New and Blue
Every year, approximately 18,000 new species are discovered. That means scientists worldwide are encountering up to 50 new species every day.
Scientist Andrew Snyder couldn’t see a thing as he stumbled along the forest floor. Darkness bathed the branches of the Guyana rainforest, which the new moon’s light could not penetrate. The rain forest was alive. Unseen rustles, clicks, and screams filled the night. Snyder turned on his flashlight and saw a brilliant flash of blue. He fixed the beam on a rotting stump and focused on the blue. The stump was crawling with a dozen huge, blue spiders. He was looking at a never‑before‑seen species: hairy blue tarantulas!
You might think that the world’s new discoveries would be mostly microbes and insects. They are being discovered all the time. But they’re not the only things out there. Big, colorful, and even dazzling new species seem to be turning up everywhere these days.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Some new species are right under our noses. A scientist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, for example, discovered three unknown species of fungus in a package of dried mushrooms from the grocery store.
The patch‑nosed salamander was discovered near a creek in Georgia in 2007, and the Atlantic Coast leopard frog was first identified on Staten Island, New York, in 2008.
More species are being discovered now because more scientists are looking at the world in different ways.
Humans are making more roads and cutting down forests. They are expanding into wild places that have never before been explored. Scientists are paying attention to how these wild places are changing, and they are coming across new species that have never been seen before.
Scientists are using new, modern tools like remote‑control submersibles and deep‑sea cameras. These allow explorers to search the world’s extreme nooks and crannies that were once impossible to reach. New species like the Indonesian psychedelic frogfish, the yeti crab, and the six‑gilled shark have emerged from the depths.
Sometimes a new species can be found by looking at DNA. Scientists at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., were frustrated by a pair of their resident olinguitos. These raccoon‑like creatures were not producing offspring.
After tests were done to see what the problem was, they looked at the animals’ DNA. It turns out that the two animals were not the same species! One was an olinguito and the other turned out to be a completely different species called an olingo.