Strange New Species Scientists Recently Discovered
Let's explore some strange new species discovered recently!Animals
Ever seen an animal so weird you had no idea what it was? Scientists reckon we’ve only discovered about 10% of all the species on Earth, so they’re constantly finding crazy new critters that have never been seen before! Let's go on an expedition to see some of the most incredible new species that’ve only just been discovered.
One of the trickiest things about classifying animals is just how similar hundreds of species can seem. So, when a creature comes along that’s so freaky it looks like a failed lab experiment, scientists must jump for joy.
One such creature is the pelican spider, and it’s got the name because of having a long, pelican-like neck. Considering it’s about the size of a grain of rice, it’s not surprising it was thought extinct for years.
Until the 1800s, the only specimens ever found were encased in 50-million-year-old amber! In 2019 though, scientists discovered several new species of the creepy-crawly. The pelican spider stalks other spiders by quietly following the strings of their web. Then, it plucks at the web to lure its prey in, before striking!
The two long, beak-like things on its face are its jaws, which spring wide open and impale its prey with a venom tipped fang. After stabbing them, it dangles them upside down and pumps them full of venom until they die. This is a cannibalistic spider that sadistically kills its prey! Luckily, these new nightmares are only found in secluded mountaintop rainforests in Madagascar.
Here's a crazy fact: for a country 35 times smaller than the United States, Ecuador has 16% of all known bird species, 8% of all known mammal species, and a further 8% of all known amphibians!
So, it’s not surprising that Ecuador is where scientists have found two brand new species of Glass Frog. They’re not actually made of glass, but the frogs, named Mashpi and Nouns, do have completely transparent stomachs! So much so, that if the females are incubating eggs, you can see every last one of them just chilling inside there, along with all their organs.
The ghoulish design is intended to throw off predators by blurring the line between the frog and the leaves around it. And it obviously works; we didn’t even know of these guys’ existence until 2022! Though, their leaf green backs and tiny, sub-one-inch-long bodies definitely helped them in that regard too.
If you thought a species had to be small to go undiscovered for so long, think again. In 2020, deep underwater off the coast of Western Australia, scientists stumbled upon an absolutely massive glowing life form.
The strange creature is called a Siphonophore, and while there are others of its kind, this one’s estimated to be an incredible 390ft long, making it the longest animal on the planet! Though, technically, it’s not just one creature; it’s made up of thousands of them! Called zooids, these multicellular organisms chain together in a long line and function as one whole.
Amazingly, they can clone themselves thousands of times into different specialized units, with each unit fulfilling a different vital task. Some take responsibility over reproduction, some over movement, and some over feeding.
The feeders protrude from the body to sting, snag, and eat any small fish and plankton that get too close. Once consumed, the nutrients are shared along the chain via a joint digestive system. Furthermore, scientists still aren’t sure how so many separate organisms can all communicate so effectively as one.
When biologist Alan Rabinowitz discovered a tiny deer carcass during an expedition in Myanmar in 1997, he thought it must be the baby of a much larger species. But it turns out it was a fully grown female leaf muntjac, a species of miniature deer that stands just 20 inches tall!
It’s so small, local hunters claim its body could be wrapped in just a single leaf. Wouldn’t one of the little guys make the most adorable pet? You could hold a baby in the palm of your hand! Sadly, our dreams of having a pet leaf muntjac might never be realized as they live exclusively in dense forests.
Also, the mini muntjacs live largely solitary lives which, combined with their size and woodland environment, probably explains how they managed to avoid discovery for so long. And that’s probably a good thing, as much as we’d deer-ly love one, they’re definitely better off in their natural environment.
Every so often, an animal gets discovered that’s so bizarre looking, it leaves scientists wondering how on earth they never spotted it before. Like a trippy-looking creature like the Psychedelic Frogfish.
The colorful critter was first found around Ambon Island, Indonesia, in 2009. That vivid color pattern actually works as surprisingly effective camouflage, which may be why it took so long to discover it.
