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Bay Area students and California Academy of Sciences researchers discover new species in 2022

The tree of life grew in 2022 when researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and their international collaborators discovered 146 new species of animals, plants, and fungi.

The previously unknown creatures and plants were found all over the world, including the mountains of California, the Australian state of Queensland, the rocky peaks of Brazil, and the coral reefs of the Maldives. Scientists made discoveries on six continents and within three oceans.

Among the new species were 44 lizards, 30 ants, 14 flowering plants, 13 starfish, seven fish, four sharks, three moths, two spiders, and one toad.

The work of Academy Research Associate Aaron Bauer helped more than double the number of known species within a group of small forest geckos in the mountains of New Caledonia. The 28 new Bavayia’s geckos living on dozens of South Pacific islands have similar brown and white markings.

“Almost every mountain in New Caledonia is home to a unique Bavayia species, and these habitats share many of the same conditions,” Bauer said. “The result is several species that are often nearly indistinguishable from one another.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco Bay Area high school students Harper Forbes and Prakrit Jain worked with Lauren Esposito, curator of arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences, to discover two new species of scorpions. The students viewed images of unidentified species in the iNaturalist online platform and conducted field work to find the tiny scorpions, which live in the dry lake beds of central and southern California.

While one of the scorpions, Paruroctonus soda, is found on federally protected land, the other, known as Paruroctonus conclusus, lives in a narrow, mile-long strip that is unprotected.

“The entire species could be wiped out with the construction of a single solar farm, mine, or housing development,” Forbes said in a declaration. “Mapping the biodiversity of a given area can help build the case for why that land should be protected.”

Research into new species is critical to identifying the ecosystems most in need of protection, said Shannon Bennett, a virologist and chief scientist at the California Academy of Sciences.

In fact, conservation was one of the key issues at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference held from December 7 to 19 in Montreal.

“As we have seen in the last two weeks at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, biodiversity science is at the forefront of global conservation action and is key to unifying nations and equipping them with the tools and information needed to reverse species extinction rates by 2030,” she said. “By discovering and documenting new species, we can contribute to this historic goal and ensure our natural world remains rich and diverse for generations to come.”

mountain finds

Academy Research Associate Julie Kierstead found a new species of onion by chance during a helicopter ride over California’s Klamath Mountains in 2015. When the helicopter landed on the Minnesota mountain for about 30 minutes, Kierstead saw an allium Unidentified flowering plant, part of a family of plants that includes onions, shallots, and garlic.

Since then, another patch of the Minnesota mountain onion has been discovered on nearby Salt Creek Mountain. Both peaks receive more rain than others in the region, which has allowed the onion to flourish.

Thousands of miles away, Frank Almeda, emeritus curator of botany at the California Academy of Sciences, and research associate Ricardo Pacifico identified new flowering plants on the isolated peaks of the Brazilian rock field.

The harsh conditions of the mountainous region, including extreme temperatures, high winds, and nutrient-leached soils, have caused plant life to adapt and, surprisingly, thrive in such an arid environment.

Almeda and Pacifico found 13 new flower species while surveying parts of the ecosystem that botanists had never explored before.

“The bushes on the summit were less than two feet high,” Pacifico said. “It was like walking through a garden.”

The newly discovered flowering plants live in very specific conditions and could disappear due to environmental changes brought about by the climate crisis, the scientists said.

under the waves

One of the seven new fish discovered this year was the fairy fish with rose veilwhich lives in the “twilight zone” of the Indian Ocean.

Known by the scientific name Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, the goldfish was found at depths ranging from 131 to 229 feet (40 to 70 meters) below the ocean surface off the Maldives.

“Twilight zone” reefs can be anywhere from 160 to 500 feet (about 50 to 150 meters) below the ocean surface and provide a unique environment for fish such as wrasses.

The name honors the stunning pink hues of the fish, as well as the pink rose, the national flower of the Maldives. “Finifenmaa” means rose in the local Dhivehi language.

Hundreds of species thrive in the waters near and around the archipelago nation, but the fairy fish is the first fish described by a Maldivian scientist, Ahmed Najeeb.

“It has always been foreign scientists who have described the species found in the Maldives without much input from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives,” Najeeb, a biologist at the Maldives Institute of Marine Research, said in a statement. communicated when the discovery was made. It was announced in March.

“This time is different and being a part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species.”

The CNN Wire
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