The universe is a vast never-ending pool of possibilities. From aliens to new galaxies, there is so much about space that we are yet to explore. Perhaps, that’s why space missions capture our imagination so well. After all these years of studying about science on earth, the next exciting discoveries are bound to come from outer-space, right?
Even as researchers look outside our planet for scientific exploration, there is so much about our own blue earth that we still don’t know. Some of these things are surprisingly basic. For starters, we still don’t know all the animals, birds, and plants that live on earth!
Let that sink in. In all the years that we have been studying our planet, we are STILL discovering new species of flora and fauna. That’s how rich our biodiversity is!
Every year scientists conduct field studies in remote parts of the world to collect samples of flora and fauna they think are unique. These samples are then brought back to a laboratory where they are described and classified.
Today, let’s explore some of these new additions to our knowledge of the living world!
Arunachal Pit Viper – From the heart of India’s biodiversity hotspot
In 2016, a team of researchers in Arunachal Pradesh found a brown pit viper snake that looked completely different from other members of its species. After three years of examination in a laboratory, scientists determined that this particular snake was the start of a whole new species. Its scientific name, Trimeresurus arunachalensis, pays tribute to the state where it was found – a biodiversity hotspot.
Vibranium Fairy Wrasse – Bringing Wakanda to life
You read that right! In 2019, a team of scientists found a group of bright, purple fish that lived in dark reefs 260 ft below the surface of water. These fish, found off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, were so well-hidden that they reminded scientists of the secretive country of Wakanda from the superhero movie Black Panther. That’s how these unassuming little things got the name Cirrhilabrus wakanda or vibranium fairy wrasse!
Deep-Sea Pacific Worms – Living in unlivable places
The ocean covers 70% of our planet but still remains largely unexplored. With mountains, caves, and deep trenches, the ocean floor looks surprisingly like land. In these various structures lie animals that survive in extreme darkness and pressure – conditions that were once thought of as “un-liveable” for any living thing. In 2019, scientists discovered 12 new species of worms called polychaete worms who live in these extreme conditions underwater in the Pacific Ocean. They speculate that this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more oceanic species waiting to be discovered!
Nelloptodes gretae – Never too small to make a difference
Named after the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the Nelloptodes gretae is a tiny beetle that scientists discovered last year. Found in soil samples dating back to 1964, these miniscule beetles are barely 0.79 millimeters tall. With no wings or eyes they have carved a niche for themselves as a whole new species. The scientists who discovered the beetle happened to be fans of the young Swedish activist and named the insect in her honour to remind everyone that you’re never too small to make a difference.
Myrmecicultor chihuahuensis – Suspicious critters from the desert
In a first-of-its-kind find, scientists have stumbled upon a new species of spiders that live exclusively in ant mounds underground. The curious thing, however, is that scientists have no idea why these spiders live inside the house of another insect! Found in the hot Mexican Chihuahuan desert, researchers are trying to figure out how to understand the living conditions of this spider better. In the meantime, this curious critter has earned itself the rank of a new species!
The world is teeming with possibilities and new discoveries all around us. Many researchers estimate that it may take roughly another century for us to discover all the flora and fauna that lives on earth. Their only concern is that we don’t lose out on finding any of these species due to climate change and habitat destruction.
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Deepthi is an ambivert who is on a steady diet of good food, filter coffee, and self-improvement. Being an ardent reader, storytelling has been her first love and she enjoys exploring how to convey stories compellingly. Having studied psychology and experienced the learning and development field, Deepthi is driven to understand human behavior and to know what makes each of us unique. You are most likely to find her tucked into a cozy corner at a local cafe with a Kindle or a book in hand. If you find her there, stop by and say hello, she'd be eager to learn your story too. Until then, you can ping her at [email protected] for anything you may like to share.
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