Lab Notebook: Taxonomy by Brienne Meyer, January 8, 2016

Scott Trimble

April 9, 2016 at 12:53 am | Updated April 9, 2016 at 12:53 am | < 1 min read

I’ve always been interested in taxonomy and excited to learn about newly discovered species around the world. Towards the end of each year, lists of new species discovered in each Kingdom are widely circulated, and 2015 is no different with some very remarkable new members.

How long does it take a new species to be officially recognized? Each is different depending on how much investigation is necessary to establish relationships between a newly found species and related species already identified. This last year, a new species of Earthstar mushroom, Geastrum britannicum, was recognized in the UK over 15 years after first being discovered in 2000. The Earthstar is now considered to be common in the UK, found near many roadsides and can resemble a human stick-figure in appearance.

This was quite a longer path than the carnivorous plant nicknamed the Facebook sundew, Drosera magnifica, which took less than 3 years to be made an official species after its picture was first shared on Facebook. It is now listed as critically endangered and is considered to be the largest sundew in the New World.

Each year between 15,000 and 18,000 new species are identified, typically half of which are insects. Here are my top 5 new species for 2015:

  1. Geastrum britannicum, an earthstar found in the United Kingdom
  2. Drosera magnifica, the Facebook sundew found in Brazil
  3. Hirticlavula elegans, miniature fungus found in Denmark
  4. Maratus jactatus, the sparklemuffin spider found in Australia
  5. Chelonoidis donfaustoi, Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise found in the Galapagos

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