Check Out the Top 10 New Species of 2016

May 24, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Don Fausto Giant Tortoise
Photo credit: Washington Tapia

The list includes a new kind of giant Galapagos tortoise and a hominin in the same genus as humans.

Every year on May 23, in commemoration of the birthday of Carl Linnaeus — the father of modern taxonomy — the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) releases its top 10 list of new species that were named the previous year. The top 10 are selected from a list of around 18,000 newly named species

Quentin Wheeler, president and founding director of the ESF's International Institute for Species Exploration, said in a press release: "In the past half-century we have come to recognize that species are going extinct at an alarming rate. It is time that we accelerate species exploration, too. Knowledge of what species exist, where they live, and what they do will help mitigate the biodiversity crisis and archive evidence of the life on our planet that does disappear in the wild."

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These are the top 10 new species of 2016:

Giant Tortoise

Chelonoidis donfaustoi

For a long time, the eastern and western populations of giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos were assumed to belong to the same species, C. porteri. But a careful analysis of genetic and morphological data revealed the eastern population, with as few as 250 individuals, is actually a distinct and new species.

Galapagos giant tortoise Chelonoidis donfautsoi

Credit: Washington Tapia

Giant Sundew

Drosera magnifica

This is the largest sundew ever seen in the New World, growing to 123 centimeters (48 inches). Like other sundews, it secretes thick mucus on the surface of its leaves that entraps insects that are then digested to compensate for the inadequate nutrition available in the soils in which it grows. This sundew is considered to be critically endangered, and only exists at the summit of a single mountain in Brazil, 1,550 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level.

Giant Sundew Drosera magnifica

Credit: Paulo M. Gonella


Homo naledi

Anatomical features of this new hominin found in South Africa are a mixture of those of Australopithecus with other Homo species, combined with several features not known in any other hominin species. Similar in size and weight to a modern human, and with humanlike hands and feet, the new species has a braincase more similar in size to earlier ancestors living two million to four million years ago, as well as shoulders, pelvis, and ribcage more closely resembling earlier hominins than modern humans.

Homo naledi, a hominin species

Credit: John Hawks, Wits University

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Iuiuniscus iuiuensis

This blind, unpigmented, multilegged animal represents a new subfamily, genus, and species of amphibious isopod discovered in a South American cave. It has a behavior never seen before in its family: constructing shelters of mud in which it molts. Some Palearctic isopods are known to build shelters, but this is a first for the New World.

Iuiuniscus iuiuensis, an isopod

Credit: Souza, Ferreira & Senna


Lasiognathus dinema

It was discovered during a Natural Resource Damage Assessment process that followed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Different species of anglerfish can be distinguished visually only by details of the unusual structure called the esca that is projected over their heads (like a fishing pole). The esca in some anglerfish is home to symbiotic bacteria that are bioluminescent, producing light in the dark depths of the ocean, and it is presumed to attract prey.

Anglerfish, Lasiognathus dinema

Credit: Theodore W. Pietsch, University of Washington


Phyllopteryx dewysea

This new kind of marine fish, 240 millimeters (nearly 10 inches) in length, is ruby red with pink vertical bars and light markings on its snout. Only the third known species of seadragon, it is found in slightly deeper and more offshore waters than the related common or leafy seadragons. The discovery was made off the coast of Western Australia.

Red seadragon, Phyllopteryx dewysea

Credit: Josefin Stiller, Nerida Wilson and Greg Rouse

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Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington

Hailing from Peru, these tiny new beetles make their homes in pools of water that accumulate in hollows of plants, such as tree holes and the leaf bases of bromeliads (tropical and subtropical plants with short stems and stiff, open spiny leaves). They belong to the featherwing beetle family, which also contains the smallest known group of beetles.

Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington, peru beetle

Credit: Michael Darby


Pliobates cataloniae

The remains of a small female ape that lived about 11.6 million years ago were discovered in a landfill in Catalonia. It appears she was 4 to 5 kilograms (roughly 9 to 11 pounds) in weight, suggesting a diminutive height of about 43 cm (17 inches). She lived before the lineage containing humans and great apes had diverged from its sister branch, the gibbons, and she appears to be sister to the three combined.


Primate ancestor, Pilobates cataloniae


Credit: Artwork by Marta Palmero, Institut Catalá de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP)

Flowering Tree

Sirdavidia solannona

This new tree species was hiding in plain sight, just meters from the main road in the Monts de Cristal National Park, in Gabon, which was thought to have already been thoroughly explored. The tree’s flowers have reflexed petals exposing the stamens and pistils that bees "sonicate" by creating vibrations of the air with their wings to extract and spread pollen.



Credit: Dr. Thomas Couvreur


Umma gumma

This damselfly from Africa is just one of 60 new dragonfly and damselfly species reported this year. Most of the new species are colorful and so distinct they are identifiable from photographs alone, emphasizing that not all unknown species are small, indistinct, or cryptic in appearance or habits.


Sparklewing damselfly, Umma gumma


Credit: Jens Kipping

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