Saturday, May 15, 2010

New species roundup

The discovery and description of new species of animals from around the world continues apace. Actually, it continues at a pace that would surprise, even startle, most people.

The big recent news, mentioned earlier on this blog, is the colorful new monitor from the Philippines, almost 2m long and from a populated area where no one would expect a large new species. If you missed it, see this link:

A little less celebrated is the "torch monitor," so called in Indonesia for its bright orange head. Varanus obor, attired mostly in glossy black, lives only one one small island, Sanana, one of the Moluccas. Monitor lizards are often the top predators on such islands, with the famous Komodo dragon being the biggest and nastiest of the group. See the title link for this one.

Then say hello to this brightly colored frog, orange with black markings, found in a tiny area at 3,000 meters altitude in the Western Ghats mountain range of India. To herpetologists, it's Raorchestes resplendens. It has unusually short legs for a frog and some other features that resemble those of toads.

I always love stories about the contributions of amateurs to science. A truly tiny moth (wingspan: 6mm) has been identified from England after an amateur naturalist in Devon spotted a caterpillar he didn't recognize and showed it to entomologists. Bob Heckford has the permanent satisfaction of knowing Ectoedemia heckfordi is fluttering about the countryside.

Every species we discover, large or small, is another piece of important knowledge in the mosaic of life. As this final article from Switzerland points out, we really don't have enough taxonomists to understand things as quickly as we need to for effective study and conservation. Here's hoping more people will realize how vibrant a field this is and join the effort to understand life on Earth.

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