Top 10 Recent Animal Species Discoveries
VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
WRITTEN BY: Don Ekama
300,000 in and humans are still discovering cool new animal species! For this list, we'll be looking at the most fascinating animal species and subspecies that were described by scientists in recent years. Our countdown includes Snake (Phalotris shawnella) (2022), Tarantula (Taksinus bambus) (2022), Star octopus (Octopus djinda) (2021), and more!
Top 10 Recent Animal Species Discoveries
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Recent Animal Species Discoveries.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most fascinating animal species and subspecies that were described by scientists in recent years. We won’t be including insects like Wallace’s Sphinx Moth, as those wonderful creatures deserve a list of their own.
Did we miss any other interesting recent discoveries? Let us know in the comments.
#10: Snake (Phalotris shawnella) (2022)
The Phalotris genus is a distinctive group of snakes known for their strikingly beautiful appearance. The species Phalotris shawnella was first coincidentally discovered in Paraguay, back in 2014, and described in 2022. The discovery was made by a researcher named Jean-Paul Brouard working with the Paraguayan NGO Para La Tierra. Much like the rest of the Phalotris group, P. shawnella is a particularly beautiful snake, covered in red, black, and orange scales, with a yellow band around its neck. The name shawnella was derived from Shawn Fernández and Ella Atkinson, two children who inspired the founders of Para La Tierra to conserve Paraguayan wildlife. With only three individual snakes found, P. shawnella has been officially classified as endangered.
#9: Brittle Star (Ophiojura exbodi) (2021)
This brittle star was described in 2021, after being discovered by the EXBODI research expedition in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The Ophiojura exbodi is the only known species in its genus and possesses eight arms instead of the five or six usually associated with brittle stars. The arms are about 4 inches long, with sharp-toothed jaws on the underside and multiple rows of teeth lining each appendage. The origins of O. exbodi have been traced as far back as 160-200 million years ago, around when dinosaurs still walked the earth. It was discovered at around 1,500 feet underwater, a depth at which scientists say many seemingly extinct organisms may be thriving.
#8: Feiruz Wood Lizard (Enyalioides feiruzae) (2021)
A lot of people are quite oblivious to just how much work goes into discovering and describing a new species. For Pablo Venegas and his team, who discovered Enyalioides feiruzae, the Feiruz wood lizard, it was the culmination of seven years of tireless research. A great amount of that time was spent out in the field, late at night, making observations on different lizard species. Based on their appearances, the male and female Feiruz lizards are easily distinguishable. The males are especially colorful, with skin hues ranging from brownish turquoise to gray and greenish brown. While the females maintain a greenish or floury brown, with darker lines going down their backs, all the way to their tails.
#7: Rose-veiled Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa) (2022)
For years, this brightly colored fairy wrasse was originally mistaken for the adult form of another species. However, upon closer investigation, it was discovered that it was, in fact, a separate species. It was then named and described in the March 2022 edition of the journal “Zookeys.” The stunning fish was discovered off the coast of the Maldives, as part of a collaborative effort between researchers from the island country, the United States, and Australia. In fact, it was the first species to be formally described by a Maldivian researcher named Ahmed Najeeb. The name finifenmaa means ‘rose’ in the local Dhivehi language, a clear reference to the country’s national flower, and the color of the fish.
#6: Tarantula (Taksinus bambus) (2022)
In most cases, the discovery of new animal species is the result of a collaborative effort between multiple scientists. But sometimes, things are a little bit different. Taskinus bambus, a new species of tarantulas, was first discovered in the Tak province of Thailand by the popular Thai YouTuber JoCho Sippawat. Sippawat then reached out to two arachnologists, and together, they described and named the new species after the Thai king Taksin the Great, who once ruled the Tak province. The creature was found living inside a bamboo stalk and remains the only species of tarantulas known to dwell within that specific plant.
#5: Sponge crab (Lamarckdromia beagle) (2022)
This ultra fluffy and hairy species of crab was discovered after washing up on a beach in Denmark, Western Australia. The new species is classified under the Dromiidae family, a group of sponge crabs who fasten sea sponges onto their bodies to serve as a camouflage against predators. The sponges also provide an extra layer of protection by producing certain chemicals that could potentially harm other animals. The species name beagle was given in honor of the HMS Beagle, which carried Charles Darwin in the 1830s on the voyage that led to his theory of evolution. It is one of only three sponge crabs currently classified under the Lamarckdromia genus.
#4: Jiangxi Giant Salamander (Andrias jiangxiensis) (2022)
The Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest amphibian species currently known to man. As its name suggests, the amphibian is localized in China and has existed for more than a million years. For the longest time, all giant salamanders found in the country were thought to fall under one species but further analysis proved that to be wrong. In 2022, a distinct group of giant salamanders was described, having been discovered in East China’s Jiangxi Province. This new species, with its smooth head and undefined tubercles, earned the name “doll fish” for the baby-like sounds it makes. It is the only genetically pure species of Chinese giant salamanders, and is currently in danger of extinction.
#3: Star octopus (Octopus djinda) (2021)
Before 2021, the Octopus djinda was thought to be conspecific with another similar species from the large O. vulgaris group. But after being reclassified, it was given its own species name, as research proved it to be distinct enough from other members of the group. The octopus was found in Southwestern Australia, where it has long been fished by natives for food. Its common name - the Western Rock Octopus - was influenced by its geographical distribution, as was its species name. Djinda is a word that means ‘star’ in the local language of the Aboriginal Nyoongar people. Despite being regularly fished by people, it has been certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
#2: Ramari’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon eueu) (2021)
In 2011, a pregnant beaked whale was found on the coast of Haast, New Zealand. Initial examination mistook her for a True’s beaked whale, and she was named Nihongore by the indigenous tribe in that region. After noticing certain striking features about Nihongore, Ramari Stewart, a local Māori whale expert, embarked on further research. Stewart collaborated with Dr. Emma Carroll, a scientist from the University of Auckland, and together, they discovered the stark differences between Nihongore and the True’s beaked whales. The new species, which so far, has also been identified in Australia and South Africa, was named after Stewart, in honor of all her work.
#1: Chameleon (Brookesia nana) (2021)
This newly described nano-chameleon is small enough to fit just right on the tip of your finger. Brookesia nana, which is basically the size of a sunflower seed, was first discovered during a 2012 expedition to the rainforests in the Northern region of Madagascar. One male and one female B. nana were found on the trip, with the female being slightly larger than the male. Possibly the smallest known reptile in the world, scientists posit that the species shrunk in size as they evolved so they could survive in an environment with limited food. Due to severe deforestation in Madagascar, it is likely that the Brookesia nana is a critically endangered species.