According to the scientific community more than 2 million species of plants, animals, and microbes on Earth have been identified, but most experts believe and estimate that there are many millions more waiting to be discovered. Although it will definitely take centuries to discover all these new species, we conducted a humble search and came up with 25 incredible new species discovered in 2014. To be clear, this list involves both living and non-living discoveries.
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Dendrogramma enigmatica & Dendrogramma discoides
According to a team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, two species of sea-dwelling, mushroom-shaped organisms discovered off Australia cannot at present be placed in an existing phylum. The two species, named Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides are multi-cellular and mostly non-symmetrical, with a dense layer of gelatinous material between the outer skin and inner stomach layers.
A new species of lizard-like reptiles that survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs was found last year in South America. The newly identified species lived between 66 million and 23 million years ago in what is now Patagonia.
Humpback dolphins of the genus Sousa can be found along the coasts of Africa, Asia, and Australia. However, a new species doesn’t become official until it gets its own scientific name and researchers described Sousa sahulensis as a separate species only recently, a fact that gave Australia the honor of having its own species of humpback dolphin.
The Atlantic Coast leopard frog
A new frog species that can be found from Connecticut to North Carolina and emits a distinct call that sounds more like a cough than a croak was found last year. The Atlantic Coast leopard frog received the scientific name Rana kauffeldi after legendary ecologist Carl Kauffeld, a respected expert in reptiles and amphibians who claimed in 1937 that the tiny frog existed but whose assertion did not gain traction in the scientific community.
A new species of gecko was found living among the crumbling remains of an old French fort in northern Madagascar. Although researchers first found this new species in 2004 when they spotted a male with a broken tail, new genetic analysis and a close examination of its physical features show that it is a distinct species. According to this study the gecko, nocturnal by nature, is a master of camouflage and seamlessly blends in with the surrounding rocks and fortress ruins.
This extinct dyrosaur, a type of crocodilian, which roamed an ancient rain forest a few million years after the dinosaurs died, was described last year and was named after the fiery Balrog that lurked deep in the Middle-Earth mines of Moria in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. What we know about it so far is that with a blunt snout and powerful bite, it could eat turtles and battled monster snakes. Badass, huh?
Bug species that lives on whale carcass
A new bug, similar to the common woodlouse, was found in 2014 by scientists aboard the RRS James Cook deep in the Southern Ocean. It was estimated that 500 to 6,000 specimens littered each square meter of the carcass.
A brightly colored beetle collected by Charles Darwin more than 180 years ago was finally identified as a new species in 2014 after hiding in museum storage for decades. The discovery of Darwinilus sedarisi took its scientific epithet from both Darwin and writer David Sedaris.
A new species of crayfish was discovered in southeast Australia’s coastal lakes and is currently considered one of the world’s smallest crayfish species. The tiny, blue-black crustacean resembles its larger cousins that end up in cooking pots, such as lobsters and crawdads.
The Mysterious Structure
While volunteering in the Peruvian Amazon, graduate student Troy Alexander discovered a strange web formation underneath a tarp. Experts guessed it could have been slime mold, a structure made by moths, or a defense made by spiders, but everyone was stumped. After months of research the scientists found that the web towers were used for spider eggs, but it’s still not clear what species of spider made the webs or what the picket-fence circle is for.
Fiery-Red Coral Species
In the clear waters off the coast of Peru, researchers discovered a stunning new red coral species that was not previously described by scientists. The new species’ small size and intense red color along with other attributes, such as the shape of the coral polyps, distinguish this coral species from its relatives, according to the study.
Even though this tiny, fragile snail with a beautiful dome-like, semi-transparent shell was technically discovered at the end of 2013, the scientific community got all the answers it was seeking about this snail in 2014. The most impressive fact about this species is that it was found living 3,000 feet (914 meters) down in a Croatian cave and it is believed to have set a new land-creep record by moving only a few millimeters per week.
