The air is chilly. The scientists stand still. They look up into the treetops, hoping to see something. There is still no sign of the mysterious monkey that brought them to the forest.
Then, a sneeze comes from above. A snub‑nosed monkey snorts as rain drips into its nose. A new species has just been discovered!
Lots of living things live on this planet without being noticed by humans. Trees, plants, insects, even whales can go unnoticed for centuries! Some of these new species live in far‑off places. Others can be found closer by.
There’s a lot of biodiversity on Earth. Many species of living things are collected and studied. Then they are put into classification.
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 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? It’s not that simple.
This scientist helped discover a new species of crab called the yeti crab.
There’s a process for identifying and naming 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 belong to a known species. To find out, scientists compare the DNA—or molecule that holds the genetic code of organisms—to the DNA of the similar species. If it is not a match, then the fun begins.
Scientists write a report and experts review it. If they agree, the subject 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 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 doughnut”). 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.