Stories tagged new species


Newly discovered wood-eating catfish: held by Paulo Petry.
Newly discovered wood-eating catfish: held by Paulo Petry.Courtesy Paulo Petry via the Nature Conservancy
If catfish are your thing (and why wouldn't they be?) then you'll be happy to learn about a new species of wood-eating catfish that's been discovered in the confluence of the Purus and Curanja rivers in Peru. Local people (Nahua) have been eating the armored catfish for a while but until now the only specimens scientists have seen were dried carcasses. That changed recently when researchers led by freshwater scientist Paulo Petry finally caught some live ones. I'm happy to report as one would expect, it is one ugly creature. The fish (which ranges from 12 to 25 inches in length) has a mouthful of specialized spoon-shaped teeth perfect for stripping wood from trees that have fallen into its river habitat. Very kissable as you can see here. Even though it ingests the wood, it doesn't digest it. The nutrients contained in the wood are absorbed in the fish's gut and the wood itself is excreted as waste.

This new species has yet to be described and remains unnamed but is included in the genus Panaque, to which all wood-eating catfish belong. More info and an interview with researcher Paulo Petry can be found on the Nature Conservancy blog.

A micro-frog from the jungles of Asia is so tiny three dozen of them could sit around the edge of a penny and circle Abe Lincoln's likeness. But what Microhyla nepenthicola lacks in physical size, it makes up for with a very loud croak. The pea-sized amphibian was discovered in a national park on the island of Borneo.

Nat. Geo story

Out of the Philippines comes news of discovery of a new species of monitor lizard. Named Varanus bitatawa, the giant six-foot lizard has been long known by the tribal people who hunt it for food in the Sierra Madre mountains, but completely unknown to scientists - until now. Details of its discovery by researchers from the US, Philippines, and the Netherlands, appears in the journal Biology Letters.

ScienceDaily story

Sea anemone: Vancouver Aquarium
Sea anemone: Vancouver AquariumCourtesy Danielle Bauer
In the latest census of ocean biodiversity, scientists from the United States and France have counted more than 5000 new species of marine life living in the extreme depths of the Earth's oceans. The zone beneath the 656-foot level - the depth where sunlight no longer reaches - used to be thought of as a "barren zone", but instead is teeming with strange and wonderful creatures that feed on the organic debris that rains down from above. The research is being led by Robert Carney, a professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University.

LSU website story
Story on MSNBC
Census of Marine Life website

Just like the car dealerships, the world of wildlife has announced its new models. Actually, 163 new species of animals have been discovered on Earth in the past year. Here's a link to a slide show of some of the new discoveries. Of course, they've actually been around for more than the past year, we just didn't know about them.

As the owner of more than a few tie-dyed shirts, I have found my new favorite fish with the recent discovery of the psychedelic fish – the VW van of the aquatic world. Here's National Geographic video of this groovy fish find.


He's not eating it: He just thinks there's a millipede inside.
He's not eating it: He just thinks there's a millipede inside.Courtesy abmiller99
There’s an expression that I like… it describes a certain kind of broad, smug, and possibly insincere smile, but one of the words in it is altogether naughty. I am, if nothing else, sensitive to the delicate sensibilities of Buzz’s readers, and I hold the image of the Science Museum of Minnesota in the highest regard. And even though I do not write as a representative of the museum*, it would be a true blow to my childlike heart to see profanity on one of its webpages. (Especially if I were the one to put that profanity there in the first place.)

And so we will tiptoe around this expression, carefully, carefully… like careful cats.

The expression rhymes with “Spit-sleating gin.” Or “kit-beating kin.” Or maybe “wit meeting sin.”

Oh, what’s a good, inoffensive way to put it? Hmm. It has to do with the sort of expression of happiness you might wear if you had just finished eating a pile of poop, especially if you think someone else wanted some of that poop but didn’t get any before you polished it off, or maybe if you didn’t want anyone to know you had eaten the poop in the first place, and so were perhaps overcompensating in trying to look like your normal, smiley self.

Was that good? I think that was perfect.

Anyway, this expression was originally invented to describe the way dung beetles look pretty much constantly. Dung beetles eat poop all the time—some of them eat only poop—and for some reason they have the idea stuck in their heads that it’s a tremendously valuable commodity (little do they know, eh?), so they always have this big ol’ “look what I got, son” smile on their faces. You have to use a magnifying glass to see it, but the smile is there.

While this expression has since fallen into broader use, it seems that its original application is … decaying, if you will. It seems that not all dung beetles eat dung! Ah! Dogs and cats, living together!

That’s right—in the depths of the Amazon jungle, there’s a recently discovered species of dung beetle that has traded its hilarious culinary habits for something a little more awesome: hunting, maiming, decapitating, and eating big, toxic millipedes.

Researchers baited traps in the jungle with a whole variety of dung beetle foods—dung beetles love dung, so that was there, obviously, but some species will also snack on other items, like rotting fruit, fungus, dead animals, and, occasionally, millipedes. The scientists caught 132 species of dung beetles in the traps, but only one exclusively ate the millipedes. No poop for these beetles, or even dead millipedes—they were hunters.

The researchers closely examined the peculiar beetles, and noticed a couple tiny, yet important differences from similar looking species: the hunting beetles had elongated hind legs (trading their dung-rolling function for something a little more suited to grappling with prey), and modified jaws and teeth, for chewing open millipede exoskeletons.

