Earth is a vast planet, massive to a degree that we may not quite comprehend yet. From an article published by National Geographic, humans have only discovered 15% of the species alive on our planet. The installment that follows will cover ten of those newly discovered species, gems that Mother Nature, up until recently, was able to hide from our prying eyes.
How about a little horror story to finish this list off with? Enter the Ampulex Dementor. If you’re catching a “Harry Potter” vibe in the name, you’re right on the money, as the newly discovered wasp was named after the soul-stealing dark figures in J.K. Rowlings world of wizards. The Ampulex Dementor is no threat to humans, but may fortell of what Mother Nature could have in store for us. The newly discovered wasp, discovered during the Thailand Inventory Group of Entomological Research project, has a venom that turns cockroaches into willing participants of their own demise. The digger wasp, which resembles more of an ant than a wasp, injects venom into the cockroach which blocks receptors of octopamine, the neurotransmitter that initiates spontaneous movement. Though the roach can still move, the wasp directs it where to go by dragging its prey to what will definitely be an unpleasant death. The roach is then eaten, either by the wasp itself or newly born larvae.
There is much about the Limnonectes larvaepartus that separates it from other frog species, but its most striking feature is how it handles fertilization. The frog, local to Sulawesi Indonesia, gives birth to tadpoles, but does so in quite the unique fashion. This species of fanged Dicroglossidae gives live birth to tadpoles rather than froglets, as other species are known to do. More-so unique than the means of how this amphibian gives birth is how a female frog is inseminated, as the male larvaepartus lacks the proper and usual organs used in this process. The amphibian is quite tiny, with male sizes averaging at 1.5 inches or 3.8 centimeters and females averaging around a slightly larger 1.6 inches or 4 centimeters.
Phryganistria heusii yentuensis
Imagine you’re walking along peacefully in the jungles of Vietnam, admiring the fauna and wildlife around you when suddenly what you thought was a nearby branch starts to inch its way towards you. Screaming is definitely an acceptable response to a foot-long walking twig, so don’t feel ashamed. After you’re done screeching in terror, you can take solace in knowing that you’re not about to become victim to some camouflaged carnivore. Instead, you’ve come face to face with the world’s second-longest insect, the Phrganistria heusii yentuensis. This slow moving herbivore can reach lengths up to 1 foot or .3 meters, though it may seem closer to 2 feet with forelimbs outstretched. There’s definitely nothing to fear from these harmless critters, but it’s understandable that their size be a bit shocking at first.
Tuberochernes cohni and Hesperochernes bradybaughii
Are you terrified of scorpions? Fantastic, because these next, newly-found creepy crawlies should really help that jitteriness. Found in Northern Arizona in a cave near the Grand Canyon, the Tuberochernes and Hesperochernes were located together and immediately placed within the pseudoscorpion order. As the name would suggest, these creatures look like scorpions but are missing some very basic characteristics that their fellow arachnids have. Though the two pseudoscorpions have pincers, they do not have the signature stinger normally found on a scorpion. That doesn’t mean they’re entirely harmless, though, as these pseudoscorpions inject their prey via stingers in their pincers. Due to their existence in a lightless environment, the pair of pseudoscorpions have adapted to living without a need for vision.
For those that aren’t too familiar with what a sea anemone is, consider the most extraterrestrial-looking creature stuck at the bottom of the sea floor. They are a mess of tentacles, vibrant colors, and an eerie intention to their movements. A new addition to the great family of sea anemone was recently added, but this one doesn’t spend its time dwelling on the ocean floor. Rather, the Edwardsiella Andrillae, named after the Antarctic drilling program during which they were discovered, are found attached to the underside of ice. The 1 inch or 2.5 centimeter long anemone were found hanging upside down on the ice when researchers had lowered a camera below the ice to get an understanding on ocean currents beneath the ice shelf in Antarctica. They found more than they bargained for, stumbling across the alien sea anemone and its 20 to 24 prey-catching tentacles.
Araguaian River Dolphin
Though the Araguaian River Dolphin is fairly new to us, it’s already on the endangered species list, with only an approximate 1,000 to 5,000 individuals alive today. The Araguaian River dolphin is much like its Amazonian counterpart, equipped with different sets of teeth in their elongated beaks, though it is believed to have less teeth per hemimandible. Also like the Amazon River Dolphin, the Araguaian species has a melon-shaped forehead that it can change the shape of. According to mitochondrial DNA studies on the Amazon and Araguaian River Dolphins, it is thought that the divided species occurred over 2 million years ago, around the time when the Amazon and Araguaia-Tocantis river basins separated. In the Araguaian River, the long-beaked dolphin faces a great threat from commercial fishermen, who are known to kill dolphins for stealing fish from nets.
Moroccan Flic-Flac Spider
Aracnaphobes take note – there may be a spider that could help cure any fear you may have of these eight legged critters… or they may be far more terrifying than you could have imagined. The Moroccan Flic-Flac Spider is an intriguing entry into the world of arachnids in that instead of jumping or walking normally, it cartwheels rapidly to its destination. Sure, it moves like any other spider, creepily slinking on its 8 legs, but when speed is necessary, the Cebrennus rechenbergi launches itself into a flurry of cartwheels that moves roughly 6.5 feet or 2 meters per second, or roughly, about the speed a human will walk. As the name implies, this nocturnal spider is found in Morocco, specifically the Erg Chebbi desert. As the Flic-Flac Spider is not believed to be poisonous to humans, there may be a future in Cebrennus’ circuses or illegal underground Flic-Flac races.
The Keesingia Gigas’ sting is one jellyfish sting that even concentrated bull urine couldn’t help. Discovered in 2013 off the coast of Australia, this spectral-looking jellyfish grows up to 20 inches or 50 centimeters and packs a lethal venom that is believed to cause Irukandji Syndrome. One sting from this arm-length oceanic beast can be painful, but the nausea, vomiting, and possible death that follows are a bit more concerning. What’s peculiar about the Keesingia gigas is the complete lack of tentacles, which, for most jellyfish, is the common appendage known for dishing out the sting. While some marine experts believe the explanation is as simple as having caught gigas that have shed their tentacles, others believe the bell of the jellyfish is where the venom is introduced to its victim.
It may be difficult, but try to quell your “Aww’s” over this next adorable entry. The Etendeka is a round-eared sengi, or elephant-shrew, found in the remote regions of Namibia. The tiny critter is smaller than other known Macroscelides and is typically found with rust-colored fur and a large, hairless gland under its tail. The tiny mammal comes in at around 7.3 inches or 18 centimeters long from its tail to its cute little snout. To aid in finding food, its tongue can stick out several millimeters past its already elongated proboscis. Initially, researchers believed the Etendeka to be nothing remarkable, until a genetic test was done, showing major differences between the two. The Etendeka has avoided detection for so long due to its habitat being so arid and difficult to access. Being so cute and cuddly looking, we expect it to eventually find its way into the world of house-pets.
It’s sad to think that, over time, John Lennon may be forgotten for his musical talents, but a group of scientists from the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi in Brazil were sure to make it so his name lives on in some fashion. In life, Lennon may have been a Beatle, but post-mortem, he is a new species of Amazonian tarantula, the Bumba lennoni. The new species of Theraphosidae is quite tiny, with a body measuring in at around 1 inch or 3 centimeters long, but is otherwise unremarkable when compared to the oversized Goliath Birdeater that it is related to. When inquired about the naming, study leader Fernando Perez-Miles claimed that Lennon was chosen because he helped to make this world a more gentle place. You know, like tarantulas. Makes perfect sense.