Disguised as a coral, the fish can hide in plain sight, and the disguise is perfect for hunting its prey. In possibly the laziest predatorial move ever, it jams itself into crevices in the reef and then just sits there with its mouth open. That’s probably easier than ordering a pizza!
The cracks it squeezes itself into are sometimes very small, so the fish does have to put in some work to get inside them. It doesn’t get scratched though, implying its skin is probably protected by a layer of mucus.
When it comes to actually swimming, however, the psychedelic frogfish takes to it like a fish out of water! Seriously, it can’t swim. Instead, it either hops across the reef on its two pectoral fins, or, if its feeling feisty, gulps down some water and shoots it through its gills to propel itself along. A fish that can’t swim? Just wait until Disney hear about this.
Sunda Flying Lemur
If you’re lucky enough to discover a new species, you also get the honor of naming it. But whoever discovered the creature in the picture below must’ve been having a laugh, because although it’s called a “Sunda Flying Lemur,” it’s not a lemur and it can’t fly.
The so-called “lemur” is actually a species of colugo, a tree-dwelling mammal native to Southeast Asia. For decades, Sunda colugos were thought to be just one single sub-species of colugo. But thanks to a 2008 study, we now know there are at least three separate Sunda colugo sub-species! And, though they can’t fly, they can glide, in pretty terrifying fashion.
Colugos make such excellent gliders because they only weigh about 2lbs and have a bat-like membrane of skin they can open out that acts like an enormous wingsuit. This allows the tree dwellers to soar up to an unbelievable 450ft from tree to tree!
If I saw that thing flying towards me, I’d think it was something much scarier, like this giant hammer-headed bat. Fortunately, both bat and colugo are harmless to humans, despite the former’s size. Having said that, if I saw this thing hanging around, there’s no way I’d be getting close enough to find out for myself!
Two New Colorful Stick Insects
Of all the recently discovered species, you might expect a stick insect to be one of the least exciting. Most of the 3,000-plus stick insect species look incredibly similar, as in, like a machine malfunction at a jerky factory.
But every group has its show-offs, and two 2019 discoveries in Madagascar have left scientists truly awestruck. The specimens, named Achrioptera manga and maroloko, have exceptionally colorful bodies, which the males only achieve during sexual maturity.
Bright colors like this are very common in nature for males trying to attract a mate, and sometimes play a big part in impressive mating displays. There’s a catch though; bright colors also put creatures at greater risk of being spotted by predators. And, considering maroloko is one of the biggest stick insect species out there, reaching a whopping 9.5 inches long, you might think the massive, colorful body would be a problem.
However, bright colors can also be a warning to predators. All stick insects have neck glands capable of secreting gross repellent substances, but they’re more developed in brightly colored ones than their less colorful relatives. So, they either want to mate with you or poison you.
Self-Decapitating Sea Slug
Slugs are normally boring and when a snail is more interesting than you, you know you’re in trouble. But one species of sea slug called Elysia marginata has something to prove. That’s because this slug has a superpower that its kept hidden from us until very recently.
This slug can completely separate its head from its body and live. That’s probably the grossest and coolest thing. And once it’s removed its head, it can regrow an entirely new body, identical to the discarded one!
But how and why? Let’s start with the “how”. Elysia marginata feeds mostly on algae, which contains chloroplasts, the things that allow plants to photosynthesize and turn sunlight into energy.
Amazingly, when it eats algae, the slug stores these chloroplasts and can then use them as its own. So, when it’s decapitated, the pillaged chloroplasts kick into action and give the slug enough energy to regrow its body!
But what good is cutting off your own head? The whole decapitation process takes about 20 hours, so it’s probably not a defense mechanism against predators. However, the slugs are susceptible to slow-acting parasites that latch onto their bodies and cause nasty infections. Therefore, it’s likely that decapitating themselves allows them to break off from their infected bodies, regrow, and live on unscathed!
Australia has a reputation for playing host to all kinds of terrifying animals. However, one of the country’s native marsupials, the Greater Glider, might be the cutest thing ever! Previously known under just one name, scientists discovered in 2020 that there are actually three distinct species of these furry fluffers: Southern, Central, and Northern Greater Gliders.
