People have inhabited the earth for thousands of years, yet biologists and researchers discover new species on an almost daily basis. The vastly variant characteristics of these creatures are astounding, as are their ability to thrive in unique environments.
Of the millions of animal species on our planet, roughly 97 percent are invertebrates, while the minority is made up of amphibians, reptiles, fish and mammals. We’ve included a sampling of newly discovered species from both vertebrates and invertebrates that have some unusual appearances and characteristics.
During a deep sea expedition off of the Atlantic Coast in Canada, Spanish and Canadian researchers discovered this stunning new species of purple octopus.
Unlike the Red Wings’ mascot Al, this purple octopus is attracting the attention of scientists and researchers rather than football fans. The team of researchers who discovered this adorable little creature used a remotely operated vehicle for dives with a depth of close to 10,000 feet near Newfoundland. Still unnamed, the purple octopus remains a mysterious new species with scant information published about it since its discovery in July 2010.
Remote vehicles operating in the Arctic Ocean observed more than 400 of these jellyfish-like creatures. The fact that so many were observed underscores the notion that new species can be found in abundance in under-explored regions of the ocean.
According to researchers, the bathykorus bouilloni seems to inhabit a fairly narrow range of ocean depth between 1,400 to 2,000 meters deep in the Arctic.
Crayfish Found with 5 O’clock Shadow
The newest crayfish species is making mouths water, weighing in at almost twice the size of typical crayfish in the region and boasting a meatier flesh. The Barbcambarus simmonsi was discovered hiding (you would, too, with a menu price on your head) under rocks in a deep section of Shoal Creek in Tennessee.
An unusual feature of this species is its hairy antennae, which are covered with fine bristles. Aside from looking like it needs a shave – quite in style for marine life, we hear – the crayfish uses the fine bristles to enhance sensory abilities.
Part of the molluscan group of nudibranchs (nu-da-branks), the chromodoris fentoni was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico by a fisherman who passed it on to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Nudibranchs, also known as sea slugs, come in all shapes, colors and sizes, ranging from 1/8 of an inch to two feet long, and typically live only for one year. Unlike humans who wear bright colors to attract attention, the sea slug hopes his bright colors – aposematic coloration – will keep away predators. Chromodoris fentoni are hermaphroditic, possessing female and male sex organs, and reproduce through cross-fertilization.
Nudibranchs have the ability to have a significant impact on humans. The toxic compounds in the creatures they eat are powerful agents that can deter the growth of cancer cells. They are also studied by scientists as indicators of the health of the environment and for evolutionary processes.
Egyptian Jackal or African Wolf?
Know for years as the Egyptian jackal, this newly discovered wolf species shares many similarities to a local species known as the golden jackal. Over a century ago, similarities between this creature and the grey wolf were noted, but recent DNA studies have finally confirmed that the Egyptian jackal is actually not a jackal, but a new species of wolf.
Scientists and conservationists in Ethiopia are fascinated by the discovery of this new species, which may prove to be quite rare. Next on the agenda is a comprehensive study to determine how many live in the wild, where they live, and finding a name for them befitting their newly designated status as wolves.
New Squid on the Block
Discovered near an undersea mountain in the Southern Indian Ocean, this new species of deep red, glowing squid was found on a research cruise that began in September 2009. Among the 70 types of squid encountered by researchers, this one stood out for its size and glamour.
As part of the Chiroteuthidae group, these slender squid have light producing organs, and are thought to use bioluminescence to lure small fish and crustaceans for meals. In the squid family, where size ranges from less than an inch to over 65 feet long, this new species falls right in the middle at about 28 inches.
Sneezing Snub-Nosed Monkey
Species of snub-nosed monkeys have been found in China and Vietnam, but this new sneezing variety is the first to be seen in Myanmar. Local hunters report that the monkeys can be found easily during rainfall, as their sneezing gives them away. But the monkeys have developed a habit of tucking their heads between their knees to prevent rain from entering their upturned nostrils. Other distinguishing factors are their wispy white beards and super-long tails.
All snub-nosed monkeys are endangered, but this species is classified as critically endangered. The only sneezing snub-nosed monkey to be found and photographed was killed and eaten by local villagers before the research could be completed. As Chinese companies step up logging in this previously undisturbed neighborhood and monkey meat pulls a high price in markets, chances of future sightings – or sounds of sneezing – are slim.
Know of other newly discovered animals? Leave us a note in the comments below.