these kinds of species are more vulnerable to environmental changes like climate change because their existence depends on their host’s safety.

[Pictured: Similar, Polyonyx obesulus]

Praying mantis (V. wherleyi)

- Scientific name: Vespamantoida wherleyi
- Described in: 2019

This unusual praying mantis is the first scientifically documented example of a mantis mimicking a wasp. The species was discovered near the Amazon River in Peru and showed a body color, body structure, and movement that was very similar to a wasp, according to its discoverer Dr. Gavin Svenson of Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Svenson adds that this kind of mimicry was done to avoid predators that think twice before attacking wasps, which could pose more significant threats than mantises.

[Pictured: Similar, praying mantis]

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