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94 New Species Described By CA Academy of Sciences

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the what's-in-a-name dept.

Science 52

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the California Academy of Sciences traversed four continents and two oceans to uncover 94 new species in 2009, proving that while sometimes in this digital age the world can feel like a small place, much of it has yet to be explored. Among the 94 discoveries were 65 arthropods, 14 plants, 8 fishes, 5 sea slugs, one coral, and one fossil mammal. Why does it matter? As Dr. David Mindell, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the Academy, explained, 'Humans rely on healthy ecosystems, made up of organisms and their environments. Creating a comprehensive inventory of life on our planet is critical for understanding and managing resources. Yet a great many life-forms remain to be discovered and described.'"

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52 comments

Take the safety labels off everything. (0, Troll)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468284)

We could do with a few more extinct animals...

What makes them new species? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468332)

The old definition was that two things were different species if they couldn't produce viable offspring. New definition? Something about DNA? But this hasn't been settled. So what did they find?

Re:What makes them new species? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468368)

Given that I wouldn't describe the average American kid these days as "viable" does that mean that all males and females in the US are from different species?

Re:What makes them new species? (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468524)

The definition you refer to is the biological species definition. Normally when that definition is used the offspring need to not just produce viable offspring, but the offspring need to be fertile (thus donkeys and horses are different species since mules are viable but not fertile). However, this definition doesn't work perfectly. For example, a small fraction of mules (I think around 1%) can actually reproduce. So are donkeys and horses different species? The real issue is that biology is messy and nature is inherently fuzzy. Thus, one gets for examples what are called ring species. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species [wikipedia.org]. In a ring species, one has three populations, A, B and C. Members of A can interbreed to produce fertile offspring with members of B. Members of B can reproduce with members of C. But, members of A cannot produce fertile offspring with members of C. Essentially, under the biological species definition "is the same species" is not a transitive relation. That's bad.

The definition runs into other problems as well. For example, the definition forces every asexual organism to be its own species by a strict reading. Thus, there have been other proposed definitions of a species.

Every definition has its own advantages and disadvantages. However none of them is perfect. This is precisely what we would expect: if species lines were easily definable and clear cut, that would be really hard to reconcile with any form of evolutionary theory other than some sort of "hopeful monster" argument, which have been widely discredited. The blurry nature of species boundaries is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for evolution.

There's been a lot of thought on the general definition of species and whether these definitions are simply labeling conveniences or reflect genuine biological principles. I've been told that John Wilkins' book "Species: A History of the Idea" is a very good primer for these issues. I haven't read it, but I did read Wilkins' PhD thesis and so can say that he's an engaging and thoughtful and fun writer. So this is probably what to read if you want more info.

Re:What makes them new species? (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468580)

So how did they actually check then that all of these 94 are new? (Forget the fossil...)

Re:What makes them new species? (1)

prograde (1425683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30478634)

They're not "new" in the sense that they were recently formed/evolved. They are new species in the sense that they have been newly described [wikipedia.org]. So, in answer to your question, their description was published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Re:What makes them new species? (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468732)

biology is messy and nature is inherently fuzzy

That's what happens when you have sex with a caterpillar.

Users Manual. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468328)

"Yet a great many life-forms remain to be discovered and described.'"

And exploited.

Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosystem (5, Funny)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468340)

'Humans rely on healthy ecosystems, made up of organisms and their environments."

And that, my friends, is a prime example of what soft liberal earth-worship thinking will get you. We don't get our fuels or building materials or other raw materials from the "ecosystem" -- we smite the earth and take them out by force of will and machines built by the human mind. We don't hunt and gather like savages, and we don't even use primitive low yield agriculture -- we use industry powered by investment to get our food and textiles. And you think nature just made your Droid? That's intelligent design in action, not evolution.

We live off an ECONOMY. Ecosystems are made-up concepts by hippy-dippy types who'd rather save the life of some spotted owl than let a hard-working man earn an honest dollar. If ecosystems were valuable, you'd pay for them.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (4, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468356)

"If ecosystems were valuable, you'd pay for them."

Now, or later?

