More than 250 years ago, the father of modern taxonomy Carl Linnaeus earned this title by creating the species naming system that scientists still use today. He set out to name every plant and animal on Earth, and he made a respectable dent, describing about 10,000 species in his lifetime.
But Linnaeus had no idea what he was getting into.
On average, about 18,000 news species get discovered every year, and this year is no exception. In celebration of the remarkable diversity of life found on Earth and of Linnaeus himself, the International Institute for Species Exploration at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry released a list today of the top 10 species discovered in the past year. The release is timed with Linnaeus's birthday, which is coming up on Friday, May 23.
"This is poetic justice to Linnaeus, who started all of this," Dr. Quentin Wheeler, president of SUNY-ESF, said in an interview. "He could not have imagined that there were more than a million species, much less over 10 million."
Over 2 million species are currently known to science, but estimates put the number of species yet to be discovered at a whopping 10 million. For Wheeler, making sure that these millions of species do not remain unknown forever is a race against time, but one well worth running. With species going extinct at an unprecedented rate, he urges everyone to appreciate the Earth's amazing creatures while they are still here.
"Future generations will look back and wonder, 'What were those people thinking? All they had to do was step outside and they could discover all of these things, but instead they were standing in a laboratory,' " says Wheeler.
So, without further ado, here are some of the most amazing creatures that people found this past year when they stepped outside.