Olinguito leads top ten newly-discovered species

Thursday 22 May 2014 11.29
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The olinguito is threatened by deforestation (Pic: Smithsonian Institution)
The olinguito is threatened by deforestation (Pic: Smithsonian Institution)
A super-camouflaged 'leaf-tailed' gecko from Australia also made trhe list
A super-camouflaged 'leaf-tailed' gecko from Australia also made trhe list
The list was released to coincide with the birthday of 18th century Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus
The list was released to coincide with the birthday of 18th century Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus

A secretive tree-living carnivore from the cloud forests of the Andes heads this year's top ten list of newly-discovered species.

The olinguito, from Columbia and Ecuador, is the first new carnivorous mammal described in the western hemisphere in 35 years.

A smaller cousin of the raccoon, weighing around 2kg, it is threatened by deforestation.

Other new species on the list include a ghostly looking skeleton shrimp from California, a super-camouflaged "leaf-tailed" gecko from Australia, and a bright orange soil fungus from Tunisia.

The largest is the 12m Kaweesak's Dragon Tree, which somehow remained unnoticed until its discovery in the Loei and Lop Buri mountain regions of Thailand.

At the other end of the scale is the "clean room" microbe Tersicoccus phoenicis, from the US and French Guiana.

The bug was found to have infected spacecraft assembly rooms and could potentially contaminate other planets.

The list was chosen by a committee of experts from around 18,000 new species named in the past year.

It was released to coincide with the birthday tomorrow of 18th century Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who is considered the father of modern taxonomy.

Dr Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), said: "The top 10 is designed to bring attention to the unsung heroes addressing the biodiversity crisis by working to complete an inventory of earth's plants, animals and microbes.

"Each year a small, dedicated community of taxonomists and curators substantively improve our understanding of the diversity of life and the wondrous ways in which species have adapted for survival."

Colleague Dr Antonio Valdecasas, from the National Museum of Natural Science in Madrid, Spain, who chaired the selection committee, said: "One of the most inspiring facts about the top ten species of 2014 is that not all of the 'big' species are already known or documented.

"One species of mammal and one tree species confirm that the species waiting to be discovered are not only on the microscopic scale."

Keywords: olinguito, species