Museum scientists identify and name 351 new species in 2022

Credit: Natural History Museum

From research trips to faraway places to scanning the 80 million objects held in Museum collections, scientists add something new to this vast library of life each year. While many of these species are already known to those who live near them, we hope we can better protect them by giving them scientific names.

Since most animals on earth are invertebrates (invertebrates), it is not surprising that many of the new species identified this year fall into this group.

This includes 84 species of insects, 34 species of moths, 23 species of algae animals (also known as bryozoans) and 13 species of trematode worms. There were also 12 new species of protists, seven species of flies, two wasps from Asia, two polycyclic worms from the depths of the oceans, and a centipede with multiple segments that scientists had never seen before.

However, wasps are the group that brought in the most new species this year. A total of 85 new species have been identified! This includes some of the miniature individuals with the most beautiful, feather-like wings. These tiny animals belong to a group that includes some of the smallest insects in the world.

Despite their small size, these parasitic hornets can be important to agriculture. Insects parasitize the eggs of thrips (a type of insect that can damage crops) and thus wasps can be important biological control agents.

Dr. Gavin Broad is the Museum’s Chief Curator of Insects and an expert on the Hymenoptera group, which includes wasps.

“It’s not surprising that new wasp species are topping out, it’s just a surprise that hornets don’t peak every year,” explains Gavin. “The abundance of parasitoid wasps makes the order Hymenoptera the most species-rich insect order, but lags far behind some other groups in terms of true species descriptions.”

“Beware of many more wasps next year!”

Also this year, 19 new species of stick bugs were identified. All of these came from the tropics of Australia and required researchers to use newly collected insects, museum specimens and genetic analysis to reveal that what was originally thought to be 11 species were actually 30.

A handful of vertebrates have also been described by museum scientists, including a new gecko species, three fish species, and seven frog species from the Seychelles.

Six of these frogs are some of the smallest known vertebrates. Frogs found living in Mexico’s leaf litter grow to just eight millimeters in length, which is smaller than a 1pence coin. It is not yet understood why these frogs have evolved to be so small.

Natural History Museum scientists identify and name 351 new species in 2022

Credit: Natural History Museum

With three new dinosaur species named this year, scientists describe not only the living but also the dead. Two of them are armored dinosaurs from China. The first is the oldest and most complete armored dinosaur ever found in Asia, and the other is the oldest stegosaur ever found. Together, the two species help researchers better understand how the heavily armored group evolved.

The third new dinosaur announced this year is a carnivorous species with small arms found in northern Argentina. Its 70-million-year history provides clues as to how this part of the world responded to the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

It’s not just dinosaur fossils that help researchers better understand the past. The 200-million-year-old lizard fossil preserved in collections turned out to be not just a new species, but the oldest known to science, with the origins of this group going back 30 million years.

Also in the collections was a fearsome crocodile-like predator that was originally uncovered about fifty years ago and may have followed what is now Tanzania during the Triassic Period.

Researchers are also busy identifying eight new species of ancient mammals known primarily from their teeth. Two of these new species must have sprung up around the bushes and along the branches above the heads of the dinosaurs during the Middle Jurassic. The other six new species are the first representatives of the group that includes our own primate relatives, and should have lived around 35 million years ago on what is now known as the Isle of Wight.

One of the most interesting fossils found this year is a tiny insect trapped in Ukrainian amber, which dates back 35 million years. This particular group of insects, known as finger-wing beetles, is now only found in the tropics and subtropics, and the fossil beetle reveals that the climate in Ukraine must have been much milder when the beetle lived during the Late Eocene.

The new fossil insect was identified by an international research team from the Czech Republic, Latvia, Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom as a demonstration of international cooperation in the face of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The insect curator at the museum, Dr. “Despite the current situation, we thought it was important to stay together as a team to help each other and achieve the best possible outcome,” explains Dmitry Telnov. “With this discovery, we are not discriminating or judging any of our colleagues, but we are sending a clear message to the scientific community about how staying united and supporting each other can end the war.”

Natural History Museum scientists identify and name 351 new species in 2022

Credit: Natural History Museum

There are several new fossil fish species and a somewhat unusual new species named after a trace fossil of a Jurassic ghost shark egg case. There are three new species of trilobites remaining in the oceans, four new species of sea scorpions, and a curious armored worm filling a huge gap in the fossil record.

Finally, three new mineral species have been identified this year, including one with fragile translucent blue crystals called Bridgesite, discovered in Cumbria, UK.

Many plants and algae also made the list. Researchers have identified a total of 11 new algae species, both fossil and living, this year, with four new plant species from South Asia identified, one of which is a rather eerie-looking spine-covered plant species from Sulawesi.

Dr. Sandra Knapp is a Merit Researcher at the Museum and has been involved in identifying these new plant species.

“Although flowering plants are relatively well known when it comes to groups of organisms, it is estimated that although we have given scientific names to about 450,000 species, about 25% of them remain to be described. What we don’t know is known to local and Indigenous peoples where they occur – we taxonomists tell them. we just give them names that put them in the global botanical language.”

“Most plants have various names, some are specific to a particular region or language group, others are more common, but the scientific names we found can be used by anyone anywhere. This means that one of the things we really need is a common language to bend the biodiversity curve. to help.”

“After all, if we can’t talk about a species, how can we wish to save it?”

Provided by the Natural History Museum

This story has been republished with permission from the Natural History Museum. Read the original story here

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