Scientists identify thousands of new plants, animals, microbes, fungus and the like every year. And a center here in Syracuse keeps track. The science of taxonomy is being celebrated today with the Top 10 List of new species by the International Institute for Species Exploration.
“Large organisms turn up that we didn’t know were there. This year we have a tree, this huge organism that’s very beautiful and obvious and yet escaped our attention until now.”
SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry President Doctor Quentin Wheeler says you’re not even close if you think scientists have identified most of the species of plants and animals on earth.
“We’ve named nearly 2 million species, that sound like a lot. But we estimated there are another 8 to 10 million species awaiting discovery. So it’s not surprising, on average we discover and name about 18,000 new species every year.”
That big tree Wheeler is talking about, the Dragon Tree found in Thailand, is on the Top Ten list of new species for 2014 released by the International Institute for Species Exploration that’s housed at SUNY E-S-F. Some of the others on the list are a transparent shrimp, a teddy-bear type relative of raccoons from Ecuador, and Sea Anemones that live under the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
2014 TOP 10 NEW SPECIES (PICTURES IN SLIDE SHOW ABOVE):
- Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)
- Kaweesak's Dragon Tree (Dracaena kaweesakii)
- ANDRILL Anemone (Edwardsiella andrillae)
- Skeleton Shrimp (Liropus minusculus)
- Orange Penicillium (Penicillium vanoranjei)
- Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuarius eximius)
- Amoeboid Protist (Spiculosiphon oceana)
- Clean Room Microbes (Tersicoccus phoenicis)
- Tinkerbell Fairyfly (Tinkerbella nana)
- Domed Land Snail (Zospeum tholussum)
Wheeler says there are very practical reasons to identify plants and animals… to steal their secrets.
“Velcro that we use almost every day was inspired by the shape of certain plant structures that allow them to adhere to other structures, little hooks on the end of them.”
He also notes a robot that climbs walls borrows from geckos' feet. But on a larger scale, each new discovery paints a clearer picture of earth and its ecosystems.
“I look at this as a large jigsaw puzzle and each species is one piece of this puzzle. Every one of brings us a step closer to seeing the picture of evolution at large. And the other thing that we sometimes learn, is that the ways plants and animals have adapted teach us important lessons we can find more sustainable ways of meting our own needs.”
The entire list, with pictures, descriptions and habitat maps, is at www.ESF.edu.