October 2, 2023

New Species Discoveries Grow Earth’s Tree of Life: From the Lowland Forests of Madagascar to Easter Island’s Coral Reefs

In 2021, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences included 70 new plant and animal species to the tree of life, enriching our understanding of Earths biodiversity and enhancing our capability to make informed conservation decisions. The new types include 14 beetles, 12 sea slugs, nine ants, 7 fish, six scorpions, five sea stars, five blooming plants, four sharks, 3 spiders, 2 sea pens, one moss, one pygmy pipehorse, and one caecilian. The discovery of this evasive species brings to light a brand-new genus of pipehorse– the very first to be reported in New Zealand considering that 1921. The types name, tupareomanaia, is Māori for “garland of the seahorse,” and represents the very first time a Māori tribe has actually been involved in naming an endemic types from the Northland area.
A. andysabini, the bigger of the two newly-described species, was previously grouped together with another species of guitarfish.

Below are highlights from the 70 new types explained by the Academy this previous year. On January 6, 2022, there will be a virtual NightSchool event celebrating the new species, including numerous of the scientists who explained them.
While most weevils are monochromatic, the newly explained Pachyrhynchus obumanuvu displays a sensational contrast of green and black. Credit: Analyn Cabras © 2021
Weevils a win for Indigenous neighborhoods
Entomology Postdoctoral Fellow Matthew Van Dam, PhD, describes Pachyrhynchus obumanuvu, a brightly colored Easter egg weevil from the forested mountaintops of the Philippines. At 3,000 feet (914 meters) above sea level, these weevils live in the canopy of the moist, moss-covered cloud forest. Unlike a lot of weevils, which tend to be a single color, P. obumanuvu boasts intricate patterns of iridescent yellows and greens. Its pigmentation simulates the traditional garments of its name, the Indigenous Obu Manuvu people.
Collaborating researcher Analyn Cabras, PhD, had extra motivations in naming this species. Cabras keeps in mind the power of a name to impart a sense of pride and stewardship for a species within a community. She highlights the value of ongoing types recognition, especially in regions faced with rapid exploitation of natural resources.
This well-camouflaged pygmy pipehorse, Cylix tupareomanaia, represents a new genus and species of pipehorse, discovered off the coast of Northland, New Zealand. Credit: Richard Smith © 2021
A new genus of pygmy pipehorse in the Pacific
To the skilled eye of Academy Research Associate Graham Short, PhD, Cylix tupareomanaia, a new species of pygmy pipehorse and close cousin to seahorses, can be found skillfully camouflaged by its environments. The discovery of this elusive species brings to light a brand-new genus of pipehorse– the first to be reported in New Zealand because 1921. Shorts findings have actually discovered other undescribed types within the Cylix genus from South Africa to the Seychelles.
The brand-new genus was determined by comparing CT scans in between C. tupareomanaia and other similar types in the area. Short and his associates called Cylix (Latin for chalice) for the cup-like bone structure on its crest, whereas other pipehorse genera have a dome-shaped crest. The types name, tupareomanaia, is Māori for “garland of the seahorse,” and represents the very first time a Māori tribe has been associated with naming an endemic species from the Northland region.
This bark scorpion, Centruroides berstoni, resides high in the treetops of Guatemalas tropical forests. Credit: Aaron Goodman © 2021 California Academy of Sciences
Scorpions reach brand-new heights
In the canopies of Mexicos tropical lowland forests, youll discover unanticipated homeowners: scorpions. This year, Islands 2030 effort co-leader and Curator of Arachnology Lauren Esposito, PhD, and graduate student Aaron Goodman explain six brand-new species of bark scorpions from Guatemala and Mexico. While people may usually associate scorpions with dry desert environments, these bark scorpions find respite from predators, particularly larger scorpions, high in the treetops of undisturbed main forests.
One of 2 distinct types of caecilians on the island of São Tomé. Credit: © Andrew Stanbridge
Caecilian sleuthing in São Tomé
Since colonial times, biologists have debated whether the São Tomé caecilian– a limbless, burrowing amphibian– is a couple of unique types. After thoroughly studying the genetic markers of 85 people across São Tomé island in the Gulf of Guinea, Islands 2030 initiative co-leader and Academy Curator of Herpetology Rayna Bell, PhD, offers the strongest evidence to date that the island boasts 2 distinct types of caecilians.
Around 300,000 years back, a burst of volcanic activity spotted São Tomé with lava flows, dividing the island– and the caecilians– into unique, isolated habitats. This separation most likely triggered the types to diverge as they accustomed to the environmental pressures of their newly found territories. As the lava flows deteriorated, the once-impenetrable barriers vanished, enabling the two resulting species to become next-door neighbors when more. Millennia of interbreeding and hybridization has given that shrouded the existence of two species by blurring the hereditary lines between them. While the long argument over this types is familiar, Bells finding is a significant action towards understanding and safeguarding both of São Tomés caecilians.
Guitarfish strum a new tune for fisheries
Ichthyology Research Associate David Ebert, PhD, explains 2 blue-spotted guitarfish from Madagascar (Acroteriobatus andysabini) and Socotra (Acroteriobatus stehmanni). These are seaside rays with elongated bodies and flattened heads that look like– you guessed it– guitars. These shark-like rays are among the most endangered of all cartilaginous fish since of their close proximity to human beings and ability to be quickly fished.
A. andysabini, the larger of the two newly-described types, was previously grouped together with another species of guitarfish. This lack of taxonomic understanding has been destructive to Malagasy guitarfish, as regional small fisheries continue to overfish without regulation. Eberts conclusion that there are in fact two unique species has brought preservation to the leading edge, assisting to help with Madagascars first nationwide strategy to secure sharks and rays.
Collaborating with regional fisheries to integrate species identification in their practice, Ebert is hopeful for harmony between guitarfish and the neighboring coastal neighborhoods they sustain. “Its not merely a matter of protecting these animals; its about coming up with long-lasting options for both rays and human populations.”
One of three new-to-science sea stars from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Uokeaster ahi is called for its bright orange color. Credit: Ariadna Mecho © 2021
Sea stars shine on coral reefs
Over the previous year, Invertebrate Zoology Research Associate Christopher Mah, PhD, described five new-to-science echinoderms– a group of marine animals that consists of sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and more– from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and New Caledonia. After careful evaluation of images from a remotely-operated car and sea star specimens supplied by Academy biologists and Hope for Reefs effort co-leaders Luiz Rocha, PhD, and Bart Shepherd, Mah explained the Indo-Pacific sea star Uokeaster ahi.
Setting the reef ablaze with its brilliant orange color, U. ahi is appropriately named for its intense color– ahi, suggesting fire in the Rapa Nui language. Uokeaster is obtained from the mythological sea divine being Uoke, who, according to legend, immersed the once-continental Rapa Nui below the sea, leaving only its highest mountain peaks exposed. U. ahi lives in this “initial” Rapa Nui– the reefs simply beneath the surface.
Sea stars are important factors to healthy coral reefs. “You never understand what benefit will come of studying the unknown,” Mah states, “whether thats a tangible benefit like an anticancer drug or an ecological advantage in securing coral reefs.”
Referral: “Clusia falcata (Clusiaceae), an endangered types with incredibly narrow leaves endemic to Chiapas, Mexico” by Manuel Luján, N. Ivalú Cacho, Miguel Ángel Pérez-Farrera and Barry Hammel, 11 December 2021, Kew Bulletin.DOI: 10.1007/ s12225-021-09988-7.

