Meet some of the new species discovered in 2022

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The tree of life grew in 2022 when researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and their international collaborators discovered 146 new animal, plant and fungal species.

The previously unknown creatures and plants have been discovered around the world, including in the mountains of California, the Australian state of Queensland, on the rocky peaks of Brazil and on the coral reefs of the Maldives. Scientists have made discoveries on six continents and in three oceans.

Among the new species were 44 lizards, 30 ants, 14 flowering plants, 13 starfish, seven fish, four sharks, three moths, two spiders and a toad.

The work of Aaron Bauer, a research associate at the Academy, has helped more than double the number of known species among a group of small forest geckos in the mountains from New Caledonia. The 28 new Bavayia geckos living on dozens of South Pacific islands bear similar brown and white markings.

“Almost every mountain in New Caledonia supports a unique species of Bavayia, and these habitats share many of the same conditions,” Bauer said. “The result is multiple species that are often almost indistinguishable from each other.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco Bay Area high schoolers Harper Forbes and Prakrit Jain worked with Lauren Esposito, curator of arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences, discover two new species of scorpions. The students saw images of the unidentified species on the iNaturalist online platform and conducted fieldwork to find the small scorpions, which live in the beds of Central’s dry lakes. and Southern California.

While one of the scorpions, Paruroctonus soda, is found on federally protected land, the other, known as Paruroctonus conclusus, lives on a narrow mile-long strip that is not protected.

“The entire species could be wiped out with the construction of a single solar farm, mine or housing estate,” Forbes said in a statement. “Mapping the biodiversity of a given area can help justify why that land should be protected.”

Research into new species is key to identifying ecosystems that most need protection, said Shannon Bennett, a virologist and chief scientist at the California Academy of Sciences.

Indeed, conservation was one of the key topics of the UN Biodiversity Conference 2022 held from December 7 to 19 in Montreal.

“As we have seen over the past two weeks at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, biodiversity science is at the forefront of global conservation action and is essential for uniting nations and equip them with the tools and information needed to reverse species extinction rates by 2030,” she said. “By discovering and documenting new species, we can contribute to this historic goal and ensure that our natural world remains rich and diverse for generations to come.”

Academy research associate Julie Kierstead accidentally discovered a new species of onion during a helicopter trip over the Klamath Mountains in California in 2015. When the helicopter landed on the mountain in Minnesota for about 30 minutes, Kierstead spotted an unidentified flowering allium, part of a plant family that includes onions, shallots and garlic.

Since then, another patch of the Minnesota Mountain Onion has been discovered on nearby Salt Creek Mountain. Both peaks receive more rainfall than others in the area, which has allowed the onion to thrive.

Thousands of miles away, Frank Almeda, curator emeritus of botany at the California Academy of Sciences, and research associate Ricardo Pacifico have identified new flowering plants on the isolated peaks of Brazil’s campo rupestre.

The mountainous region’s harsh conditions, which include extreme temperatures, high winds, and nutrient-leached soils, have caused plant life to adapt and thrive in surprising ways. in such a sterile environment.

Almeda and Pacifico found 13 new species of flowers as they studied parts of the ecosystem that botanists had never explored before.

“The shrubs at the top were less than half a meter tall,” Pacifico said. “It was like walking through a garden.”

The newly discovered flowering plants live in very specific conditions and could go extinct due to environmental changes driven by the climate crisis, the scientists said.

One of the seven new fish discovered this year was the rose-veiled napoleon, who lives in the Indian Ocean “blurred area.”

Known scientifically as Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, the colorful fish has been found at depths ranging from 131 to 229 feet (40 to 70 meters) below the ocean surface off the Maldives.

“Twilight zone” reefs can be anywhere from 160 to 500 feet (about 50 to 150 meters) below the ocean surface and provide a unique environment for fish such as fairy wrasse.

The name honors the stunning pink hues of the fish as well as the pink rose, the national flower of the Maldives. “Finifenmaa” means rose in the local Dhivehi language.

Hundreds of species thrive in the waters near and surrounding the archipelago nation, but the humphead wrasse is the first fish described by a Maldivian scientist – Ahmed Najeeb.

“It is always foreign scientists who have described the species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives,” Najeeb, a biologist at the Maldives Marine Research Institute, said in a statement when the discovery was made. announced in March.

“This time is different and being part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species.”

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