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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Top 10 New Animals of 2011

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Burrunan Dolphin

Even though 7 billion people live in Earth's every corner, and several centuries of scientists have catalogued its natural wonders, unknown creatures continue to be found.

This year's additions included a dolphin hiding in plain sight, a monkey that sneezes too much and an eel of exceptional pedigree. On the following pages, Wired looks at our favorite new animals (and one very special fungi).

Above:

Burrunan Dolphin

Most large, charismatic species were discovered by the 19th century's end. Only four new dolphin species have been described since then -- and one is the Burrunan dolphin of Australia's Port Phillip Bay, right in the oceanic backyard of Melbourne.

Until last year, they were thought to be bottlenose dolphins. When biologists took a closer look, they found otherwise: Burrunans are genetically and physically distinct, most visibly in their short noses. About 150 are known to exist, and more may live elsewhere.

While most newly discovered animals come from dense rain forests or deep oceans or places otherwise inaccessible, Burrunan dolphins are a reminder that even everyday nature remains a frontier.

Image: Monash University /EPA

African Dwarf Sawshark

African Dwarf Sawshark

Accidentally captured by biologists trawling the deep ocean floor off Mozambique, the African dwarf sawshark is one of only seven known sawshark species. They hunt by swimming through schools of fish while waving elongated, tooth-ridged snouts, then circling back to eat.

Image: California Academy of Sciences

Psychedelic Gecko

Psychedelic Gecko

Named for its vibrant coloration, the Psychedelic gecko, or Cnemaspis psychedelica, lives on a tiny island off the coast of southern Vietnam. It's one of 208 new species -- 28 reptiles, 25 fish, 7 amphibians, 2 mammals, 1 bird and 145 plants -- described last year in the fast-urbanizing Greater Mekong region by World Wildlife Fund researchers, underscoring the need for conservation.


Barbicambarus simmonsi

Barbicambarus simmonsi

Like the Burrunans dolphin, Barbicambarus simmonsi -- it doesn't yet have a common name -- was discovered near a well-explored, highly populated place. But unlike those dolphins, nobody had seen this giant, 5-inch-long crayfish until one was pulled from under a rock in a Tennessee creek.

Image: Carl Williams

Beelzebub’s Tube-Nosed Bat

Beelzebub’s Tube-Nosed Bat

Largely unappreciated by virtue of their nocturnal habits, bats are more populous and diverse than any mammal order except rodents. Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, named for its (adorable!) resemblance to the mythical Lord of the Underworld, is one of three species discovered in southern Indochina.

Image: HNHM/Fauna & Flora International

Purple Acorn Worm

Purple Acorn Worm

Lacking eyes and tails, and thought to occupy a taxonomical branch that diverged from life's tree before their evolutionary cousins evolved into fish and spawned reptiles, birds and mammals, acorn worms burrow through seafloor like earthworms through soil. This acorn worm, still officially known only as Purple species, is one of three -- the others are called White and Pink -- newly collected from the depths of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Image: David Shale

Myanmar Snub-Nosed Monkey

Myanmar Snub-Nosed Monkey

Still unphotographed in the wild, and known only from specimens killed by hunters, Myanmar snub-nosed monkeys live in the Himalayan mountains of northwest Burma. The monkeys reputedly weather rainstorms by crouching with heads between their knees, and their shallow noses make them prone to sneezing -- an endearing but unfortunate habit that makes it easy for hunters to find them. It's thought that no more than 350 may exist.

Image: Martin Aveling/Fauna & Flora International

Chlaenius propeagilis

Chlaenius propeagilis

With over 350,000 species of beetles known, and at least twice that number thought to be unknown, no list of new species is complete without a beetle. Specimens of the elegant Chlaenius propeagilis were collected in streams and rivers across southwestern China.

Image: Valim et al./Zookeys

Garuda Wasp

Garuda Wasp

Discovered on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the relatively enormous, 2.5-inch-long Garuda wasp has a shiny black body, matte black wings and tusk-like jaws that curve around its head when closed. Its name comes from the mythical winged warrior of Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

Image: Kathy Keatley Garvey

African wolf

African wolf

Historically known as the Egyptian jackal and thought related to the Golden jackal, this canid proved to be a long-lost relative of the grey wolf. Its ancestors likely colonized Africa long before wolves howled in North America.

Image: Oxford University

Leiolepis ngovantrii

Leiolepis ngovantrii

Lacking a common name, but scientifically dubbed in honor of Vietnamese herpetologist Ngo Van Tri, the all-female, self-cloning Leiolepis ngovantrii was first spotted on a restaurant menu.

Image: World Wildlife Fund

Protoanguilla palau

Protoanguilla palau

The last common ancestor of Protoanguilla palau and any living eel swam 200 million years ago, and when biologists found this species -- mediagenically nicknamed "Eel-a-saurus" -- in an undersea cave off Palau, it was hailed by scientists as a modern-day coelacanth.

Source: Wired

 
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