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (0, Troll)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468532)

Don't worry, Al Gore will save us!

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30469352)

Wow. There must be some real Anti-Gore peeps out there to mod that troll rather than funny.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

psithurism (1642461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468672)

Well I got all my recent furniture interest free till June 2010. I'll make a deal like that with the planet; I'll do what we want now, and later I'll pay for it, K? Earth knows I'm good for it.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 4 years ago | (#30474536)

The problem with that of course is that our parents and our parents parents and our parents parents parents going back till dunno when have been doing that same thing. "Oh Earth, you know I'm good for it." Then they die and pass the burden onto their kids, who say the same thing while continuing to add to the balance that must be paid for at some time. "Oh Earth, you know I'm good for it."

But this can't go on forever. Eventually it will reach the breaking point, and Earth will say "PAY UP OR GTFO!" Maybe not this generation, maybe not the next generation, but some generation will get the eviction notice.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (2, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468418)

Dude are you serious? On the off chance that you are, perhaps you should do a little research. You'll find out that supermarket shelves are in fact not plants, and that canned foods are not fruits that grow there without human intervention.

That's the problem with cities: People living in them become totally ignorant of the fact that despite not having to see it even once in a typical city-dweller's lifetime, the ecosystem is absolutely crucial to the survival of every man, woman and child, even if they never leave the concrete of the city.

Even the most processed of trashy foods requires, as a basic first step ingredient, some product of an ecosystem. Farms are not self-sustaining, without healthy, pollution-free rain, there are no crops or feeding paddocks. Without healthy bees, there is no honey. Without healthy birds, locusts would decimate crops.

It should be compulsory for every high schooler to spend one month of every year of school working on a farm. It's time we stopped schooling our kids to be cogs in the mindless machine of urban society and started educating them to be fully aware citizens of Mankind.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (3, Funny)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468482)

Dude are you serious?

No.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

GaelTadh (916987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468530)

Yet you get modded insightful +2 and are 1st visible comment.
I don't know what to say except .... well done :)

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30470248)

Yet you get modded insightful +2 and are 1st visible comment.

Good satire will always be insightful.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468962)

Sadly the fact that you have to verify that doesn't reflect poorly on /.s ability to pick up sarcasm. But rather some of the ridiculous positions people hold on the internet (getting modded insightful). I assumed sarcasm, guess that means there is still some optimism left in me. Or I could have noticed that you at least make fun of glenn beck so you are at least left of him...

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468620)

...the ecosystem is absolutely crucial to the survival of every man, woman and child, even if they never leave the concrete of the city.

And this is why it's so crucial that we take the right steps in protecting it, rather than the politically expedient ones.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (2, Insightful)

rockNme2349 (1414329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468726)

I am a programmer, and I am a big fan of the "need to know" basis. If I am curious I like to learn how things work, but when I am working efficiently I just assume functions and libraries will do exactly what they claim to, and write my code based off of that.

Living in cities has enabled us to abstract the bare necessities. Since we do not need to worry about where our food comes from, or how it is made; just that it will be there when we need it, we can focus ourselves more intensely on other subjects, increasing the net productivity of society as a whole. Granted in the event of a natural disaster of epic proportions most of the society would die off due to lack of basic survival skills. It is a gamble.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30471270)

Living in cities has enabled us to abstract the bare necessities. Since we do not need to worry about where our food comes from, or how it is made; just that it will be there when we need it, we can focus ourselves more intensely on updating our twitter status and choosing which brand of coffee to drink.

ftfy

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30471292)

Sounds like a good philosophy. However, there are problems when things like getFood() fails to deliver a result. Perhaps a waterTap('on') call fails to appropriately change the status. Maybe you'll one day find out that the methods that you execute repeatedly Body.inhale() and Body.exhale() result in cache poisoning.

The world is not a computer. You can't safely abstract away your machine code. One day, total failure to understand where you food comes from or how basic stuff works will bite you in the ass.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468454)

As long as the hippie scientists are not eating into your pie, why do you care? Someone has a perception or standard of "value" different from yours. News at 11.