Three times the species doesn’t make three times the gliders, though. Due to widespread bushfires and deforestation, a huge portion of their habitat has been destroyed, leading to a startling population decline of 80% in just 20 years. And considering they have very specific habitat requirements, this is even worse than it sounds.
Greater gliders survive solely on Eucalyptus leaves and buds, and their incredibly boring diet means they have no choice but to live among Eucalyptus trees. They get around fast though, using a membrane that stretches from their elbows to their ankles, they can glide from tree to tree, hence the name.
A single glider can have up to 20 different dens set up around their preferred feeding spots, all within gliding distance! But this means if a single fire sweeps through, they’ve lost everything. These guys are far too cute to end up like the dodo; here’s hoping they make it through okay!
Brookesia Nana, World's Tiniest Reptile
When you think of a lizard, how big do you imagine it to be? Bearded dragon sized? Gecko sized? How about something so insanely miniscule that it could fit on the very tip of your finger? One such lizard is Brookesia nana, and whoever discovered the Madagascan critter back in 2021 must have some kind of eagle-vision.
At only half an inch long, it’s the smallest of over 11,500 known species of reptiles, a title it took from the equally adorable Brookesia micra, or, as it’s now known, not-so-micra.
Researchers reckon the creature has ironed out a remarkable niche for itself, hunting mites and springtails on the rainforest floor by day and retreating to the safety of the grass by night.
There’s still a great deal to learn about this near-microscopic marvel, though. Only two of the little guys have ever been found! So, sadly, they’re probably critically endangered. What’s more, deforestation has damaged the poor nano-chameleon’s habitat. But it’s not all bad news, as the rainforest it was found in was recently placed under protection.
New Deep-Sea Jellyfish
I think we can all agree, it’d be pretty damn cool to have a whole species named after you. Jeff Reynolds, an avid volunteer at Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, received just such an honor. In commemoration of his years of tireless service, Jeff was immortalized with the newly discovered and super-rare Atolla reynoldsi, a freaky jelly that looks like an alien!
Like its namesake, reynoldsi is found exclusively in the Monterey Bay area. Though, probably unlike the man himself, it’s found in the ocean at plummeting depths of up to 10,500ft, in a region known as the Midnight Zone. The jelly is so elusive that only 10 specimens have ever been sighted since it was first discovered back in 2006.
There’s still a lot to learn about this strange and fascinating creature. We do know it lacks the long, prey-catching tentacles of other similar species though. Instead, it has lots of smaller, curly tentacles all over it, which are even weirder. And at just over five inches wide, it’s also one of the biggest jellies of its kind.
New Species Of Leaf-Mimicking Lizard
Madagascar is full of surprises when it comes to crazy creatures, and a new species of leaf-tailed gecko, identified in 2016, is no exception. These geckos are really good at disguising themselves as leaves.
Formally named Uroplatus finaritra, the species shares a lot of characteristics with its scarier relative, the “satanic” leaf-tailed gecko, except finaritra has a much larger body and you can’t make a blood pact with it. It’s also found exclusively in lower altitude areas in the very north of Marojejy National Park, as opposed to the depths of hell.
Because it has such a tiny habitat, which illegal loggers have sadly been chipping away at, scientists are concerned it could be highly endangered. What’s more, it might be a victim of the illegal pet trade too.
Unfortunately, our old friend Lucifer Lizard has proved very popular among reptile enthusiasts, and a bigger specimen like Uroplatus finatritra can fetch a higher price. I know money doesn’t grow on trees, but it seems the bigger the leaf, the bigger the bucks.
Olinguito, The Newly Discovered Mammal
You probably know carnivores are meat-eating animals, but did you know there’s an unrelated class of mammals called carnivorans? It's confusing, especially when you learn that carnivorans aren’t always carnivorous.
In 2013, scientists discovered the first new western carnivoran in over three decades. The furry mammals are called olinguitos, and they live highly solitary, nocturnal lifestyles, hidden away in the cloud forests of the Andes in western Colombia and Ecuador.
