The tree of life has grown in 2022. California Academy of Sciences researchers and their international collaborators alone have discovered 146 new species of animals, plants and fungi.
The previously unknown creatures and plants have been found all over the world, including the mountains of California, the Queensland state of Australia, the rocky peaks of Brazil and the coral reefs of the Maldives. Scientists have made discoveries on six continents and three oceans.
The new species include 44 lizards, 30 ants, 14 flowering plants, 13 starfish, seven fish, four sharks, three moths, two spiders and a frog.
Researcher Aaron Bauer’s work at the Academy has helped to more than double the number of known species within a group of small forest geckos (a type of colorful reptile) found in the Pacific mountains of New Caledonia. The 28 new bavayia geckos that live on dozens of islands in the South Pacific have similar brown and white markings.
“Almost every mountain in New Caledonia is each home to a unique species of the bavayia family, and these habitats share many of the same conditions,” said Bauer. “The result is multiple species that are often almost indistinguishable from one another.”
Meanwhile, San Francisco high school students Harper Forbes and Prakrit Jain worked with Lauren Esposito, curator of archeology at the California Academy of Sciences, to discover two new species of scorpions. Students viewed images of the unidentified species on the iNaturalist online platform and did fieldwork to find the tiny scorpions, which live in dry lake beds in southern and central California.
While one of the scorpions, Paruroctonus Soda, lives in territory protected by the federal government, the other, Paruroctonus conclusus, lives in a narrow strip of almost 2 km long that has no protection.
“The entire species could be destroyed by the construction of a single solar farm, mine or housing project,” Forbes said in a statement. “Mapping the biodiversity of a given area can help defend that land.”
For Shannon Bennett, virologist and chief of science at the California Academy of Sciences, researching new species is critical to identifying the ecosystems most in need of protection.
In fact, conservation was one of the key themes at the 2022 UN Conference on Biodiversity, held December 7-19 in Montreal, Canada.
“As we have seen over the past two weeks at the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity, the science of biodiversity is at the forefront of global conservation action and is critical to unifying nations and equipping them with the tools and information needed to reverse extinction rates. of species by 2030”, declared the scientist.
“By discovering and documenting new species, we can contribute to this landmark goal and ensure that our natural world remains rich and diverse for generations to come.”
Found in the mountains
Julie Kierstead, another researcher associated with the Academy, chanced upon a new species of onion during a helicopter trip over California’s Klamath Mountains in 2015. When the helicopter landed on the Minnesota mountain for about 30 minutes, Kierstead spotted an allium unidentified flower. Allium is from the plant family that includes onions, shallots and garlic.
Since then, another sample of the Minnesota mountain onion has been discovered on the nearby mountain called Salt Creek. Both peaks receive more rainfall than others in the region, which has allowed the onion to flourish.
Thousands of kilometers away, Brazilian researcher Ricardo Pacifico and Frank Almeda, curator emeritus of botany at the California Academy of Sciences, identified new flowering plants in the isolated peaks of campo rupestre, an ecosystem that is part of the Brazilian Cerrado.
The mountainous region’s harsh conditions, which include extreme temperatures, strong winds and nutrient-leached soils, have meant that plant life has adapted – and surprisingly thrived in such an arid environment.
Pacifico and Almeda found 13 new flower species while researching parts of the ecosystem that botanists had never explored before.
“The bushes on the summit were less than half a meter high,” said Pacifico. “It was like walking through a garden.”
The newly discovered flowering plants live in very specific conditions and could disappear due to environmental changes driven by the climate crisis, the scientists said.
under the waves
One of the seven new fish discovered this year was the pink-veiled wrasse, which lives in the “twilight zone” of the Indian Ocean.
Known by the scientific name Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, the colorful fish has been found at depths ranging from 40 to 70 meters in the ocean in the Maldives.
Reefs in the “twilight zone” can lie between 50 and 150 meters below the ocean’s surface and provide a unique environment for fish such as wrasses.
The male pink-veiled fairy wrasse exhibits an impressive array of colors as an adult. Credit: Yi-Kai Tea
The name pays homage to the striking pink hues of the fish, as well as the pink rose, the national flower of the Maldives. “Finifenmaa” means rose in the local Dhivehi language.
Hundreds of species thrive in the waters near and around the archipelago, but the fairy wrasse is the first fish described by a Maldivian scientist, Ahmed Najeeb.
“It was always foreign scientists who described species found in the Maldives, without much involvement from local scientists, and even when it came to species endemic to the Maldives,” recalled Najeeb, a biologist at the Maldives Marine Research Institute, when he announced the discovery in March.
“This time was different, and getting to be a part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially when we have the opportunity to work alongside renowned ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species.”
Source: CNN Brasil
Charles Grill is a tech-savvy writer with over 3 years of experience in the field. He writes on a variety of technology-related topics and has a strong focus on the latest advancements in the industry. He is connected with several online news websites and is currently contributing to a technology-focused platform.