What’s Old Is New Again
The summer sun beats down on the Wyoming rocks. Bonnie Finney holds a large slab on its edge. A bead of sweat rolls down her forehead. The rock is heavy, but she knows it’s special even before she splits it open. Tap. Tap. Tap. She hammers a small wedge into the rock and a crevice begins to spread like a smile. Tap. Tap. Tap. The crevice opens up and the slab pops open like a book.
Inside is a 50‑million‑year‑old bat fossil. Finney knows it doesn’t look like any bat she’s ever seen before. It’s larger than normal for a bat, and it has a claw on each of its fingers instead of just one or two. More than 10 years later, scientists finally agree that this bat is from a species that had never before been seen. The species was long extinct. It certainly wasn’t a new species, but it was new to modern science. It is named Finney’s bat.
The heat rises up from the Moroccan sands
in waves. Ingo Rechenberg, a scientist from Germany, trudges to the crest of a sand dune. He looks around at the endless sea of dunes. Nothing is moving except the heat waves shimmering upward. He squints in the sunlight and spots a small spider.
As a robotics scientist, Rechenberg is interested in how things move. He watches the spider pick its way across the searing sand. He steps toward the spider to catch it. Suddenly, the spider flips and cartwheels away from him like an Olympic gymnast!
Rechenberg had never seen an animal move in this way. It turns out that neither had anyone else. The spider was a new species, now known as Cebrennus rechenbergi , the Moroccan flic‑flac spider.
Boy, Oh Boy!
When it comes to jellyfish, there are bell‑shaped jellies and box‑shaped jellies. Most are bell‑shaped, which move at the whim of the currents and wind. Box jellies have the ability to see and steer their bodies. Many of them are poisonous.
The Bonaire banded box jelly (Tamoya ohboya) is no exception. Dotted with toxic warts and stingers, this jelly had been spotted by at least 50 swimmers in 1989. It was even given a nickname, but wasn’t officially described and named until 2011.
Its official scientific name is Tamoya ohboya. Tamoya is a genus of box jellyfish. And ohboya is a reference to “Oh, boy!” for what you might think when you first encounter it. A high school biology teacher came up with the name during a naming contest.
Many new species are discovered accidentally by ordinary people. Anyone can study the world around them and notice things. It’s called citizen science. Information they collect can be sent in to scientists. It’s valuable material and can make a big difference in exploring and discovering the huge variety of biodiversity on Earth.
Our Earth is faced with pollution, climate change, and deforestation. The environment is changing rapidly. We risk losing species to extinction every day before we even get a chance to meet and study them. From adapting to the environment to fighting disease, there is much to learn from new species. Discovering and studying new species is vital now more than ever.