The dense forest habitat isn’t all about the looks though, it provides olinguitos with plenty of fruit, insects, and nectar to chow down on too. Not to mention the trees themselves, which are perfect for them to nest in.
It’s good they’re not scared of heights though, because they’re found at dizzying altitudes of up to 9,000 feet above sea level! This, alongside the fact olinguitos weigh just 2lbs and have bodies less than 15 inches long, makes it unsurprising it took so long to find the little fellas!
Insect Named After Lady Gaga
Ever heard of a treehopper? They’re one of the most diverse insect groups on the whole planet, with wildly different appearances from one species to the next. And for trainee entomologist Brendan Morris, the freaky bugs are his passion.
Back in 2020, Brendan was examining some of the Carnegie Natural History museum’s treehopper specimens when he found one he didn’t recognize. It turns out, it was an unrecorded species! Unlike other treehoppers, Brendan’s discovery had oddly shaped leg hairs and unique genitalia.
Because of its wacky visage, he decided to call it Kaikaia gaga, after eccentric superstar Lady Gaga herself. Though, rather than imitating slabs of meat, treehoppers are more likely to mimic thorns, to disguise themselves from predators.
The pool of treehoppers is so varied though, you can’t give all 3,200 species many shared characteristics. And, more confusingly, they share a lot of traits with “planthoppers”, which are equally weird insects. The one in the image below was found in 2012 and is so elusive it’s only ever been seen once, so we don’t even know what that weird tuft of troll-hair is!
They’re all impressive jumpers though and they all feed on tree sap, which treehoppers get by poking holes in branches and sucking it out. Fascinatingly, they do this similarly to how mosquitos suck blood by puncturing the bark of the tree and depositing special saliva on it that prevents the area from closing up again while they feed.
Some treehoppers can look a bit like helicopters as well!
Blind Amphibian Named After Donald Trump
Back in 2018, The Rainforest Trust auctioned off the naming rights for a new worm-like amphibian they’d discovered in Panama. The creature in question is almost totally blind, frequently buries its head underground, and grows an additional layer of skin which flakes off to feed its young.
Any guesses what the winner chose to call it? If you guessed Dermophis donaldtrumpi, you’d be correct!
The winning bid came from UK-based sustainable building company Envirobuild, who named the creature because they opposed the ex-president’s controversial environmental policies. And, believe it or not, it’s not the only new species that’s been named after The Donald!
In 2017, scientist Vazrick Nazari thought that this moth, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, had a unique head coloring which reminded him of the then President. He might be clutching at straws a bit with that one.
But when it comes to the very niche competition of “ex-presidents with the most species named after them”, Barack Obama currently holds the title with 14. I’m sure he’s really happy to have an extinct lizard named after him called, no joke, the “Obamadon”.
Bone-Eating Zombie Worms
Somewhere off the Gulf of Mexico back in 2020, a group of scientists were conducting strange experiments at the bottom of the ocean when they came upon a horrifying discovery. In an effort to learn more about ocean scavengers, they’d lowered three dead alligators to the seafloor and were observing them.
One was immediately preyed upon by giant crustaceans, one was ripped from its harness and carried away by an unknown predator, and the third was completely ravaged down to the bone in just over a month, leaving nothing but a skeleton.
And not even the skeleton was safe! When the scientists looked closer, they realized it was being eaten by deep-sea zombie worms.
The worms, called Osedax worms, were first discovered in 2002 feasting on the bones of a decaying gray whale deep beneath the ocean in Monterey Bay, California. They have no stomach or mouth, but instead send a grotesque system of tendrils into the bones of their prey.
These tendrils take hold like the roots of a plant and use bacteria to digest fat and proteins from the bone. As if that wasn’t horrific enough, Osedax are also believed to be the world’s longest living vertebrates, with a life span of up to 500 years! Undying zombie worms that take root inside your bones and suck all your nutrients out? Big no!
I hope you were amazed at these new species recently discovered by scientists! Thanks for reading!