We live in a vast world, one that seems to get bigger and bigger the more we traverse it. Each year, researchers and curious minds exploring the globe happen across species of animals that we didn’t know existed the year prior. These incredible creatures were among those newly found throughout 2016.
Let us quickly welcome four new members to the Gasteruption genus and then quietly back away, never to see them again. Bicoloratum, huangshii, pannuceum, and shengi are new species of parasitoid wasps discovered by entomologist Jiang-Li Tan, who distinguished each new species by looking at the shape of the head and legs, skin pattern, color, and ovipositor length. Bicoloratum was discovered with typically shorter ovipositors while huangshii was found to have an ovipositor 1.2 times the length of the wasp’s body. Shengi was found to be the largest of the four new species while pannuceum was noted for the wrinkled sheath that covered its mid-body. Like all parasitoid wasps, the new species are believed to bear parasitic larvae that control, and eventually kill, their host.
Slinking around the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia is the Kankuamo marquezi, a newly discovered tarantula named after Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A team of researchers, led by University of the Republic entomologist, Carlos Perafan, determined they had stumbled upon a new genus and species when they noticed that the tarantula’s urticating hair differed from others of its kind. Where most tarantulas are known to eject their hairs at attackers, the marquezi was found to employ the mechanism through direct contact.
Mother Nature is a weird, weird thing. Case in point, the barreleye fish, which was discovered back in 1939. In mid-2016, however, the family was introduced to two new members. Though sharing similar qualities, the two new species were distinguished from one another thanks to pigment patterns found on the sole of the fish. A part of the Opisthoproctidae family, barreleye fish are commonly known for their bioluminescent qualities which emanate from an internal organ and controlled by the sole. Large, thin scales cover the specimen’s sole and increase in pigmentation. The gradual change serves as a sort of reflector that regulates the emission of light.
Using 3D-imaging and micro-CT technology, Evan Economo, head of the Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, and fellow researchers, Eli Sarnat and George Fischer, discovered a new species of ant that they liken to the dragon Drogon in Game of Thrones. The spiny little creature is found in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea and comes equipped with its own defense mechanisms. The spines covering its body offer a level of protection while muscle fibers found within indicate that the drogon may be stronger than its non-spiny counterparts.
Nestled in the rain forests of Singapore lives a species of ant unique to the Malay Peninsula. While digging through a sampling of leaves, ecologist Mark Wong came across the spiny little ant, which bears visually exceptional, wrinkled skin that has a striking resemblance to a fingerprint. M. magnificens measured about .18 inches or roughly 4.5 millimeters long and is one of the first of its genus to be decorated in front-facing spines. Why the tiny ant is covered in grooved skin hasn’t been determined, though Wong speculates it may capture pheromones or keep the ant from drying out. At the time of the discovery, Wong had only collected 5 specimens, making it difficult to determine its lifestyle with others of its kind.
Depending on where you grew up, you may have memories of spotting a lanky daddy longleg meandering peacefully along your walls, causing you no distress. Had it been the newly discovered Cryptomaster behemoth, chances are your reaction would have been a bit different. A member of the daddy longlegs order, this behemoth is not the long-legged pill we’ve grown to live alongside amicably. At .15 inches or roughly 4 millimeters wide, it may not be as large as many spiders we come across, but its bulbous body does dwarf other daddy longlegs and harvestmen in the laniatores suborder of the opiliones order. The behemoth was discovered by an expedition led by San Diego State University entomologist, James Starrett, in the woods of Southwest Oregon.
Joining the ranks of the many venomous serpents found throughout the world is the newly discovered Talamancan palm-pitviper. Found in the dense forests of Costa Rica, this unknown species was once believed to be a relative of the black-speckled palm-pitviper. It wasn’t until Christopher Parkinson, a University of Central Florida biologist, performed genetic testing was it determined that they were looking at two different species of viper. The slithery discovery gets its name from the region it’s indigenous to, the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range that sits between Costa Rica and Panama. The palm-pitviper is known to have a neurotoxic venom, though whether or not the Talamancan species share the same nigroviriditoxin as the black-speckled pitviper remains unknown.
As if centipedes weren’t creepy enough, the newly discovered Scolopendridae gives us pause before taking a dip in Southeast Asian waters. Back in 2001, George Beccaloni of the Natural History Museum in London, discovered an unusual centipede that hid underwater rather than in the thick of the forest when spooked. The species was similar to one discovered in 1928 in Vietnam, which was categorized as a common centipede and held in the National History Museum. In 2016, the truth behind this curious creature was finally revealed, leading to the discovery of the very first amphibious centipede. Until the discovery, centipedes were known for living in dryer habitats, and though it may differ in its ability to swim, the newly found cataracta packs the same nasty bite as other centipedes.
Graciliella Kosovaci and Ozimeci
When you go scouring the deepest, darkest holes of Earth, you’re bound to find something new and unique. Cave biologist at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, Iva Njunjic, headed a study that led to the discovery of this spindly-legged, spider-like beetle. Unlike its above-ground brethren, this creepy crawly has no eyes, no distinct color, and no wings, characteristics that are compensated for with its long legs and antennae. Originally attributed to the Anthroherpon genus, the new species was actually found to differ slightly and, therefore, was placed in a new genus, Graciliella. There are currently at least four species of the new genus, with kosovaci and Ozimeci being the latest discoveries to be added to it.
During surveys of amphibian wildlife in the southwestern region of India, independent researcher, Ramit Singal, and doctoral student at the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Science, Kadaba Shamanna Seshadri, discovered a new member of the Microhylidae family, the laterite narrow-mouthed frog. Found in Karnataka, India, the frog grows to only .7 inches or roughly 16 millimeters long and shares similarities to other smaller species in the region. Unlike past discoveries of amphibians in the area, the new laterite frog was found in a section the local government considers to be a wasteland due to quarrying, overgrazing, and dumping. The tiny laterite is characterized by smooth skin and a pale brown color with black markings on its feet, hands, and dorsum.