by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation
The International Institute for Species Exploration and an international team of taxonomists (the people who classify organisms) just released their list of the top ten new species discovered in 2009 and boy oh boy, it’s a doozy!
The winners this year include the Green bomber worm (Swima bombiviridis) who can shed its bioluminescent green gills, the Aiteng sea slug (Aiteng ater), who is now the head of a whole new family of insect-eating sea slugs (sea slugs and insects in one animal description — I love it), and Omar’s banded knifefish (Gymnotus omarorum), a fish that scientists already knew about, but didn’t know they had misidentified as another type of banded knifefish.
I think my favorite for this year has to be the killer sponge, Chondrocladia tubiformes. That’s right, I said “killer.” Well, technically it’s just carnivorous, but that’s still pretty terrifying. What’s so cool is that 20 years ago scientists didn’t know there were carnivorous sponges, and now they’re popping up everywhere. And, fossil evidence indicates that organisms similar to these carnivorous sponges may have been around as far back as the Jurassic period!
To date, scientists estimate that almost 2 million species have been identified, but there are probably anywhere from 10-15 million species of animals and plants in the world. In 2008, 18,225 new species of animals, plants, algae, fungi and microbes were found, so there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Interested in the top species discovered in 2008? Check out last year’s list here. My favorite is definitely a tie between the World’s Longest Insect and the bacteria that lives in hairspray. I guess we should just be happy that the world’s longest insect doesn’t live in hairspray – that could make up-dos a little more awkward…