Great Apes To Trump Moths: Ten New Species Discovered In 2017

Researchers say this new species of orangutan are already close to extinction. Tim Laman/Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a trying year for wildlife. It could be easy to slip into despair as climate change unwaveringly chugs on, the United States pulls out of the Paris agreement, and many animals are being pushed closer to extinction. But all is not lost.

From the saving of the kiwi, the rediscovery of the elusive mulgara, and China shutting down its domestic ivory trade, there is much to be hopeful about. And as always, scientists in far flung locations have discovered a whole trove of new species.

Below is a selection of those we find particularly noteworthy.  

Tapanuli organutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)

According to a new paper released this year, one group of orangutans (pictured above) living in the northern part of Sumatra are genetically distinct enough to be classed as their own species. The first great ape species to be discovered in over 80 years, P. tapanuliensis is already threatened with extinction as only around 800 are thought to survive.

Bhupathy’s purple frog (Nasikabatrachus bhupathi)

The strange amphibian is native to the Western Ghats, India. Jegath Janani et al. 2017

With beady eyes, a pointed pig-like snout, and chubby legs, this might not be what most people think of when imagining an amphibian, but say hello to the latest species of purple frog. And if you think the weird-looking creature bears more than a passing resemblance to a mole, that's because it too spends most of its time underground.

Vika (Uromys vika)

It seems that in some regions ROUS's really do exist. Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum

Giant, hairy creatures with a powerful bite have long been rumored to be scurrying around the Solomon Islands. Now, scientists have confirmed that the islands are indeed inhabited by giant arboreal rats that can crack coconuts with their teeth.    

The non-photosynthesizing plant (Sciaphila sugimotoi)

Despite being one of the best-studied places on Earth, even Japan is hiding some new species. Sugimoto Takaomi/Yamashita Hiroaki

While most plants turn to the Sun for their energy, some instead tap into the roots of others, not unlike many species of fungi. The plants are often difficult to find as they only come above ground to flower and seed. This new species was found on the Japanese island of Ishigaki.

Naked lizard (Geckolepis megalepis)

This slippery customer literally sheds its scales to get the better of predators. F. Glaw

You may have heard of lizards that drop their tails in a bid to escape predators, but you might be less familiar with a group of reptiles known as the fish-scaled geckos. These beasties literally shed their scales when attacked, leaving behind a smooth, naked lizard. This year saw a new species added to the list, which also happens to be the largest known.

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