Thursday, June 2, 2011

Top 10 New Species for 2011

It is that time of year again. The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University released the top 10 new species of 2011.

Last year I wrote about my favorite on the 2010 list, the Dracula minnow. Measuring just 17 millimeters long when fully grown, this little minnow, while tiny, is a close relative of the common goldfish, the carp, and the other minnows you might have known from childhood. Many of your pet store variety fishes are in this group of carps and carp-like fishes. And, if you have looked closely at Goldy residing in your child’s fish bowl, you might have noticed Goldy has no teeth. This group of fishes has been around for a long time, and, in fact, lost anything even resembling true teeth nearly 50 million years ago. But, the Dracula minnow has developed bony spurs on its jaws that project through the skin and look just like nasty fangs.

My favorite for 2011 is, of course, another fish. This year it is the pancake batfish. Batfish are all-around oddly cool fish. They are flat, live on the bottom, and rarely swim. Instead, they walk. Their paired fins, normally located on the sides of a fish, are located more or less underneath the fish. And, they walk on these fins, like feet. They walk all over the bottom of the ocean.

This particular batfish is pretty special because it was only discovered because of the Gulf Oil Spill. Turns out it lives pretty much only where the oil was. Scientists had not explored the region that intensely prior to the spill, and upon investigating the spill’s impact, found this little critter.

This year’s list also contains a cricket that pollinates orchids, a fruit-eating monitor lizard that measures over 6-feet in length, a glowing fungus, an iron-eating bacterium discovered on the hull of the Titanic, a jumping cockroach, and a species of antelope called a duiker, a leech with teeth so large it is named after the famed T. rex.