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Another reason to keep fighting for the Earth: These new species

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

In a world where negative environmental news is more and more common, Ani Talwar talks through some more positive discoveries, to inspire new reasons not to lose hope for our nature yet.

Photo of Natural History Museum (Credit: just-pics Pixa bay)

With negative climate headlines broadcasted what feels like every day, highlighting a new endangered species, or natural disaster, or repercussion of our lifestyle or… you get the picture; it can feel like there’s not actually that much left to protect anymore. It’s easy to get lost in all the news, but researchers over the last two years have proven that despite the current situation, there is plenty left on this planet to discover, and to fight to protect…

Throughout 2021, scientists at the Natural History Museum highlighted over 550 new species. You can see the full article of species here but the new list of species includes Spinosaurs – estimated to have lived nearly 130 million years ago and found at the Isle of Wight. Though in this case the species is extinct, these discoveries still present great current value and inspiration because sometimes specific DNA sequences from our ancestors can actually be found all over the life chain today. When scientists discover that genes from extinct species are still within us, they’re referred to as ‘ghost lineages’. In fact, if you are interested in this segue into nature’s captivating survival methods, I’ve done a specific article on this, including a point about human survival and genetics which you can read here.

Furthermore, it is important to know what is and has been out there, because it can help tailor our survival tactics to different natural changes (such as species invasion) and inform medical advancement. For example, when treating HIV, scientists found a chemical in Borneo which halted HIV, but it was nearly for naught because the tree was then cut down by the time they had returned. The reason a drug was able to be developed was because some specimens managed to survive! For more on how animals can inform medicine, you can also check out this article I’ve done on this topic.

Also amongst the species mentioned were Copepods, which were highlighted for their role in global cycles including carbon, and food webs. For context, the carbon cycle helps keep the planet at a stable temperature, and also refers to how carbon is moved around the planet. Carbon is crucial for life survival as an ingredient to helping plants grow, or coral make their skeletons, but is also released by animals so keeping its forms balanced is very important.

The summary article also mentions over 50 wasp species, 90+ beetle species, over a dozen moths, six fly species and quite a few more! Amongst the Moth species is the Madagascan hawkmoth, which has an extraordinarily long tongue and whose existence was actually predicted by Darwin and later Wallace in the 1860s! A prediction lasting 200 years before being proven correct is astounding, to me personally, and all the more reason to keep preserving life on our planet. According to the article the two scientists were able to predict the existence of this moth at two different times, after they were shown an orchid because they predicted what kind of creature would be able to actually access its nectar. The article goes on to say that the moth itself was actually described first in 1903 but it was denoted to be a version of a Morgan’s sphinx moth, and it wasn’t until another study that it was identified as its own species entirely. If ever you need a more inspiring reason to protect what still roams the planet, think of this prediction 200 years in the making, made possible by the preservation of the natural world, shared for generations.

Two days ago, as I write, the Natural History Museum posted a new article highlighting that there were dozens of new sea dwellers discovered. A zone of over 5 million km squared in the Pacific, known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, was explored using a remote machine that meant scientists could collect and bring back samples to study. 55 different individuals were brought back, and the Natural History Museum article pointed out that this included an incredible 48 different species.

Photo of Natural History Museum (Credit: just-pics Pixa bay)

The discoveries just keep on coming as well, just more proof that there is wonder still left to protect! Upon writing this, I came across a BBC Article posted very recently that highlighted the discovery of a fish fossil, but not where you might expect: found rather well preserved, with its skull largely intact and mouth poised as if attacking, this fish was not found on a beach, but rather in a grass bank behind a cow shed near Kings Stanley village! After the discovery, the landowner gave permission for a team from Manchester University to have a further look which then unearthed several sea-dwellers that nearly represented a food chain!

But it’s not only the big and surprising that offer scientific marvel. Going further afield, in Madagascar, a new species of Chameleon was written about in February 2021. Found in the rainforest, it has been measured as potentially the smallest species of reptile on the planet. These animals have found a survivable corner of the rainforest, where they can tell if danger is nearby by the shaking of grass, according to Mark Scherz in this article. It goes on to say that as of 2012, only two of these were found – a fact that was corroborated by Scherz in the 2021 National Geographic article.

Though these are novel species that have been discovered, one can understand how it is easy to forget the scientific names and get lost in all the technical language. However, for the sake of a new discovery that you’ll (hopefully) easily remember for inspiration, this National Geographic article talks about a set of over 100 spider species named after David Bowie, to recognise the artist (says Peter Jäger in The Article), but also to make people more likely to recall it and therefore remember the threat they are under. This is not an isolated naming trend with discoveries of 2022 either. In early 2022, a tree was named after Leonardo DiCaprio in response to DiCaprio’s part in trying to protect habitats. In particular, in July 2020, DiCaprio rose awareness of logging as a threat after it was allowed by the government in Cameroon.

Despite the plethora of doomsday nature news, there are still new discoveries and unknown species going through their life cycles, unknown to us, and that’s exactly why we need not give up fighting for our nature just yet. Yes, there’s plenty we can still do, but hopefully this short study has given you yet another reason to remember our Earth is amazing, and worth fighting for still.

About the Author: Ani Talwar is Content Manager at Wild Magazine. She can be found as Mischief.Weavers on Instagram and has her own published novel Atro-City The Flood, available to buy.

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