Flat-faced frogfish, 'killer' sponge among new species


Posted at May 24 2010 08:53 PM | Updated as of May 25 2010 04:53 AM

SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters Life!) - A flat-faced frogfish with a psychedelic pattern and a "killer" carnivorous sponge are among the top 10 new species discovered in 2009, according to a committee of international scientists.

The list of newly described or named species is compiled every year by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of taxonomists -- scientists responsible for species exploration and classification.

Also in the top 10 were a freshwater minnow with fangs found in Myanmar, the first new golden orb spider found since 1879, a deep-sea worm that releases green luminescent "bombs" when threatened, and a sea slug that eats insects found in Pak Phanang Bay in the Gulf of Thailand.

Rounding out the top 10 list were a banded knifefish, a charismatic plant that produces insect-trapping pitchers the size of an American football, a two-inch mushroom, and an edible yam found in Madagascar that has multiple lobes instead of just one.

Quentin Wheeler, director of the International Institute for Species Exploration, said this annual list helped draw attention to biodiversity and the field of taxonomy.

"It helps us draw attention... to the importance of natural history museums and botanical gardens, in a fun-filled way by making the selection of the top 10 new species from the thousands described in the previous calendar year," he said in a statement.

"Charting the species of the world and their unique attributes are essential parts of understanding the history of life. It is in our own self-interest as we face the challenges of living on a rapidly changing planet."

The top 10 new species of 2009, chosen from thousands of species found across the globe last year, came from Africa, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, the United States and Uruguay.

Wheeler said the annual list commemorated the anniversary of the birth of Carolus Linnaeus, who initiated the modern system of plant and animal names and classifications.

Since Linnaeus initiated the modern system for naming plants and animals in the 18th century, an estimated 1.8 million species have been named, described and classified. Scientists estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth, though most set the number closer to 10 million.

With the annual list, the taxonomists also released a report called the State of Observed Species on human knowledge of the earth's species ranging from plants, to animals, microbes, algae and fungi.

They said 18,225 living species new to science were described in 2008, the most recent year with complete data of which the majority were insects (48.25 percent), vascular plants (11.41 percent) and fungi (7.37 percent) with arachnids coming in a close fourth (7.24 percent).

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy