2012’s Noteworthy Species
Researchers described roughly 15,000 to 18,000 new species in 2012, making choosing the most noteworthy a monstrous task. “[It’s] worse than asking me which of my children is my favorite,” quipped Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist at Arizona State University, in an email to The Scientist. Wheeler and his colleagues at the International Institute for Species Exploration will eventually publish a top ten list of this year’s new species, but the ranking criteria “are as diverse as the species themselves,” he said.
Some of this year’s new species were encountered by researchers deep in the field. Others were recognized from museum specimens—long after the “new” species themselves had gone extinct, noted Benoît Fontaine, a conservation biologist at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Even so, cataloging new species is an important task, said Fontaine. “We know only small part of extant biodiversity,” he noted. “It’s the tip of iceberg.”
In celebration of biodiversity, here a few of 2012’s most exciting new species, and a fond farewell to a few more.