Top Ten ‘New’ Species for 2012
Meet the sneezing monkey, the SpongeBob SquarePants mushroom, the walking cactus, and the devil’s worm. While they’re hardly “new” species (they’ve all been around a lot longer than we humans!), they’re certainly newly discovered, and all part of the annual Top Ten list of fascinating new finds in the animal and plant world.
Scientists have so far discovered nearly 2 million species, but there are probably at very least 8 million species living on Earth, and the number could even be as high as 100 million. (Scientists generally guesstimate around 12 million.) Every year, 15,000 to 20,000 new discoveries are added to our records.
On this year’s list:
Sneezing monkeys tend to sneeze whenever it rains. That’s because they have an
upturned nose that presumably gets tickled by rain. People in Myanmar, where the
species was discovered, say they tend to sit with their head between their knees on rainy days.
The “wandering leg sausage” is a giant millipede (about the length of a sausage),
found in Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains.
The “walking cactus” has a wormlike body and multiple pairs of legs, and belongs
to a group that was thought to be extinct.
The night stalker is the rarest of orchids – the only one known to bloom at night. They
live in new Guinea and their flowers open at around 10 o’clock each evening.
The purpose of the annual Top Ten list is a serious one – helping to draw attention to the fact that these animals and plants are going extinct faster than we can even find and identify them
“The top 10 is intended to bring attention to the biodiversity crisis and unsung species explorers and museums who continue a 250-year tradition of discovering and describing the millions of kinds of plants, animals and microbes with whom we share this planet,” said entomologist Quentin Wheeler, who directs the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.