I did this last year and I think maybe I’ll make it a tradition: a year-end linkdump about new species described or discovered in the previous twelve months.
First, the International Institute for Species Exploration comes up with a top ten list of new species for every year. From what I can see, they’ve recently changed from announcing these in April to announcing them at the end of December, so here are links to both 2010’s top species and 2011’s. I particularly like how they strive to include invertebrates and the occasional non-animal (viz. the underwater fungus from 2011) and some details about the significance of each species.
Next a pair of articles about a woman who conducted a thirty-year study of the wildlife in her garden, and discovered several new species in the process (there are discrepancies between these two reports as to the number). More importantly, the study is also a testament to the diversity and resilience of urban wildlife – and of the people who care about it. Apparently a book about the project is now available.
This article basically sums up everything that I should include in this post, so I’ll just be lazy and link to it.
Earlier this year, PLoS Biology published a new estimate of the total number of eukaryotic (non-bacterial) species on earth. The new number, 8.7 million, is lower than many other estimates and was calculated using a novel method. Here’s one of the many popular media articles about these findings which includes some gratuitous pictures of relatively recently described species. The PLoS Biology editorial about this paper is also worth a read. When I get some time (read: when I decide to get off the couch), I might tinker with these new numbers to see how they affect another paper’s estimates of how much it would cost to describe all animal species. Update: this recalculation is already done, buried in the discussion – the grand total is now $364 billion.
Odds and ends: a myriad of new species from the Mekong, with some pretty pictures; many new French Polynesian plants; a new plant genus from Amazonia (I like this article for its perspective on how luck-based species discovery is); some charismatic and weird-looking sharks.
In somewhat related news, botanists no longer have to include a Latin description when they describe a new species. (Scientific names, of course, are still in Latin.) Zoologists abandoned Latin descriptions a while ago. My favourite quote from the article:
It’s premature to talk about the death of Latin. Plant names will still be in Latin, and scientists can still use Latin for the description if they choose, though no one expects that many people will.
I am actually a bit confused about this link because I’ve read plant species descriptions that didn’t include a Latin description, and I vaguely remember checking at some point last year whether it was still a requirement and finding that it was not.