As 2014 draws to a close, let's take a look back and celebrate the top 10 announcements of newly discovered species from the past year. These aren't presented in any particular order, because they're all pretty great. Click on the titles of each species to learn more about the discoveries.
Image credit: Nicole Dutra
When the discovery of a Brazilian river dolphin was announced in January, it was the first new species of river dolphin that had been described since World War I. Inia araguaiaensis was originally believed to be members of I. geoffrensis, until genetic analysis of the mitochondrial DNA and closer examination of the skulls proved otherwise. The dolphins were named in honor of the Araguaia River basin, where they live.
Image credit: J. Judson Wynne
Inside a tiny cave in the north rim of the Grand Canyon renowned for its biodiversity, researchers discovered two species of tiny blind pseudoscorpions. Though they have front pincers like scorpions, they have a rounded body, rather than a venomous stinger tail. The specimens were originally collected between 2005 and 2007. In addition to describing the new species, the researchers recommended that the cave in which they live continue to be under protection, forbidden from entry by tourists who could harm the ecosystem.
New York Frog
Image credit: Brian Curry
A new species of frog from New York City was formally described in October, which is the first time the metropolitan area has had a new frog species since 1882. The frogs have a fairly large range, spanning from New York down the coastline down to North Carolina. The frog was originally suspected to be a unique species by Carl Kauffeld in 1937, though the idea didn't gain much traction and was later forgotten. The species was named Rana kauffeldi in his honor.
Harry Potter Wasp
Image credit: Ohl et al.
Remember the terrifying ghost-like creatures known as dementors from the Harry Potter series? They have been immortalized in the scientific literature after Ampulex dementor, a wasp native to Thailand, was described earlier this spring. The name was chosen after a public voting campaign held by the Natural History Museum in Berlin. The wasp reminded many of the dementors due to its terrifying way of getting into its prey's head, literally. Females of this species lay eggs inside the head of a cockroach, turning them into zombie-like incubators. The offspring later hatch and then eat their way out.
Image credit: University of Lincoln
Though they be but little, their mating call is fierce. A paper published in June described a new genus of insect which has a record-setting mating call. Supersonus, as the genus was named, emits an ultrasonic mating call that can be heard by other members of the species, but is outside of the frequency which can be heard by potential predators. These insects, which are related to katydids, live in South America.
Deep Sea 'Mushroom'
Image credit: Just et al.
These organisms proved to be a phylogenetic oddity, not quite fitting in with Cnidarians or Ctenophorans. Proper categorization could prove to require a major overhaul of the tree of life, as it would require the addition of an entirely new phylum. Though they look a lot like mushrooms, these are actually animals who live in the deep sea. The specimens were originally collected in 1986, but were luckily preserved well enough to make the proper description nearly 30 years later.
Image credit: Gavin Svenson/Cleveland Museum of Natural History
A paper published in March described nineteen new species of bark mantis, which span eight countries throughout Central and South America. The coloring of the mantises allows them to blend in with foliage and litter on the forest floor, allowing them to quickly sneak up and attack their prey. Two of the new species were named after the lead author's daughters, and tributes were paid to former Vice President Al Gore, explorer James Stephen Fossett, and TV hosts Chris and Martin Kratt as well.
Deep Diving Whale
Image credit: Lisa Thompson
The first specimen of this new species of deep-diving whale was actually collected over 50 years ago, but the species proved to be so elusive, another would not wash onto the shore for two more years. It was originally predicted to a member of another species, but when another specimen washed ashore recently, scientists were able to perform genetic analysis, and identify the whale as a distinct species.
Marriage Equality Snail
Image credit: Chih-Wei Huang
It was announced in October that a species of snail that was originally believed to be a similar species originally described in 1884 was discovered in Taiwan. The species was named in honor of marriage equality, and was dubbed Aegista diversifamilia. Diversi- comes from the Latin "diversus" meaning different, while familia comes from the female form of the Latin word for family. As the snails are hermaphroditic, the researchers paid tribute to the fact that there are all kinds of different families that exist in the world.
Image credit: Steve Garvie
In July, the wildlife group BirdLife International announced the recognition of 361 new distinct species of bird. Many of these birds were assumed to have been other species, which meant that they were not given the conservation assessment they may have needed. In fact, about a quarter of the newly-identified species were designated as threatened. However, now that researchers know more about the biodiversity of these birds, more can be done to protect them and preserve the species.