The mountain air is chilly. Silence hangs among the leaves. It spreads through the Himalayan forest like a fog. The scientists stand perfectly still. They peer up into the treetops, hoping to see something.
Suddenly, the forest starts to sound like frying bacon. It’s rain hammering the leaves. There is still no sign of the mysterious monkey that brought the scientists here. They turn to go. Then, a sneeze comes from the branches above. Then another. A snub‑nosed monkey with upturned nostrils sneezes. It snorts as the rain drips into its nose. A new species has been discovered!
Lots of living things live their lives without ever being noticed by humans. Trees, plants, insects, even whales can go unnoticed for centuries! Some of these new species, like the snub‑nosed monkey, live in places that are hard to get to. Others can be found closer by.
There’s a lot of biodiversity on Earth. Countless species of living things are on our planet. Millions have been put into classifications. Many more have yet to be discovered.
Scientists think there may be as many as 10 million species on Earth. So far, we’ve only identified about 1.3 million.
Wait, What Is That?
A flash of orange lands on a tree branch. It’s got six legs and wings. It’s the size of your pinky. It’s an insect. But it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Have you discovered a new species? Maybe, but maybe not.
This scientist helped discover a new species of crab called the yeti crab.
There’s a process for how to identify and name a new species. First, a specimen has to be captured and collected. Then it has to be studied. Experts must make sure it doesn’t already belong to a known species. If it looks like something that already exists, a deeper look may be needed. Scientists compare the DNA to the DNA of the similar species. If it is not a match, then the fun begins.
Scientists write a detailed report and submit it to a scientific journal. If these experts agree, the animal officially becomes a new species.
What's in a Name?
The Sorting Hat Spider (Eriovixia gryffindori) looks just like a tiny sorting hat from the Harry Potter series. The Beyoncé Fly (Scaptia beyonceae) has a golden backside. Every known species on the planet has an official two‑part scientific name.
This system has been around since the 1700s. Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus designed it so that people from different parts of the world could share information about a specific species. And all would know what they were talking about.
The first part of the name is called the genus. It’s a name for a small group of related organisms. The second part is a unique word that identifies the species. It’s called the specific epithet. For example, three small and round species of fungus beetles are named Gelae baen ("jelly bean"), Gelae balae ("jelly belly"), and Gelae donut ("jelly dougnut"). The genus is Gelae. It shows that they are related. If the Latin is too hard to say, just use the common name, like the “jelly belly” beetle.