New species discovered in 2013 include a transparent snail, a 40-foot tree that has remained hidden in plain sight, and one adorable, meat-eating mammal. Trapped in the glacial ice of Antarctica, biologists also recently uncovered strange sea anemones, never before seen.
Scientists at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry have named the "top" 10 list of species discovered last year through the ESF's International Institute for Species Exploration.
During the course of 2013, more than 18,000 new species were identified by scientists. A group of taxonomists and other animal experts joined together to pour through this wealth of new species, to choose the 10 most interesting.
"One of the most inspiring facts about the top 10 species of 2014 is that not all of the 'big' species are already known or documented. One species of mammal and one tree species confirm that the species waiting to be discovered are not only on the microscopic scale," Antonio Valdecasas, chairperson of the selection committee, said.
A new carnivore, the olinguito, resembles a cross between a koala bear and a cat. This sleek mammal makes its home in the Andes mountains of Ecuador and Colombia. This tree-loving carnivore is related to racoons, and weighs less than five pounds when fully grown. This was the first new mammal discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.
The Kaweesak's Dragon Tree was found in Thailand, where they grow up to 40 feet tall. The species has long, soft, sword-like leaves, bordered in white. It also sprouts cream-colored flowers and orange filaments. There may be fewer than 2,500 of these trees in the world, and they grow on limestone deposits, which are being mined for concrete. These trees have already earned a preliminary rating as an endangered species.
Other animals considered among the most interesting new animals of the year include a member of the parasitoid wasp family, a tiny fairyfly called Tinkerbell, along with a tiny see-through skeleton shrimp, found off California's Santa Catalina Island.
The future of space travel could be endangered by a previously unknown microbe, and a newly discovered oxygen-breathing microbe that is able to mimic a sponge.
A bright orange fungus discovered in Australia made the final list, as did a new species of gecko from Down Under. That animal possesses a remarkable ability to camouflage itself when in danger.
In Croatia, the transparent snail Zospeum tholussum was found, living in one of the deepest cave systems in the world.
The announcement of the Top 10 list was made May 22, in honor of the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, who was born May 23, 1707.
There are approximately 2 million species identified, so far, by biologists. Most estimates say around 10 million species remain to be identified. The SUNY Top 10 list has been an annual event since 2008.