11 New Animal Discoveries
Some of the many exciting new species discovered in 2013.
Piranhas might have a notoriously frightening reputation, but this newly discovered species is a vegetarian. It only eats water plants. Found in the Trombetas River basin in Para of the Brazilian Amazon, this freshwater fish, which can grow up to 20 inches wide and weigh up to nine pounds, lives among the rocky rapids of the river where seedlings of plants sprout between the rocks.
The new piranha, called Tometes camunani, is one of hundreds of recently discovered species of animals and plants announced by the World Wildlife Fund in late October 2013. Like all these recently discovered Amazonian species, researchers believe the fish is unique to the rainforest region, making it particularly vulnerable to the threat of extinction.
10. Cryptic New Wild Cat
In November 2013, scientists accidentally discovered a cryptic new species of wild cat in Brazil. Until recently, researchers believed one species of Brazilian tigrina lived in two different locations. Through blood tests and DNA analysis they discerned that the northeastern and southeastern tigrinas were in fact two distinct species that do not interbreed. Their research was published in the journal, Current Biology.
Both tigrinas are barely bigger than a house-cat. The southeastern tigrina has a yellow-brown coat with black patterns similar to a leopard and it lives primarily in savannahs, dry shrub lands, and forests. The northeastern tigrina looks almost identical, but it has a slightly lighter colored coat and lives in denser and wetter forests.
Even before the study revealed two distinct species, the tigrinas were listed as endangered by the IUCN’s red list. With the species now halved, they are even more vulnerable than previously believed.
11. Cambodian Tailorbird
It is very rare to discover a new bird species in urban environments, and yet, that is exactly where researchers discovered the Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk): right outside the busy city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
As to why the bird wasn’t discovered until now, researchers aren’t exactly sure. Simon Mahood, the lead author of the findings published in Forktail, says even though tailorbirds are common in tropical Asia, they are secretive, staying well hidden in the vegetation, and thus appear to have gone unnoticed. “The new species doesn’t really look like any other known species of tailorbird,” he explained, “but if you don’t think that you are going to see a new species, then you probably won’t. I had been visiting a site where the birds are common for six months without ‘seeing’ it prior to its discovery.”
The Cambodian tailorbird belongs to the warbler family and its distribution is very limited, found only in the scrubby habitat of the floodplain of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. It has a unique song very different from other tailorbirds and was shown to be a separate species after its plumage and its DNA were analyzed. No one has found its nest yet, but researchers expect it would be similar to other tailorbirds, made out of an intricate weaving of leaves.
“If anything, the discovery of this bird indicates that there is still lots to be learned from the world and lots of exciting discoveries to be made, right on our doorsteps,” said Mahood. “At a time when we are always hearing about habitat loss and species going extinct, it is good to remember that we can still find new and exciting things.”