Incredible New Species Discovered in 2016
If the answer is yes, you’re in good company. The researchers who discovered these previously unknown species were ecstatic to find and describe them to the scientific world, even as they spent countless hours detailing the characteristics and quirks of each animal in studies published this year.
Mysterious Tully monster
In the following decades, some experts wondered whether it was a worm, while others made the case that it was a shell-less snail. Now, after studying 1,200 Tully monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium) specimens, researchers have found that the so-called monster is actually a 307-million-year-old jawless fish.
The 1-foot-long (0.3 m) creature had large eyes and pointy teeth, indicating it was a fearsome predator in its day, the scientists said.
Horse-size T. rex cousin
Researchers studied the 90-million-year-old dinosaur’s braincase (the area where the brain sits in the skull), which they discovered in modern-day Uzbekistan. The tyrannosaur (Timurlengia euotica) had remarkable low-frequency hearing, which likely helped it hunt prey, they said.
This finding suggests that tyrannosaurs likely got smart before they got big, and that both their size and smarts likely helped them become apex predators.
One of the clues that gave it away was its size. The elusive whale, which lives in the North Pacific, is 24 feet long (7 meters), smaller than the 40-foot (12 m) Baird’s beaked whale. What’s more, the Baird’s whale is slate gray, and the newfound whale is black, earning it the nickname “karasu,” the Japanese word for “raven.”
A genetic study confirmed that the karasu is a previously unknown species. However, it is related to the Baird’s whale, meaning that the two share a common ancestor, the researchers said.
The amphibian is so small that it can easily fit on a person’s thumbnail. Perhaps that’s why researchers didn’t find the frog, which lives in the southwestern plains of India, until now.
Scientists named the frog Microhyla laterite, and noted that it lives on rocky terrain that the government defines as a “wasteland.” But despite this classification, the wasteland is an incredible hotspot for biodiversity, the researchers said.
This year, researchers found even more of these colorful spiders in Australia — seven in all — revealing that there are at least 48 species of peacock spider in the genus Maratus. All of the newfound spiders are no larger than 0.2 inches (5 millimeters), including Maratus bubo, so named because it reminded the scientists of an owl’s face. (Bubo is the genus name for the great horned owl.)
The newt (Tylototriton anguliceps) is one of 163 previously undescribed species that live in Southeast Asia in an area encompassing Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, according to a 2016 World Wildlife Fund report.
Other newfound animals in the report include an iridescent snake (Parafimbrios lao) and other amphibians, reptiles, plants and mammals. The researchers urged policymakers to protect these animals, as many of the newfound species live in habitats threatened by human development.
“The posture of the animal — the head is standing up, the neck is arched, the arms are spread out to the sides — it looks like it’s trying to free itself,” study co-researcher Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, told Live Science in November. “Those signs make us think that it was stuck in mud and trying to get out.”
The researchers detailed the extraordinary newfound species (Tongtianlong limosus) in the journal Scientific Reports. They noted that although the donkey-size dinosaur had feathers, it couldn’t fly. But its anatomy revealed that it had other impressive abilities. For instance, its sharp beak likely helped it eat shellfish, plants, nuts and eggs in what is now China, the researchers said.
The tarantula (Kankuamo marquezi) has unique “attack,” or urticating, hairs, the researchers found. Most tarantulas “kick” their urticating hairs at enemies, but K. marquezi is the only known spider in its subfamily to use its hairs in direct contact confrontations, the researchers said.
Márquez died in 2014, so he never got to meet the tarantula. But now, when people read his books, including “100 Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” perhaps they’ll also think of the spider that carries his name.
Usually, titanosaur fossils lack skulls. That wasn’t the case with this newfound specimen, which was discovered in Patagonia; it had a braincase, as well as several neck vertebrae, the researchers said.
The team found that the previously unknown beast (Sarmientosaurus musacchioi) had extraordinary senses for its small brain. For instance, it had large eye sockets, indicating that it had good vision for spotting food, mates and predators. Moreover, the anatomy of its inner ear suggests it could hear low-frequency sounds, likely those made by other titanosaurs, the researchers said.
Ancient Muppet-faced fish
Researchers named the two newfound species Rhinconichthys purgatoirensis (discovered in Colorado) and R. uyenoi (discovered in Japan). There’s only one other known species of this fish (R. taylori), which scientists found in England in 2010. These findings suggest that fish in the genus Rhinconichthys lived all over the world, the researchers said.
The Rhinconichthys genus came to an abrupt end about 66 million years ago, when an asteroid slammed into Earth and killed the nonavian dinosaurs, the researchers said.