The scientists think that the no-dung dung beetles have undergone speciation. That is, they have evolved into a new species in adapting to the pressures of their environment. See, it seems that dung really is a little scarce on the floor of the Amazon jungle, and some dung beetles moved on to different food sources (millipedes), to the point where they only ate that new food, and became distinct (albeit in small ways) from their old kin. So, while there is one less creature that can truly wear a zit-heating pin, I guess that the Amazonian dung beetles that still eat dung have a little more to grin about these days. It kind of balances out, doesn’t it?

*No, really, I don’t write as a museum representative. Watch: I kind of enjoyed Waterworld. Does the museum think that? Nope. Nobody thinks that, and my writing it doesn’t change the fact.


The illustrated Bigfoot: Quit screwing around with this drawing, and look at the article!
The illustrated Bigfoot: Quit screwing around with this drawing, and look at the article!Courtesy Jean-no
Holy moly, Buzzketeers! I've barely gotten all the crumbs and stank off of the cryptocouch from yesterday, and yet I ask, no, I insist that y'all have a seat once again. Don't mind the crumbs—they're yours.

Some folks in Georgia claim to have a Bigfoot body in their darn freezer! A bold claim, my southern friends, a bold claim, but they will supposedly be flying to California on Friday to hold a press conference with "Searching for Bigfoot Inc."

Word on the street says that these folks are lining up DNA tests, and that a molecular biologist, an anthropologist, a paleontologist and assorted other scientists will be examining the body over the next few months at "an undisclosed location," and carefully documenting their findings before public release.

I'd normally recommend Loren Coleman's for this sort of thing (he's usually the guy to turn to for reasonable responses to kind of crazy claims), but the site has been all crazy itself today. Maybe because people are so into Bigfoot. So click on the "Word on the street" link above. There might still be a goofy looking photo.

Here are some details that have been released so far:
"*The creature is seven feet seven inches tall.
*It weighs over five hundred pounds.
*The creature looks like it is part human and part ape-like.
*It is male.
*It has reddish hair and blackish-grey eyes.
*It has two arms and two legs, and five fingers on each hand and
five toes on each foot.
*The feet are flat and similar to human feet.
*Its footprint is sixteen and three-quarters inches long and five and three-quarters inches wide at the heel.
*From the palm of the hand to the tip of the middle finger, its hands are
eleven and three-quarters inches long and six and one-quarter inches wide.
*The creatures walk upright. (Several of them were sighted on the same day that the body was found.)
*The teeth are more human-like than ape-like.
*DNA tests are currently being done and the current DNA and photo evidence will be presented at the press conference on Friday, August 15th."

I'm inclined to think this is fake, but, hey, if nothing else, it's a delightfully elaborate prank, and I'm all about that.


How do we know that this isn't the Southern Sandhill Frog?: Because it has burrowed backwards, of course! A handsome toad, nonetheless.
How do we know that this isn't the Southern Sandhill Frog?: Because it has burrowed backwards, of course! A handsome toad, nonetheless.Courtesy phyzome
There’s big amphibian news this week. A brand new model of toad-looking frog was unveiled to the world on Friday: the Southern Sandhill Frog, of Australia’s Kalbarri sandhills.

Be sure not to confuse the Southern Sandhill Frog with the Northern Sandhill Frog, of Australia’s Kalbarri sandhills—the two have been distinct species for more than five million years, and the southern species is easily distinguished by its more “squashed in, munted face.”

Intensive linguistic research is ongoing as to just what the Aussies mean by “munted.”

A fun fact! Sandhill frogs burrow headfirst, as opposed to most Australian burrowing frogs, which burrow backwards! Talk about weird!


Get used to this view: They're coming.
Get used to this view: They're coming.Courtesy WhatDaveSees
When will we learn that “lost worlds” should stay lost? Ask Challenger – that sort of thing is best left alone.

But no. We can’t leave well enough alone, and now giant rats have been unleashed upon the world.

Last year an international team of scientists discovered an incredibly isolated and pristine jungle in Papua New Guinea. Even the nearby indigenous groups claimed to have never visited the area, and it was dubbed “a lost world” (there has to be a Buzz post on it somewhere around here, but, failing that, here’s an article on the discovery).

The region has since yielded dozens of examples of previously unknown species of plants and animals - lots of flowers and pretty little birds. The most recent expedition, however, found something altogether less pleasant. Two things, actually: a a giant rat, and a tiny possum (which I don’t particularly like either. Who knows what they could be keeping in their tiny little pouches? Derringers? Marsupial pornography?).

The rat is about five times the size of a normal city rat, and apparently has no fear of humans (it wandered into the biologists’ camp several times during the expedition). Also, according to my imagination, it feeds exclusively on human babies, smells like burning tires, and endlessly thinks of ways it could sneak into your bedroom at night.

So far, the beast seems to be confined to Papua (another “Rat Island, if you will), but I am entirely of the opinion that the rest of the world should prepare for imminent invasion. How? Conventional anti-rat weapons won’t work on these behemoths, although Hollywood has shown that they can be killed the same way as most monsters: by fire and swords. So stockpile that.

Honestly, in this picture it looks kind of cute.