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Biodiversity Boom in 2016: 133 New Species From the California Academy of Sciences

Dec 23, 2016 04:54 AM EST
 133 new species described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2016
In 2016, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences added new plant and animal species to our family tree. The new species include one bee fly, 43 ants, 36 beetles, one sand wasp, four spiders, six plants, 23 fishes, one eel, one shark, seven nudibranchs, five fossil urchins (and one fossil sand dollar), one coral, one skate, one African lizard, and an alarming new bird virus. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The California Academy of Sciences has described 133 new plant and animal species, including one bee fly, 43 ants, 36 beetles, one sand wasp, four spiders, six plants, 23 fishes, one eel, one shark, seven nudibranchs, five fossil urchins (and one fossil sand dollar), one coral, one skate, and one African lizard. Over a dozen Academy scientists and international collaborators collaborated on the endeavor that would aid the environmental community's conservation efforts.

"Biodiversity scientists estimate that we have discovered less than 10% of the species on our planet," shared Dr. Shannon Bennett, Academy Chief of Science. "Academy scientists tirelessly explore the lesser-known regions of Earth, not only to discover new species, but also to uncover the importance of these species to the health of our natural systems. Each of these species, known and as-yet-unknown, is a wonder unto itself but may also hold the key to ground-breaking innovations in science, technology, or society. Species live together in rich networks that thrive on complexity whether we can see it or not. Even the tiniest organism," she added, "can be beautiful and important."

The Grammatonotus brianne, a pink-and-yellow species of groppo, was discovered 487 feet from the ocean's surface. The eye-popping neon groppo was found by deep-diving Academy ichthyologist Dr. Luiz Rocha and Bishop Museum research associate Brian Greene in the Philippine Verde Island Passage, popularly known as the "center of the center" of Earth's marine biodiversity.

In the mountains of southwestern China and rainforests of Madagascar, Academy emeritus curator of entomology Dr. Dave Kavanaugh had gone on over a dozen combined expeditions to compile information on 36 new species of beetles. Ground beetles are sturdy predators that could thrive in extreme conditions and added a considerable number to 2016's list of new species.

Octocoral expert and Academy curator of invertebrate zoology Gary Williams discovered a single, whip-like stalk of a snow-white coral that fed on microscopic plankton floating through the water column. The new species, Swiftia farallonesica, made a solitary contrast to hard coral relatives that were grouped together near the ocean's surface.

"Discovery is always an exciting thing," said Williams. "It's crucial to continue exploring the unknown so we can properly manage and protect these priceless marine ecosystems in our own backyard."

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