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Given that humans have inhabited the earth for thousands of years, it is always fascinating to hear that we are still constantly discovering new insects, animals and plants. What's even more surprising is that each year, scientists uncover not one or two, but thousands of never before seen species.
To raise awareness of these often threatened flora and fauna, Arizona State University's International Institute for Species Exploration asks scientists to nominate their discoveries each year. The general public is then invited to vote for their top ten picks. As has been the case every year, this year's winners range from the most exotic to the most bizarre. Here are a few that made it to the top ten.
Whether it was voted in the top ten because of its adorable looks or because it is among the very few (less than 36) new mammals discovered each year, is up for debate. Besides being cute, the snub nosed monkey that sports a black coat and white beard also suffers from allergies - Not pollen but to the one thing that brings relief to most sufferers - Rain! What makes it worse is that its upturned nostrils collect rainwater inside them, causing the poor mammal to sneeze incessantly. So, during the rainy season the monkey spends most of its day with its head between its legs! Found in the high mountains of Myanmar, the monkeys are so endangered that the only way the scientists were able to find them, was by listening out for their sporadic sneezing!
Bonaire Banded Box Jelly
This jelly fish is so beautiful that is has been nicknamed Ohboya, (Oh Boy!) - The reaction most people have when they first encounter it. However be careful, its sting is almost as deadly as its killer looks and while it was officially identified in 2011, scientists have known about it since 2008. Also, unlike the sneezing monkey, the Ohboya is in plentiful supply and responsible for sending many a scuba diver and swimmer to the emergency room for treatment for its painful sting.
Remember the expression - 'All good things come in small packages'? - The Devil's Worm certainly seems to be one of them. Measuring a mere 0.5 mm in length this resilient creature was discovered deep inside a South African gold mine, thriving not only under the immense underground pressure, but also, in extremely hot temperatures that can get as high as 98.6°F (37°C). The find is very significant, because the species has been surviving in bore hole water that has not been in contact with the Earth's atmosphere for the last 4,000 to 6,000 years. This gives scientists hope that there may be similar subterranean species surviving on other planets also.
SpongeBob Squarepants Mushroom
Named after the popular cartoon character, this mushroom not only looks like a sponge, but also, acts like one - Squeeze it and it bounces right back to its original shape and size. As for the name? The scientists that discovered it in Borneo, Malaysia thought it closely resembled the cartoon character in more ways then one. First there was the looks (do you agree?) and then the fact that the texture of the fruity smelling mushroom that lives inside a pineapple resembles the tube sponges that encompass the sea floor where SpongeBob resides. When they first suggested the name to the journal editors, they were turned down because it was too frivolous! However, they were so persistent that the editors finally gave in to this bizarre name for the equally bizarre fungus.
This striking blue Tarantula is history making because it is the first animal species from Brazil to make it to top ten list since the Institute began this fun exercise, five years ago. Although not the first blue tarantula species, it is one of the most outstanding looking ones and also very vulnerable because it thrives in a very small ecological habitat - Above high tabletop mountains that receive a large amount of rainfall and also feature very different soil than the neighboring areas.
If you would like to see the other new species that made it to the top ten this year or in previous years, click on species.asu.edu/Top10.
Resources: ASU international Institute for Species Exploration