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The cockroach above, called Lucihormetica luckae, was discovered in Ecuador. (Peter Vrsansky and Kim Tailor)

Shimmering Insects & Funky Monkeys

Check out the Top 10 new species of the year

By Sara Goudarzi | June 6 , 2013
<p>The glow-in-the-dark cockroach is just one of many species that may have disappeared forever. (Peter Vrsansky, Slovak Academy of Sciences)</p>

The glow-in-the-dark cockroach is just one of many species that may have disappeared forever. (Peter Vrsansky, Slovak Academy of Sciences)

A snail-eating snake from Panama and a glow-in-the-dark cockroach from Ecuador—these are just two of the newly discovered animal and plant species that show us that Mother Nature is still full of hidden treasures. The critters are among the top-10 new species discovered in 2012.

The list, compiled for the sixth year by the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) at Arizona State University (ASU), was announced on May 23. This also happens to be the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th-century botanist who developed the modern system for naming and classifying species.

MAKING THE LIST

Other species on the list include a harp-shaped carnivorous (meat-eating) sponge found deep in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California and a fungus that’s jeopardizing prehistoric art on the walls of Lascaux Cave in France. A monkey with humanlike eyes and a brilliant-blue bottom, a tiny frog considered the world’s smallest vertebrate, or animal with a backbone, and a minuscule violet from Peru were included as well.

Members of the selection committee picked their top 10 from 140 nominated species named last year. “We look for organisms with unexpected features or size and those found in rare or difficult to reach habitats,” says Antonio Valdecasas of Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain.

RACE AGAINST TIME

Scientists estimate there are 10 million to 12 million species living on our planet. So far they’ve identified 2 million.

Currently, researchers discover about 18,000 new species each year. But nature is experiencing a biodiversity crisis. Biodiversity refers to the wide variety of life-forms that exist on our planet. In the current biodiversity crisis, more and more animal species are beginning to disappear. In fact, the glow-in-the-dark cockroach, called Lucihormetica luckae, may have already vanished forever as a result of a volcanic eruption.

Climate change and habitat (animal home) loss have heavily contributed to the crisis. Researchers are working hard to find new species at an even faster rate, in the hopes of saving them.

“We are calling for a [far-reaching] NASA-like mission to discover 10 million species in the next 50 years,” says Quentin Wheeler of the IISE. “This would lead to discovering countless options for a more sustainable future.”

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