This brand-new species of sea slug, Limacia inesae, can be found in the Atlantic off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Credit: Miguel Pontes © 2021
California Academy of Sciences Researchers Describe 70 New Species in 2021
In 2021, scientists at the California Academy of Sciences added 70 new plant and animal types to the tree of life, enriching our understanding of Earths biodiversity and reinforcing our ability to make educated conservation decisions. The brand-new species consist of 14 beetles, 12 sea slugs, nine ants, seven fish, 6 scorpions, 5 sea stars, five flowering plants, four sharks, three spiders, two sea pens, one moss, one pygmy pipehorse, and one caecilian. More than a lots Academy researchers– together with several lots worldwide collaborators– described the brand-new types discoveries.
Proving that our large and dynamic planet still includes unexplored places with never-before tape-recorded plants and animals, the researchers made their finds over 5 continents and 3 oceans, sifting through forest floorings, venturing into vast deserts, and diving to severe ocean depths. Their outcomes help advance the Academys objective to regrow the natural world through science, finding out, and collaboration.
” Biodiversity is crucial for the health of our world, and is being lost at a rate where sustainability practices are no longer enough,” states Academy virologist and Chief of Science Shannon Bennett, PhD. “As stewards of our natural world, we require to play an active role in regenerating communities. Our relationship to nature enhances with each new types, deepening our understanding of how our planet works and can best react to an unsure future. As we continue to fight a changing climate and a worldwide pandemic, there has never ever been a more essential time to secure the range of life on Earth.”