Or if they *are*, fight them. Even better, fight them "honestly". Stop whining.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468598)

Wow. Arguing with a work of satire. I didn't realise that sarcasm detectors were such an endangered species!

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30469322)

And what made you think my post wasn't satire too? I leave it as an exercise for you to detect the sarcasm in that post. Or if you prefer, get off my lawn.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468738)

.

.and we get out oxygen from--

Oh, wait...

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

McDozer (1460341) | more than 4 years ago | (#30473464)

Everything you consume at one point came from an ecosystem...so in a round about way....yeah you ARE paying for them and they ARE valuable.

And jeese....whats up with all the liberal/hippy bashing or did I miss some sarcasm in there or something?



Just realized HTML tags work here hehe.

Re:Pfff. We live off an ECONOMY, not some ecosyste (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30495360)

If ecosystems were valuable, you'd pay for them.

I'd like your grandchildren to pay for my despoliation of their ecosystem before they were conceived, please. Isn't that a nice, symmetrical distribution of costs and benefits ; I take the benefits and they pay the costs.
But if you wanted to make things less uneven, you can't ask my grandchildren to pay for your despoliation of their ecosystem unless you manage to reverse my sterilisation without me noticing it (as a side topic, you'd have to persuade my wife to carry the sprog(s) to term, which is a whole 'nother task).

(Yes, I did detect the sarcasm in the original post. "Do unto others ...")

"Managing resources" (2, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468410)

Ah, see, there's the problem right there: we shouldn't be trying to do that. We're lousy at it. We should be focusing all of our limited PHB managerial skills on managing ourselves and our own six-fold overpopulation, not trying to manage everything else.

Re:"Managing resources" (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468496)

Kill a hippy today!

Re:"Managing resources" (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468526)

Probably a good idea. They caused that whole Summer of Love orgy business.

Re:"Managing resources" (2, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30469144)

Old view have a big family is what is less helpful in population. But honestly, 1st world countries aren't the problem when it comes to over-population. It is 3rd world countries where they are starving to death and decide it'd be a fantastic idea to have 6 kids.

On a related note the best thing to do to fix this problem is to educate the women in africa, when educated birth rates plummet (which is a good thing).

Re:"Managing resources" (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30470462)

I know about about birth rates being an inverse proportion to standard of living; that applies to EVERY creature, not just H. sapiens. I was trying to be sarcastic and funny in response to the GGP, however.

Re:"Managing resources"/food/money/politics (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30473670)

It isn't that simplistic. A lot of the developing world agriculture goes to make foreign exchange hard currency to support the local warlord/junta and wall street fatcats and the IMF, the food production there goes to the developed world instead of feeding the local population *first*. There's much less need for "food aid" when the local agriculture has as a priority a diverse system dedicated at the first level to feeding their own people, rather than vast monoculture farms dedicated to overseas exports.

  So it is actually the reverse in a lot of cases from this often alleged "common knowledge", the local population could probably live on their food production even with a lot of kids, if it stayed there more in the first place, whereas in the heavily developed nations, even with fewer kids, they would be hard pressed to feed themselves (and a lot of other basic life's necessities sustainability issues) without truly massive imports of food and energy and the still continuing "soft" exploitation going on with the connivance of their political and economic leaders.

    If it isn't discussed, it must not happen or "see no evil" and get to pontificate on how superior one way is over the other. See, them dumb natives have too many kids and can't take care of themselves"! gloating. Then you look at it closer, they have been getting shafted for decades/generations and are stuck in a never ending cradle to grave foreign "debt" situation which was imposed on the bulk of the people there rather shadily in the first place.

Here is an example of one situation, the African nation of Malawi. When they used to follow the wall street/IMF western "developed nation" advice and way of doing business and running their agriculture, their nation starved constantly, using exported ag resources all the time for making money rather than first feeding their people. When they switched back to putting their own nation first-adopting those often criticized "protectionist" principles, plus just a scosh more education into some alternative ways of farming-they went back to self sufficiency a long way and built themselves back to being more diversified in ag and feeding their people a lot better. And it can change fast with actually rather simple economic and educational policy changes.

