It’s A Big World: New Species Discovered In 2013

new-species-discovered-1Earlier in the year I heard somebody saying that they were born in a time when there is nothing left to explore in the world, but luckily they still have the Internet to discover.

I got quite annoyed, obviously.

There’s plenty left to explore, if you feel like working hard and spending time in places where there is *gasp* no Internet connection.

And these new species, all discovered in 2013, are the proof of that. Legless lizards, one of the cuddliest-looking mammals I’ve ever seen, a slug named after a certain dragon queen, and more.

It’s been an exciting year.

New Species Discovered in 2013

The discovery of the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) is probably the one that got the greatest attention. After all, it doesn’t happen every day that you find a new furry teddy-bear looking beastie roaming the Andes.


Image: National Geographic, Photograph by Juan Rendon

The story begins at the Smithsonian Museum, were scientists realised that specimens labelled as “olingo”, which is a larger cousin of the olinguito, didn’t look like olingos after all.

After some research, they realised that the olinguito has actually been known for a while, but consistently misclassified as olingo (one female specimen, Ringerl, was actually shipped around zoos, in the hope that she would mate with other olingos. Poor Ringerl.).

One thing led to another, and a team was sent out to the Ecuadorian cloud forest, where they were able to confirm the existence of the new species. Besides its undeniable cuteness, we still don’t know much about the olinguito. It weighs around a kilo, it mainly eats fruit, and it’s nocturnal – and DNA tests suggest that there might be up to four sub-species of olinguitos.

Fans of Game of Thrones were delighted to find out that a new sea slug, belonging to the Tritonidae family, was named after Daenerys Targaryen, dragon queen with a claim to the coveted Iron Throne.


Tritonia khaleesi’s pale colourings apparently resemble the platinum-blond hair of Emilia Clarke, the actress who plays the khaleesi (princess) in the TV series. T. khaleesi is found in the warm waters of the north-eastern coast of Brazil, has up to 14 rows of denticles on its inner lip and is generally considered less attractive than Ms. Clarke.

Not all discoveries happen in a tropical paradise, though, and herpetologists from UC Berkeley in California were able to identify four new species of legless lizards – and no, that doesn’t mean just “snakes”. Lots of differences between legless lizards and snakes, same ick factor for a lot of people.


Image: Wikipedia

The animals – Anniella stebbinsi, A. alexanderae, A. campi and A. grinnelli – were found in the San Joaquin Valley and have been named after prominent scientists of UC Berkeley. Legless lizards are adapted to underground living in loose soils, and scientist found them using a simple technique: leaving pieces of cardboard around so that the animals would use them for shelter, and then checking periodically for new guests.

New Species Discovered Continues Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will talk about two new sharks – including a walking one, a new tapir, an adorable jungle cat, and a transparent fish. Stay tuned!

Want to read more? Here’s the Smithsonian page on the olinguito and the paper, the UC Berkeley’s on the lizards and the paper; and you can read an abstract on the Arapaima here. The paper on T. khaleesi is, unfortunately, not open-access. Bummer.

About the Author Nick Piludu

Nick is a conservation biologist who holds degrees from Bangor University, Wales and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Originally from Sardinia, Italy, he spent the past few years studying and working in Europe and Africa. He enjoys travelling, good food, coffee and wildlife.

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