The most recent estimates of the number of species world-wide, according to Science Daily, suggest that there are around 7.8 million animal species on Earth of which only about one million have been described and catalogued. Fortunately for aspiring field biologists, a staggering 87 per cent of animal species may be still unknown.
Here some of the most extraordinary new animals discovered just this past year.
Synalpheus pinkfloydi : Rock band meets killer shrimp.
The next time you plan on attending a rock concert, consider going to the Pacific coast of Panama, where you can find this tiny sonic killer shrimp.
Synalpheus pinkfloydi may only be 5 millimetres wide, but it packs a loud punch. This crustacean creates a high pressure bubble by snapping its bright pink, enlarged claw at rapid speeds. When the bubble pops, it produces a sonic blast that can reach up to 210 decibels—that’s louder than sound produced at a rock concert. The imploding bubble also produces temperatures up to 4,400˚C, nearly as hot as the sun’s surface.
Aptly named after the rock band Pink Floyd, the pistol shrimp uses its sonic energy to stun or kill prey—usually small fish—and drill burrows into solid basalt rock.
Geckolepis megalepis: A new twist to “jumping out of your skin”
This newly discovered species of gecko—native to Madagascar—iis characterized by its unusually large scales, each of which can range up to eight per cent of the gecko’s total body length. These scales are dense and highly mineralized, creating a mottled brown-grey camouflage for the reptile to hide in its natural limestone habitat.
The most unusual feature that this species exhibits is its unique defensive strategy. When Geckolepis megalepis is grasped by a predator, it quickly sheds the layer of skin beneath its scales. The predator is left with the empty, scaly shell, while the gecko escapes—pink, shiny, and scaleless, but unharmed.
Remarkably, these unscaled geckos show no blood or scarring, and their scales can regrow at unusually fast rates. Currently, scientists are studying the species for medical purposes, with the aim of discovering ways to eliminate scarring during skin repair procedures in humans.
Dendrocerus scutellaris: Cutting edge discovery
Dendrocerus scutellaris is a new species of endoparasitoid wasp—a type of parasite that lives inside another animal before ultimately killing it—that comes equipped with a saw-like structure on its back.
This 2 mm-long insect’s life cycle begins as it hatches inside of its host. The larvae feed on the living organism from the inside out before maturing into their adult form.
Its adult form, only 3 millimetres long, sports a series of jagged spines along its back called mesoscutellar combs. These combs act as a built-in saw, which the wasp can use to cut its way out of its host’s body.
Thankfully, parasitoid wasps are harmless to humans—so there is no need to fear being sliced apart from the inside by a wasp. Typically, their hosts include pest insects like aphids, making these wasps useful for controlling pest populations in agriculture.
Neopalpa donaldtrumpi: Ancestral relations
This newly discovered species of micro-moth bears an eerie resemblance to Donald Trump. It sports a tuft of yellowish-white scales on its head, similar to the unique coiffe sported by the 45th President of the United States.
Social media users, however, were quick to focus on the other ironic features of the micro-moth, including its Mexican-American habitat and its especially small genitalia.
Evolutionary biologist and systematist Vazrick Nazari, who named this new species of moth, hoped that naming the new moth after President Trump would bring attention to the new species and highlight the crucial need for further conservation of fragile habitats from the threat of urbanization.