In 2009, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences added 94 new relatives to our family tree. The new species include 65 arthropods, 14 plants, eight fishes, five sea slugs, one coral, and one fossil mammal. They were described by two dozen Academy scientists along with several dozen international collaborators.
Proving that there are still plenty of places to explore and things to discover on Earth, the scientists made their finds over four continents and two oceans, climbed to the tops of mountains and descended to the bottom of the sea, looked in their owns backyards (Yosemite National Park) and on the other side of the world (Yunnan Province, China). Their results, published in 29 different scientific papers, add to the record of life on Earth and will inform future studies on biodiversity, evolution, and conservation.
“Humans rely on healthy ecosystems, made up of organisms and their environments,” says Dr. David Mindell, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the Academy. “Creating a comprehensive inventory of life on our planet is critical for understanding and managing resources. Yet a great many life-forms remain to be discovered and described. The effort to determine the genealogical links among all life-forms, and describe their distributions, allows biologists to assess the relative distinctiveness of groups of organisms and various geographic regions, and helps determine conservation priorities.”
One recent example of a comprehensive species inventory informing conservation priorities appeared in the April 11, 2008 issue of Science. Academy curator Brian Fisher and his colleagues proposed sites for new protected areas on Madagascar, using distribution data amassed over ten years from 2,315 species of ants, butterflies, frogs, geckos, lemurs, and plants. The study was intended to help the government of Madagascar, which is in the midst of increasing its protected-area network from 5 million to 15 million acres. The team’s recommendation, which preserves all 2,315 species, provides a model for making conservation decisions in other biodiversity hotspots around the world.
…. For a full list of species, including geographic information, click here.
via New Species 2009: California Academy of Sciences.