Even in 2016, scientists are discovering cool new species of animals, plants, and creepy crawlies every day. So far, scientists have identified 9 million species of plants, animals and microbes on the planet, but they estimate there are millions more left to find, often in hard-to-reach places such as caves, deep-ocean trenches and rain forest trees. In fact, according to scaling laws, there may be more than 1 trillion species on Earth (especially given the microbes we don’t know), Indiana University researchers say. You may have heard about the anglerfish or the ghost octopus, but have you seen them? They’re worth a look.
Carolyn Crist is the assistant editor of Paste Science. She is a freelance health and science journalist for regional and national publications and writes Paste’s Escape Artist column.
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Scientific name: (Not yet named)
During its first 2016 dive in February, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vehicle recorded this ghost octopus swimming more than 2.5 miles deep — the deepest cephalopod sighting they've recorded. The remotely-operated explorer was collecting dirt samples when the octopus popped up on the live feed. NOAA zoologists are still studying the octopod and naming it but have reported that it's a new species, and potentially a new genus.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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Scientific name: Lasiognathus dinema
Location: Gulf of Mexico
Pixar's Finding Nemo may have brought the image of a creepy anglerfish into popular culture more than a decade ago, but scientists are still finding new species along the Gulf of Mexico. This species is typically two inches long — much smaller than the large one depicted in Nemo — and was originally sighted during a damage assessment following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. University of Washington researchers found this gal (yup, this one is a female) and noticed several structural differences on its esca, or the fishing pole-like ray that hangs above its head and attracts prey.
Theodore W. Pietsch, University of Washington
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Scientific name: Dendropsophus mapinguari
Location: Amazon forest in Brazil
This bright yellow-green Amazon frog may look similar to other brightly-colored Amazon frogs you've seen. However, this guy has a name like no other — the species name, Mapinguari, is the same as a mythical rain forest beast. According to legend, the tall monster is furry, has huge claws, and a second mouth in its stomach. This frog is no Sasquatch, but herpetologist Pedro Peloso of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City decided to name it after the mythological beast to honor the culture of north-central Brazil.
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Scientific name: Iuiuniscus iuiuensis
When you think of isopods, think of pillbugs. This unique one — colorless, blind, and a third of an inch long — creates shelters in the mud. Brazilian researchers at the Federal University of Bahia found it in a cave that typically floods during the rainy season and can only be accessed through the bottom of a sinkhole.
Leila A. Souza, Rodrigo L. Ferreira, and André R. Senna
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Scientific name: Bathochordaeus charon
Location: Monterey Bay
The first giant larvacean was discovered in 1900 by a German marine biologist. And 116 years later, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute scientists were the next group to find the species during a routine sample collection in the bay. Larvaceans, which are usually tough to catch, are free-swimming animals with a basic spinal cord but no backbone that eat by filtering ocean water.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
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Scientific name: Illacme tobini
Found in an unexplored marble cave in Sequoia National Park, this bizarre millipede has 414 legs, 200 poison glands, four penises and silk-making hairs. Its closest relative, which has 750 feet, lives under sandstone boulders in San Juan Bautista, California, about 150 miles away.
Paul Marek, Virginia Tech
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Scientific name: Maratus bubo
Location: Western Australia
Australian arachnologists found seven new colorful jumping spiders this year, bringing the number of known peacock spider species up to 48. The one pictured here, Maratus bubo, takes "bubo" from the Latin term for horned owls because of the blue owl-like design on its back. Peacock spiders are known for their bright and patterned bodies — and their elaborate mating dances.
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Scientific name: Scorpaenodes barrybrowni
During a deep-reef sub dive off the Caribbean island of Curacao, Smithsonian scientists found a bright pink and orange scorpionfish that stood out as a new species. Called "stellate" for its star-shaped yellow spots and pigment accentuating its eyes, the scorpionfish lives deeper than any of its relatives in the western Atlantic Ocean.
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Scientific name: Umma Gumma
Scientists have discovered more than 60 new dragonflies and damselflies in Africa this year, and the sparklewing stands out as one of the most colorful and unique. Since the genus is "Umma," the researchers decided to tip their hats to rock-n-roll band Pink Floyd, which named its 1969 double album Ummagumma — a Cambridge, United Kingdom, slang term for sex.