In 2022, new species of plants and animals were discovered, all of which were already extant but had stayed very well hidden. According to our best estimates, we only know about 10 per cent of existing species on Earth. And it’s not only tiny insects being discovered; even among mammals there is still a lot to find out – we might only know 80 per cent of them. Each year, some 200 new species are discovered, and 2022 was equally fruitful.
10 of the new species discovered in 2022
In the tiny central Indonesian archipelago of Wakatobi, a group of researchers discovered a new species belonging to the family Nectariniidae of passerine birds: the Wakatobi sunbird. According to scientists, these islands are a treasure that needs protecting because they are home to many endemic bird species that are yet to be discovered.
Scientists discovered several new species of sunbirds on islands in Indonesia. The previously unknown "Wakatobi sunbird" (Cinnyris infrenatus) is among them. "It’s amazing that there are still species waiting to be found in this region," – Fionn Ó Marcaigh, of @tcddublin said. pic.twitter.com/ej4ABWTAZV
Perhaps, whether or not you were fans, you will remember the famous chocolate frogs in the Harry Potter series. A new species of frog, discovered in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, is highly reminiscent of those magical treats. It has also been nicknamed tapir frog because of its very unusual nose. Local communities have long known about this animal but science still didn’t, and thanks to this species an area of forest will now be protected.
On first hearing its name, it might sound like the Queen’s hedgehog could be an animal, but it’s actually a fungus. Known as Hydnum albidum for over 130 years, it was thought to be widespread in both Europe and America, but genetic analyses have revealed clear differences between the two variants. It has been named Queen’s hedgehog in part because of the soft white spikes under its cap but also in honour of Queen Elizabeth II.
This plant is an enormous waterlily, with leaves that reach over 3 metres in length. This surface is so buoyant that it can even support the weight of a child. In early 2022, Victoria boliviana was distinguished from the other two species of giant waterlilies: Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana. It has been classified as vulnerable and its conservation will thus require a lot of attention.
The new giant waterlily, Victoria boliviana, has been quite the star this week after it was named new to science at Kew! 🌺
This is another case where genetic and microscopic differences have enabled – for the first time in history – a researcher in the Maldives to discover this new species: a dazzling rainbow-coloured fish. An unsettling fact relating to this discovery is that the fish was widely sold as an aquarium fish before its unique status was discovered.
The species that was always previously known as the maned sloth, thanks to DNA analysis and some behavioural differences, has now been subdivided into two different species. The new species, called the southern maned sloth, has a flat round head reminiscent of a coconut. The term “crinitus” indicates the animal’s thick fur, which creates a perfect home for mites, algae, roaches, and moths. This sloth is endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic forest.
Meet Bradypus crinitus – a newly described species of sloth that has a head that looks like a coconut https://t.co/viaExMxEJo
A whopping eight new species of gecko have been discovered in Madagascar, all a couple of centimetres long. Until recently, they had all been grouped under the name Lygodactylus madagascariensis, but scientists believe that as many as 18 different genetic differentiations may exist. Madagascar is a treasure trove of endemic species. However, the risk is that they will be lost before they are even described.
A new species of anemone has been discovered in Japanese waters. Its distinctive feature is that it seems to live only on the shells of one species of hermit crab. In this case, scientists believe that this is a case of symbiosis in which one of the species requires the other for its survival. The anemone protects the hermit crab from predators and in return, it receives transportation to new feeding grounds.
In deep waters off the coast of Japan, a hermit crab is wearing haute couture. On its shell is the new-to-science anemone species Stylobates calcifer, named after the fire demon Calcifer from the novel and Studio Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle. https://t.co/wpIH2dsa5ppic.twitter.com/L4NsmokWOq
A tarantula discovered by a Youtuber? It’s possible! This is the case of the arachnid nicknamed Bambootula, discovered by Thai naturalist Youtuber JoCho Sippawat, whose channel has over 3 million subscribers. The tarantula lives inside bamboo stalks, but only in bamboo plants belonging to the genus Gigantochloa.
On the small island of Príncipe, in the Gulf of Guinea, a new species of scops owl has been discovered. There are approximately 1,000 individuals present on the island and for this reason, researchers suggested that the IUCN list the species as critically endangered. Its call is highly distinctive, a loud “twoo” repeated very quickly, sounding almost like a noise made by an invertebrate.
The disappearance of 160 species has been declared by the IUCN over the last decade: most had been gone for a long time and their demise can be traced in large part to human impact. The full list of extinct species.