After years of research, we might think that we know almost everything about life on Earth, or at least about its primary forms. However, nature still holds a lot of secrets even when it comes to existing forms. For example, scientists discovered 71 new species from five continents and three oceans only a couple of years ago. So let’s take a look at the most interesting new species.
In 2014 researchers took a look deep down into the water – 11,034 meters into the Marianas Trench, to be exact. The new species was found 6,900 meters below the surface. But, as it turned out, humans’ actions strongly influenced it before it was even discovered. The small crustacean was literally plastic in part.
Scientists found a microfiber 80% similar to PET (material of which water bottles and many other items are made) in one of them. The team named the species Eurythenes plasticus, hoping to raise awareness about the consequences of plastic pollution. However, they still hope some individuals are not contaminated, or the drop in plastic pollution will help them recover.
Red Panda Turns out to be Two Separate Species
Already endangered species turned out to be two separate species at the beginning of the year. Scientists suspected it for a long time, though they finally found the genetic proof. Red pandas live in the forests of China, India, Nepal, and Buthan, and their population is reducing every year.
Yibo Hu, leader of the study, said that pandas need better protection due to lacking genetic diversity, especially given the recent discovery. The Chinese panda (left) has redder and striped fur, whereas the Himalayan has a brighter face. This is because two species were separated about 250 thousand years ago by a river. The red pandas are the only species of their family (now the family of two).
New Species Among American Mammals
A few years earlier (2013), scientists made another fascinating discovery. They discovered the first carnivore species on the American continent in 35 years. The two-pound mammal, having large eyes and brown-orange fur, lives in the forests of Ecuador and Colombia. It was also the most recently discovered mammal for a couple of years (until the red pandas took its place).
The team spent ten years tracking the wildlife of Ecuador. However, the species itself was seen before. It was even in a few American zoos! However, it wasn’t until the research led by K. Helgem until it was classified correctly. The olinguito is also the most recently discovered member of the family Procyonidae.
Also read: The History of Life series
Glow In The Dark Fungi
Not all of the newly discovered species are animals. However, the discoveries are equally fascinating. In 2010, after years of research, scientists identified several species of fungi lighting up forests all around the globe. Seven new species were identified, bringing the number of glowing mushroom species up to 71. Discovered species glow with bright green-yellow light all the time in Central (Jamaica) and South America (Brazil ).
The discovery included three already known species, in which the illumination was first detected and four species entirely new for us. All of them belong to the Mycena genus, a group that decomposes organic matter. The remaining question is why do they light up and how did that ability evolve.
Bacteria From Titanic
Last but not least comes a proteobacterium from Titanic. It was first isolated in 2010 from the rustic sample from the wreck of the Titanic. It is a gram-negative species, possibly dangerous for artificial objects in the sea depth. However, it also means it could possibly be used to help with the decomposition of shipwrecks and other human trash lying in sea depths.
One of the researchers suggested, that bacteria similar to Halomonas titanicae may decompose the wreck by 2030. Moreover, in 2016 the bacteria was a subject in another research. Scientists proved that these bacteria use etocine (molecule used in skincare and UV protection cosmetics) to survive the high osmotic pressure of saltwater on their membranes.
As we can see, there are still a lot of life forms to be found in all kinds of habitats, shapes, and forms. It is truly fascinating to follow the scientific journey of discovering life forms on our planet. However, there is a bitter reflection that some of the species may go extinct before we find them. Many are endangered or polluted with plastic, others find their way in a contaminated ecosystem. Let’s hope for unraveling many of nature’s secrets in the future and protecting them from destruction.
Senior Author at SOU. I am a science student, utterly fascinated by the world from atoms to galaxies. I learn something new every day and aspire to share my passion and knowledge, whether it’s related to our Earth or space conquest and the future of humanity. My hobbies include science fiction, swimming, reading, and makeup.