Top ten of the most unusual species in 2015

New discoveries include a flick-flack spider, underwater crop circles, and deep-water riddles

Six of the ten most unusual species in 2015: a "crop circle" making fish, a flickering spider, a fragile marine snail, a deep-sea mystery, a large stick insect and a feathered dinosaur. © Yoji Okata, Ingo Rechenberg, Robert Bolland, Jørgen Olesen, Bruno Kneubühler, Mark A. Klingler
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A fish that paints "crop circles" under water, a wheel-striking spider, and a primeval "Hellbird" - they are among the top ten most unusual new discoveries of the last year. The bizarre beings demonstrate what surprises nature can still provide - and they show that we have just begun to explore the amazing diversity of life on our planet.

As in the previous year, in 2015 researchers from the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) compiled a list of the ten most unusual new discoveries of the year. An international committee of taxonomists selects for the species that are in their eyes particularly fascinating, special or surprising. However, the list, which has been published annually since 2008, should also make it clear that in many regions of the world, animals and plants die out faster than they can be identified.

"The last undiscovered area on Earth is the biosphere, " emphasizes Quentin Wheeler, one of the founders of the IISE. "We've just started exploring the amazing source, history and diversity of life." Researchers believe that there are at least 10 million other species waiting to be discovered worldwide - five times as many as previously known and described. "Our top ten are a reminder of what miracles await us, " says Wheeler.

The Pufferfisch (Torquigener albomaculosus) creates amazingly complex geometric shapes. © Yoji Okata

"Crop circles" on the seabed

For 20 years, oceanographers ruminated on this phenomenon: in front of the coast of the Japanese island of Amami-Ōshima, they repeatedly found circular, approximately two-meter-long patterns on the seabed. The complex geometrical shapes are reminiscent of crop circles, and in this case, too, their creatures initially remained enigmatic. But then underwater photographer Yoji Okata caught the trigger: it was a previously unknown puffer fish (Torquigener albomaculosus).

As it turns out, this fish creates the geometric gullies and depressions by floating close to the bottom of the sea, forming the sand with his body. The underwater "crop circle" fulfills an important purpose: It minimizes currents and turbulences and thus protects the spawn of the fish deposited in the center. display

Riddling from the deep sea

On the other hand, a creature that has been discovered in the deep sea off the Australian coast is still enigmatic: Dendrogramma enigmatica resembles a fungus at first sight, but the structure only a few millimeters long can not be assigned to any known group of animals. In some ways, these creatures resemble primitive multicellulars, as they lived in the Pr kambrium more than 500 million years ago. Researchers hope to find more of this species to learn more about this strange animal.

Also off the coast of Japan researchers found the approximately two-centimeter long sea slug Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum. It captivates not only by its ethereal beauty, but is also a long sought-after link between the coral- and medus-eating sea slugs.

Flick-flack spider and Kadaverwall

In the desert of Morocco, scientists discovered the spider Cebrennus rechenbergi and marveled at their unusual escape method: If there is a danger, the spider will stand up like an artistic gymnast and fall down There are a number of quick flick-flacks. At a speed of about two meters per second, the wheel-striking spider is twice as fast on the road as in normal running mode.

The spider Cebrennus rechenbergi escapes from the danger SciNews

By contrast, the protection strategy of the ossetia wasp found in China (Deuteragenia ossarium) is rather scary. In order to protect the offspring in their nest, she opens a wall of up to 13 dead ants in an atrium. The smell of the carcasses and their barrier effect protect the offspring from predators. The Osset Wasp is the only animal that has such a conservation strategy.

Gray grouse, a stick insect and a live-giving frog

In this year's list is also an already extinct animal: The "chicken" Anzhu wyliei. This feathered three-meter-long dinosaur is very birdlike with its feathers, hollow bones and parrot beak, but is not one of the direct ancestors of today's birds. Its most striking feature is a high, thin bone crest on the head what this served, is so far unclear.

On the other hand, the bizarre stick insect Phryganistria tamdaoensis is rather lively. With more than 20 centimeters in length, this insect discovered in Vietnam belongs to the big representatives of this group of animals. Astonishingly well, the stick insect imitates a branch with its thin body and branch-like legs - only when it moves, the illusion becomes visible.

An unusual reproduction has the frog species Limnonectes larvaepartus, discovered in Indonesia. Most amphibians use external fertilization and simply pass eggs and seeds into the water, a few give birth to ready-made frogs or lay fertilized eggs. But the newly discovered frog bears live tadpoles - this is so far unique. When one of the biologists picked up a female, she even gave birth to a few tadpoles in the tiny pool of water on her palm.

Parasitic plant and Christmas bromeliad

Barely discovered, already dangerously threatened with extinction: On a mountain slope in the Philippines, researchers have discovered a parasitic plant of which probably only about 50 specimens exist. Balanophora coralliformis consists only of rootlike outgrowths, with which it taps the roots of other plants. It does not possess leaves or other green parts of plants and therefore can not perform photosynthesis. It is therefore completely dependent on the parasitized hosts.

On the other hand, the bromeliad Tillandsia religiosa, discovered in Mexico, is rather colorful. For the locals, its pink leaves and rich green leaf rosettes are nothing new: depictions of this plant can often be found in the pictures that adorn the Christmas altars of this region. But science was unknown to this plant. Only now was it officially described.

(SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 21.05.2015 - NPO)