Our world is full of life. Through billions of years of planetary change, much of what is alive today didn’t exist during different stages of Earth’s structural evolution. Continental plates have shifted, while ice ages and meteor strikes (think dinosaurs) have forever altered the scope of what lives and breathes on our planet. There are literally millions of unique species on Earth.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus developed the architecture for our modern system of binomial nomenclature, the naming of species using Latin grammar, which places an animal’s genus and then species in its formal name. Today, the field of identifying and organizing species is just as alive as ever. You’d be shocked at the animal life that has existed beside us for years without recognition. Below, we highlight ten shocking species living on our planet that were just found just within the last several years.
10. Game Of Thrones Ants
Pheidole Viserion And Pheidole Drogon
Ants are one of the most ubiquitous creatures to inhabit our planet. A pesky insect with more than 12,000 individual species, ants have found a home on every continent except for Antarctica. All ants share a common morphology, consisting of a three-part body: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Ants live in colonies, ranging in size from several dozen to millions. Colonies consist of reproducing queens, which can live 30 years.
Ants make up an impressive portion of Earth’s biomass, so it’s no surprise that two new species of ants weren’t known to researchers until this year. These new species, Pheidole viserion (left above) and Pheidole drogon (right above), are members of the Pheidole genus, a common one that can be found throughout the planet. Yet, while these ants are known for their relatively large heads, P. viserion and P. drogon also sport impressive spikes on their backside. Researchers decided these spikes were like those found on dragons from the popular show Game of Thrones. The ants were observed in New Guinea, the second-largest island in the world, a tropical ecosystem of incredible biodiversity.
9. Pretty In Pink
The Smithsonian reports that there are 200 million insects on Earth for every human, so it’s not all that surprising that insects dominate the field of newly discovered members of the animal kingdom. Since we’ve highlighted the finds on New Guinea, we’re going to jump to nearby Borneo, the world’s third-largest island and home to parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, with the nation of Brunei occupying a minuscule slice of the island.
Eulophophyllum kirki was an accidental discovery, found while researchers were on the hunt for snakes and spiders across Borneo. This species of katydid is unique for the pinkish hue of their females. The E. kirki female was spotted in a Malaysian nature reserve, but no specimens were collected for further research, as the scientists could not obtain collecting permits. The katydid’s name is derived from the man who photographed it, Peter Kirk. It measures approximately 4 centimeters (1.6 in) and mimics leaves to blend in seamlessly with its surroundings. For the female, this means its extraordinary pink backside is lined with “veins” resembling those from nearby trees.
8. The ‘Sorting Hat’ Spider
One of the perks of discovering a new and rare animal species is being granted naming rights. Many researchers may insert their own name into the animal’s species identifier, but as we’ve seen, it’s also common for scientists to give pop culture a nod when naming species. This is the case with the newly discovered Eriovixia gryffindori, a spider found in India’s southwestern state of Karnataka. The spider’s shape, from its brownish hue to its curvature at the top, resembles the sorting hat from the Harry Pottermovies. After looking for ourselves, we are inclined to agree, and author J.K. Rowling even tweeted out her congratulations to the researchers after their find.
The spider is part of the Eriovixia genus, part of the Araneidae family, which consists of orb-weaver spiders, known for spinning webs with circular weaves. E. gryffindori measures in at just 7 millimeters, which helps explain how it eluded discovery for so long. The spider is nocturnal, and like the pink katydids, it is a master of mimicry, blending in with dead foliage to avoid predators.