Saturday, June 18, 2011

New mice and a species named SpongeBob

I've often pointed out that the description rate for new mammal species is trending up, not down. Some of this is from reclassifications, but a reminder that discoveries are still being made in the field comes from this report of seven new rodents from one Philippine island, Luzon.
Meanwhile, we have a bizarre new mushroom that looks like a sponge:
It is Spongiforma squarepantsii. Yes, a new species has been named for one of the world's most ubiquitous and annoying cartoon characters. If I saw the photograph on the linked site without the description, "sea sponge" would be the first thing that came to mind. A side note is the estimate of how many species in the kingdom Fungi have yet to be named - 95 percent.
There are many approaches to naming new species. UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography held a contest for students to name two new marine worms. Ideas came in from all over the world. Winners? Vrijenhoekia ketea, with the specific name being Latin for "sea monsters” and Podarkeopsis falenothiras, using the Greek word for “whale hunter.” (It was found on a "whale fall," the sunken carcass of a whale.) Congratulations to the winners and to Scripps for a great idea.

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