During the hot summer of 2014 Laura Marsh, the director and cofounder of the Global Conservation Institute who has spent more than ten years studying the saki monkey family, uncovered five new species of these ‘toupee’ monkeys in the Amazon. So what do we commoners know about saki monkeys so far? Well, other than being characterized by floppy mops of hair that resemble the worst of human toupees, these acrobatic, tree-dwelling primates are essential for dispersing seeds across the vast Amazon landscape as they primarily dine on fruit.
The Desert Tawny Owl
A group of ornithologists led by Dr. Manuel Schweizer from the Natural History Museum in Bern, Switzerland, has described a new cryptic species of owl that inhabits the desert areas of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, and Yemen. The species’ scientific name, Strix hadorami, honors Israeli ornithologist and writer Hadoram Shirihai.
The Maratus pardus is a new species of peacock spider and has leopard spots all over its tiny body and moves like a cat. This colorful, slick spider was found in Western Australia and was named “pardus” (Latin for leopard), which is a nod to what else but the spider’s leopard spots and catlike movements.
This extinct 20-million-year-old pygmy grasshopper was found trapped in a slab of Dominican amber that lay unstudied in a collection at the University of Illinois for over fifty years. It was named after Sir David Attenborough, brother of Jurassic Park actor Richard Attenborough.
A multinational group of scientists headed by Dr. Scott Gardner of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln discovered four new species of burrowing rodents from the South American genus Ctenomys. Commonly called tuco-tucos, these rodents are members of the family Octodontidae, although they are sometimes classified in their own family— Ctenomyidae.
As we all know, dinosaurs vanished a long time ago but in some cases we still discover new species through buried skeletons under tons of mud and rock. This new species of dinosaur, based on fossils found in North and South Dakota, is part of a genus named after Anzu, a feathered Mesopotamian demon god. The anzu wyliei is an oviraptorosaur, one of a group of dinos that had high, crested heads, feathered bodies, and much-debated diets, as most have been found with no teeth.
A new species named olinguito, resembling a cross between a slinky cat and a wide-eyed teddy bear, lives secretively in cloud forests of the Andes mountains in Colombia and Ecuador. It is an arboreal carnivore that belongs to the family Procyonidae, which includes the familiar raccoon. The Olinguito became the first new carnivorous mammal discovered in the Western Hemisphere in over 35 years.
This new species of toad is named “yunga” after the Quechuan word for “warm valley,” a reference to the Peruvian rain forest where it was found last year. Scientists have argued that rhinella yunga is a distinct species from the rest of the members of the rhinella genus because it lacks a tympanum, or a toad’s external ear. However, nobody knows for sure yet.
Etendeka round-eared Sengi
In June 2014 an international group of biologists led by Dr. Jack Dumbacher from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco discovered a new species of elephant-shrew (round-eared sengi) from remote northwestern Namibia. The newly discovered species was named Etendeka from the name Etendeka from the Himba/Otji-Herero language of the Himba people from northwestern Namibia, and refers to the distinctive flat-topped mountains and rust-colored substrates of the region.
Last April a team of Australian biologists discovered and described a new species of dasyurid marsupial within the genus Antechinus. The “new” members of this genus are carnivorous, mouse-like marsupials that are mainly found in Australia, including Tasmania and New Guinea. Keep in mind that the males mate so intensely that they die before their young are born. Sex machines, anyone?
A new species of marine reptile from the Jurassic era has been identified from fossils found recently on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. According to paleontologists, the dolphin-like creatures were as long as 14 feet from snout to tail, and inhabited warm, shallow seas around Scotland some 170 million years ago. Their fossils are considered to be very rare, and this is the first time a newly discovered species is entirely Scottish, geographically speaking.
A new species of legless amphibian resembling a giant earthworm or snake was discovered in a remote but threatened area of the Cambodian rain forest during the early days of this year, even though the research had begun officially in 2014. The gray-brown creature is often mistaken for a snake but scientists guarantee that it is nothing more than a harmless earthworm.
The Anemone that Lives in Antarctica’s Ice
Researchers made an incredible discovery during the icy winter of 2014 in Antarctica that changed their views on which living organisms can survive in extremely cold climates. This entirely new species of sea anemone lives inside the ice and apparently loves the cold weather more than anything.