Top 10 newly-found species span big trees, tiny flies

Top 10 newly-found species span big trees, tiny flies

NEW YORK - Reuters
Top 10 newly-found species span big trees, tiny flies

The olinguito is among a list of top 10 new species discovered in 2013.

A cross between a sleek cat and a wide-eyed teddy bear that lives in Andean cloud forests and an eyeless snail that lives in darkness 900-plus meters below ground in Croatia rank among the top 10 new species discovered last year, scientists announced May 22.

The list, assembled annually since 2008, is intended to draw attention to the fact that researchers continue to discover new species. Nearly 18,000 were identified in 2013, adding to the 2 million known to science.

An international committee of taxonomists and other experts, assembled by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, selects the top 10. The list is released in time for the May 23 birthday of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish botanist considered the founder of modern taxonomy.

Scientists believe nature holds another 10 million undiscovered species, from single-celled organisms to mammals, and worry that thousands are becoming extinct faster than they are being identified, said entomologist Quentin Wheeler, president of the environmental science college, part of the State University of New York.

One top-10, for instance, is the olinguito, the cat-bear amalgam from the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador. The 2-kilogram raccoon relative is the first carnivorous mammal discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.

Scientists had long missed an even bigger quarry: the 12-meter dragon tree of Thailand, which has soft, sword-shaped leaves and cream-colored flowers with orange filaments. People living in the area knew of it but scientists didn’t.