A Ghostly Octopus and 15K Other New Species Were Found in 2016 – Seeker

Sexy, musical and ghostly animals were all discovered over the past 12 months, along with many others. New species are found at a rate of about 15,000–20,000 per year, and 2016 was no exception. Researchers estimate that 6.8 million animals on Earth haven’t even been identified yet, so expect many new discoveries in the years to come.

Harry Potter ‘Sorting Hat’ Spider

Spider Eriovixia gryffindori. Credit: Javed Ahmed, Twitter

A spider resembling the “sorting hat” from the Harry Potter books and films was discovered in India in 2016. Named Eriovixia gryffindori after the wizard character Godric Gryffindor, the spider measures is less than a third of an long.

“As a youngster, I was very fond of reading Harry Potter books. So, when I encountered this tiny spider, I thought of the magical hat,” lead author of the study, Javed Ahmed, told the Times of India.

Several new colorful peacock spiders were also found in 2016. Biologist Jürgen Otto, aka Peacock Spiderman, films these dynamic dancing spiders and is one of the world’s leading experts on them.

Deep-Diving Fish

A pink and yellow fish, Grammatonotus brianne, was found 487 feet below the surface of waters off the Philippines. It broke the world’s record for deepest fish discovered by human hands, according to Bishop Museum diver Brian Greene and his colleagues. In the video, Greene presents the first specimens of this new species to Luiz Rocha of the California Academy of Sciences during a decompression stop.

The fish, commonly called Brianne’s Groppo, is named after Greene’s wife Brianne. Rocha previously found a fish, Halichoeres claudia, which he named after his wife Claudia.

Musical Songbird

The Himalayan forest thrush (Zoothera salimalii) of northeastern India and adjacent parts of China is now an official part of the documented animal kingdom, thanks to Per Alström and colleagues. In a paper, they explain that the new bird was largely identified by its unique song.

New bird species are rarely discovered. An average of just five new species are found each year, and mainly in South America. The Himalayan forest thrush is just the fourth new bird species described in India since the country achieved its independence in 1947.

Three New Primates

Mouse lemur Microcebus ganzhorni. Credit: Giuseppe Donati

Our family tree grew in 2016, with the addition of three new mouse lemurs, which are the smallest known primates. The new species are Microcebus ganzhorni, Microcebus manitatra and Microcebus boraha — all of which live on the island of Madagascar.

“From a conservation perspective, knowing what’s there is important,” said Scott Hotaling, lead author of a paper on the discoveries. “These animals are facing diminishing habitats and tremendous pressures.”

Deepwater Skate

Skate Notoraja martinezi. Credit: Dave Ebert and Doug Long

Found close to a mile beneath the surface of the eastern Central Pacific from Costa Rica to Ecuador, the skate Notoraja martinezi is now known from four collected specimens.

The skate —a flat fish closely related to rays and sharks — is “heart shaped” and has a “soft nose,” according to Francisco Concha and his team, who discovered the new species and describe it in a study.

Silver Boa

Photo: Bahamian silver boa (Chilabothrus argentum). Credit: R. Graham Reynolds

A large new species of boa made itself known to the world in a dramatic way in 2016: It slithered onto the head of a researcher who was sleeping on a beach in the Bahamas.

Described in the journal Breviora, the Bahamian silver boa (Chilabothrus argentum) is already endangered, according to Robert Henderson, curator of herpetology emeritus at the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History. The snake “reminds us that important discoveries are still waiting to be made, and it provides the people of the Bahamas another reason to be proud of the natural wonders of their island nation.”

Mysterious Whale

A new species of beaked whale from the genus Berardius. Credit: NOAA

An enigmatic dark-colored whale nicknamed “karasu,” the Japanese word for raven, was identified in 2016 based on DNA analysis. As described by Phillip Morin of NOAA and colleagues, the deep-diving whale of the North Pacific is about 25 feet long and is rarely seen.

“Every known specimen of this new whale found so far has been dead and, in most cases, decomposing on a remote sub-arctic beach,” explained Morin. “Without a full skeleton of an adult animal or detailed measurements, we had to use forensic genetics to describe the evolutionary differences of this new species.”

Poisonous Millipede With Four Penises

Millipede Illacme tobini. Credit: Paul Marek, Virginia Tech

A new species of millipede, Illacme tobini, was found in a cave at Sequoia National Park in California. According to a paper describing the threadlike creature, it possesses 414 legs and a body armed with 200 poison glands. What’s more, it has silk-secreting hairs and four penises.

Many spiders, pseudoscorpions and flies were also discovered in caves at the national park during the expedition.

Ghostly Octopus

During the first dive of an expedition to explore waters off the northeast side of Necker Island (British Virgin Islands), the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle encountered this octopus. It confused several of the shore-based NOAA scientists who were monitoring the expedition. They had never seen anything like it before.

After more study, the researchers believe the ghostlike octopod nicknamed “Casper” is an undescribed species and may not belong to any known genus.

Fish Named After President Obama

Marine biologist Sylvia Earle gives President Barack Obama a photograph of Tosanoides obama on Midway Atoll. Credit: Brian Skerry, National Geographic

In the final days of 2016, scientists from the Bishop Museum, NOAA, and the Association for Marine Exploration announced a new species of coral reef fish that they named in honor of President Barack Obama. The fish, Tosanoides obama, was discovered during a June 2016 NOAA expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

“We decided to name this fish after President Obama to recognize his efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment, including the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea,” said Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum scientist and lead author of the study. “This expansion adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth.”

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