Isn’t it amazing that centuries of human exploration still haven’t come even close to discovering all of the life that exists on this planet? Treks into undisturbed jungles and unfathomably deep reaches of the sea have brought to life a curious cadre of new-to-us species in recent months from a long-nosed tree frog to a fish that walks on its ‘hands’. We even unearthed a new relative that might put us one step closer to solving the mystery of human evolution.
Pinocchio Tree Frog
(image via: conservation.org)
No lie: this new long-nosed tree frog was nicknamed Pinocchio by scientists when it leapt into the campsite of researchers studying new species in the previously untouched Foja Mountains of western New Guinea. Also discovered on this trip were a giant wooly rat, the smallest kangaroo ever and a gargoyle-like gecko with yellow eyes.
World’s Tiniest Seahorse
(image via: guardian)
What is it about tiny creatures that makes us squeal in delight? Seahorses get cuter than ever with the discovery of the Hippocampus satomiae, which is smaller than the average pinkie nail. Named for Satomi Onishi, the diving guide who collected the first specimen from a reef in Indonesia, this species carries its teeny-tiny 3mm young in its pouch.
(image via: sci-tech-news)
Sea slugs are exclusively vegetarian, dining on the rich buffet of algae that’s plentiful in virtually every body of water – at least, that’s what scientists thought before they discovered the Aiteng Sea Slug, which has decidedly carnivorous tastes. Found in a muddy mangrove forest in the Gulf of Thailand, this slithery little critter is the head of a whole new family of bug-eating slugs.
Killer Sea Sponge
(image via: the atavism)
They night not have eyes, stomachs, or a nervous system, but sea sponges are still animals, and though most of them float placidly along, absorbing bacteria and algae from the water, this one’s a killer: it’ carnivorous. Chondrocladia turbiformis, which resembles a mushroom, uses a strange balloon-like structure to capture its prey. It may be new to us, but this sea sponge has probably been hiding in the depths of the oceans for at least 150 million years â€“ unusually shaped ‘spicules’ found on the sponge have been noted in marine sediments from the Jurassic period.
Fish that Walk on Their Hands
(image via: andrew maver/science daily)
You might call handfish lazy, but maybe they just like the feel of sand under their hands. That’s right – hands. Instead of swimming, handfish scuttle along the sea floor on fins shaped like hands. Nine new species of this unusual fish have recently been found off the coast of Australia, including the “Pink Handfish” and “Zeibell’s Handfish”, but they may not be around for long. Handfish are extremely vulnerable to environmental changes like water temperature and pollution, so they’re disappearing fast.
(image via: pierre de wit/science daily)
For a lowly worm, the Grania sure does get around. Four new species of this marine-sand-dwelling annelid worm were discovered in March 2010 at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and also discovered a previously unknown but related Grania all the way in Scandinavia. “Species that were previously regarded as the same may prove to have a completely different function in the ecosystem, and have different tolerance of environmental toxins, for example. It is obviously important to know this in order to be able to take the right action to protect our fauna,” says scientist Pierre De Wit of Gothenburg University.
Bioluminescent Green Bomber
(image via: livescience)
We humans may have found a way to produce light where there was none, but some sea creatures have been doing it on their own for millennia. As if bioluminescent marine life weren’t fascinating enough already, there are new finds like the swima bombividiris variety of the green bomber, a deep sea worm that releases bright green glowing “bombs” to distract hungry fish who come too close.
Tim Burton Seaweed
(image via: cbc.ca)
When researcher Bridgette Clarkston found a bright red, unusual looking seaweed, the first thing she thought of was director Tim Burton and the colorful worlds he creates in his films. As it turned out, the seaweed was previously unidentified and in need of a name, so Clarkston could think of nothing more fitting than “Euthora timburtoni“.
Antarctic Animals that Look Like Plants
(images via: discovery)
The line between plants and animals seems to be getting finer all the time, with two new Antarctic species that look like undersea greenery but are actually marine invertebrates. Discovered in the Eastern Weddell Sea, Tauroprimnoa austasensis (A) and Digitogorgia kuekenthali (B) are brand new (to us) examples of rare organisms known as sea whips or sea fans. What makes them even more unusual is the fact that such creatures are usually found in the tropics, not in frigid polar waters.
(image via: conservation.org)
It may not be strange looking or terribly unusual, but who can resist the cuteness of a fuzzy little mouse that climbs trees? Pogonomys sp. nov. was discovered by the same researchers who found the ‘Pinocchio’ long-nosed tree frog in a remote area of New Guinea.
New Tree-Swinging Human Ancestor
(image via: discovery)
A new species of tree-swinging, three-foot-tall humans was discovered in South Africa in May 2010 with the unearthed remains of Homo gautengensis. This species had big teeth for chomping on plants and probably hung out in the trees a lot to escape predators. It emerged over 2 million years ago and died out about 600,000 years ago. Homo gautengensis puts in doubt the theory that an April 2010 species discovery, Australopithecus sediba, could be the missing link between apes and humans, since the two species existed during about the same time in roughly the same area of Africa and Australopithecus sediba is the more primitive of the two.