Aquatic species dominate Top 10 list of new species


Six of the ten species, in the 2010 Top 10 list of new species described, are aquatic.

The list showcases species that were described in 2009, and was announced by the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) at Arizona State University, and an international committee of taxonomists, chaired by Janine N. Caira of the University of Connecticut and vice-chaired by Mary Liz Jameson of Wichita State University. Nominations were invited through the website and also generated by institute staff and committee members.

The aquatic species selected were chosen for their unusual features and the list in general is testament to the biodiversity of our planet.  The list is presented in no particular order, except that we have listed all the aquatic species first.

 Copyright © Ralf Britz

Dracula minnow, Danionella dracula
This tiny little fish made the top 10 due to males of this species having canine-like fangs for sparring with other males, and are the first record of oral teeth-like structures being found in the Cyprinidae, the largest family of freshwater fishes.  D. Dracula is known only from a small stream in northern Myanmar (Burma).

Copyright © David Hall/

Psychedelic frogfish, Histiophryne psychedelica
Histiophryne psychedelica was selected as it has an unusual psychedelic pattern and is unique among frogfishes in being flat-faced.  This species is found in Ambon Bay, Indonesia.

Copyright © K.J. Osborn

Green bomber, Swima bombiviridis
Chosen as it is a “bomb”-bearing species, this deep-sea annelid has modified gills that can be cast off.  These "bombs" illuminate for several seconds with green bioluminescence, and present thinking is that this is a defensive mechanism rather than reproductive, as it is seen in both mature and juvenile individuals.  Collected off the central coast of California, USA.

Copyright © James Albert

Omars' banded knifefish, Gymnotus omarorum
The knifefish was selected as it highlights how little is known about biodiversity; the species has been exploited as a model specimen for understanding electric organ physiology and electrocommunication, yet has remained undescribed for 30 years; Gymnotus omarorum was erroneously considered to be Gymnotus carapo or G. cf. Carapo.  Found in the Río Cisne basin, Uruguay.

Copyright © Cornelis Swennen

Bug-eating Slug, Aiteng ater
The unusual eating habits of Aiteng ater resulted in a new family of sea slugs being erected, and secured it a place in the Top 10.  This sea slug eats insects which is contrary to nearly all other sacoglossans which eat algae, with a few specialising in gastropod eggs. Aiteng ater can be found in Pak Phanang Bay, Thailand.

Copyright © Jean Vacelett

Killer sponge, Chondrocladia (Meliiderma) turbiformis
Chondrocladia turbiformis displays a special type of spicule for which the new term “trochirhabd” has been coined.  Carnivorous sponges display very high diversity in the deep ocean, and fossil records suggest that carnivorous sponges were present in the Mesozoic Era.  Chondrocladia turbiformis can be found at Pyre Seamount, New Zealand.

The non-aquatic species that made the list include a carnivorous pitcher plant that was named in honour of Sir David Attenborough, an orb-weaving spider, a two-inch mushroom and an edible Yam.

It’s about diversity
"Annually, an international committee of taxon experts, helps us draw attention to biodiversity, the field of taxonomy, and the importance of natural history museums and botanical gardens, in a fun-filled way by making the selection of the top 10 new species from the thousands described in the previous calendar year," says Quentin Wheeler, director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an entomologist in the School of Life Sciences.

"Charting the species of the world and their unique attributes are essential parts of understanding the history of life," says Wheeler.

Nominations for the 2011 list can be made online, for species described in 2010.

Permission has been sought, and granted, for use of the images from Carol Hughes, Director, Media Relations, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University.