What do dive-bombing wasps and devil’s worms have in common?
On May 23rd, the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) published its 5th annual list of new species discovered during the previous year. Based out of Arizona State University, IISE’s scientists collaborate with a committee of taxonomists across the globe to describe and classify new plant and animal species.
IISE’s annual list of Top 10 New Species reminds us that we share quarters with literally millions of different types of creatures, most of which remain unknown to science and society.
The Institute’s research brings fresh data to our understanding of the history of life. Their work informs practical methods for identifying the introduction of invasive species and pests, managing sustainable ecosystems, and achieving conservation goals. New species gain Top 10 ranking for outstanding traits such as peculiar behavior, specialized physical attributes, and adaptation to harsh environments.
A tiny parasitic wasp from the region surrounding Madrid, Spain earned Top 10 recognition for her unusual means of laying an egg. Dive-bombing Wasps hunt for prey one centimeter above ground, scouting for unwary dessert ants.
Dive-bombing Wasps strike from behind, depositing a single egg in an unsuspecting host in less than 1/20 of a second, sealing the ant’s fate as a moving feast for hungry wasp larvae. Watch this aggressive bug attack worker ants (Cataglyphis ibericus)!
The Devil’s Worm nematode
In a South African gold mine at 8/10 of a mile beneath Earth’s surface, there resides a new type of nematode called the Devil’s Worm. Only 0.5 mm in length, the Devil’s Worm gains Top 10 status for thriving as a multicellular organism within our planet’s deepest terrestrial habitat.
The nematodes live in a brownish fluid of bacterial biofilm, and have adapted comfortably to severe conditions marked by massive atmospheric pressure, and an ambient temperature that averages 98.6 Fahrenheit.
Carbon dating indicates that the Devil’s Worm hasn’t contacted the surface in 4,000 to 6,000 years. The survival of this weird invertebrate within the depths of a harsh abyss sparks promising implications for detecting life at similar subterranean levels on other worlds.
The first panel reveals a scanning electron microscope’s portrait shot of of H. mephisto. The center panel shows the glassy bead structures where the nematodes were found living in biofilm. The last panel features the borehole water used at the Beatrix gold mine in South Africa, where H. mephisto came to our attention.
The Top 10 List gives praise to biodiversity, and calls us to preserve natural habitats.
Since the mid 18th century, Science has documented the existence of nearly two million distinct organisms. Meanwhile, studies estimate that our world currently sustains as many as 8 to 12 twelve million individual species. Those numbers describe an Earth that teems with undiscovered biological variety, thriving across environmental extremes. The stats also suggest the potential for mass extinction as biospheres wither from oil sands mining, clear cutting, agricultural burning and pollution.
“The top 10 is intended to bring attention to the biodiversity crisis and the unsung species explorers and museums who continue a 250-year tradition of discovering and describing the millions of kinds of plants, animals and microbes with whom we share this planet,” stated Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist who leads the International Institute for Species Exploration at ASU.
Mary Liz Jameson, an associate professor from Wichita State University who served as director for the international selection committee, stated that the IISE searches for “species that capture our attention because they are unusual or because they have traits that are bizarre. Some of the new species have interesting names; some highlight what little we really know about our planet.”
Before we can save the planet, we need to know what we’re trying to save.
U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce believes that advocacy calls for a proactive approach, emphasizing sustainable practices that respect humans, plant and animal populations. We understand that saving the planet is a mighty big job. And we maintain perspective by living for a world where future generations continue to show awe for deer and dolphin outside of zoos or documentaries.
Our success depends on how well we understand our complex ecosystems, and on how hard we work to preserve their inhabitants. New species serve as constant reminders that we share a dynamic yet delicate physical space. Millions of fascinating, freaky life forms must coexist with humanity in sustainable harmony. Otherwise, our intertwined fates may confront a future that assures our mutual extinction.
We can’t live without each other. Our biological neighbors produce the oxygen we breathe, trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reduce global warming, create fertile soil through nitrogen deposits, heal our ailments, and feast on the parasites that prey on us. If our own species (Homo sapiens) continues to despoil land and life as infinite resources, we will ultimately sew the seeds of our own demise.
Ya know, dinosaurs weren’t the smartest beasts to roam Earth, but they weren’t stupid enough to destroy their own biosphere. At least thunder lizards can blame their annihilation on an asteroid with the power of a billion atomic bombs. Its impact doomed the Cretaceous Era, assuring the rise mammals, as well as our earliest predecessors. How ironic that we humans consider ourselves intellectual masters over other life forms, and yet we comprise the only species actively pursuing our own expiration date.
- From the sneezing bearded monkey to the bright blue spider… The 10 new species discovered last year revealed (dailymail.co.uk)
- Meet Spongebob Squarepantsii (a new mushroom) and the sneezing monkey (thisislondon.co.uk)