  It isn't perfect, they can still have and do have problems, but they become "wealthier" faster once some priorities get shifted around back to the actual people as a whole inside some area and not focused on making the top 1% there and wall street, etc. even richer.

refs:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/malawis-farming-revolution-sets-the-pace-in-africa-821135.html [independent.co.uk]

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7683748.stm [bbc.co.uk]

And just a further notation, speaking as a farmer. I will guarantee you, with 100% certainty, if *ever* there is a fast rising shortage of diesel to the "developed" world, that lasts longer than a couple weeks or months, even with "fewer kids", etc, you will see near famine or outright famine. Your best case scenario will be much less variety of foods in the stores at multiples of the current prices.

Without cheap diesel, you just ain't eating. You can ride some subway or bicycle all day long, wall off huge areas to protect the three eyed flying newt, and that isn't going to feed you. That's the *best* case with a fast loss of diesel situation, or fast rising prices of diesel due to any other reason, such as rampant uncontrolled or unregulated market speculation like we had a small taste of recently last year.

This also warrants a rather severe look at this huge push for an emergency "war on carbon" without any credible alternatives in place, in advance. Margins are really lean now with farming for a lot of places, and this is during good supplies and relatively cheap energy prices. They change to the negative by only a few percent more, combined with new taxes and the costs of the upcoming war on carbon...probably unsustainable. We'd go (speaking just the production right here where I am) from providing around 25,000 families with poultry and around 80 families with beef to about zilch and nada. I am guessing well over 90% of the farms out there, whether livestock or plant crops, are in a similar situation with their margins. Yes, you can switch to a massive human labor model, but not that fast and even then it would take several seasons to adjust, meaning you would get pretty hungry for several years and a lot of cushy high paid inside office jobs would vanish and back to the hoes and shovels outside, with much lower yields and still higher prices.

My prediction is, this current huge economic and political realignment push is going to backfire on the people who impose this wallstreet/political watermelon conjob on themselves right now, becoming further tools of the big casino banks with their cap and trade skimming market, which is hiding behind the politics and science and is locked in place with the war on carbon.

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/putting_our_economy_in_the_hands_of_chavez_fans [news.com.au]

As a further note, we no longer have food stockpiles in the US, the "national emergency pantry" that we maintained for a long time,(I don't know about Europe,perhaps someone who does could chime in here about how much food they stockpile) they've been sold off. There is no cushion, there are no "food savings" beyond this years crop, which is always a crapshoot.

In other words, all this gloating over how "superior" the developed world is could turn to gloom in a very fast time period from any number of "black swan" events, and this current wealthy lifestyle in the "developed" world with the aging population and less kids is still enjoyed because of overseas exploitation of labor and natural resources, which to a large degree has been based on currency and market manipulations and throwing military resources at dictators and keeping them well stuffed with guns, tanks, planes, palaces and Mercedes, so they can keep their people dumbed down, exploited and impoverished.

    Any major disruption, of any of those facets, in this current lopsided and skewed scenario, it crumbles, and *fast*, even with "fewer kids".

Like I said, I'm a farmer so I pay close attention to food and energy and water issues, etc, and what I see scares the crap out of me, that so many people in the "developed" world apparently don't really understand how *precarious* it is and how fast drastic changes will impact them and how much they are being manipulated via a huge multi level and multi directional propaganda campaign.

Patent them please! (1)

tee-rav (1029032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468566)

Hey CA Academy of Sciences, Please patent the species (including all genetic code) you discovered/described, and grant free use under open license. "Biologists" and "geneticists" discover lots of things, of which many of the useful ones end up being owned by "Big Pharma" or "Agribusiness." As an experiment (or a friendly competition), see what the "Open-source community" does with the 93 still-extant species you discovered last year.

On the sixth day of Earth Day... (2, Funny)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468570)

A treehugger gave to me
14 plants oxygenating
5 sea slugs
65 creeping arthropods
8 swimming fishes
One coral reef
And a fossilized raccoon dog from an ancient lake bed.

Re:On the sixth day of Earth Day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468794)

...and all I wanted was a cat girl!

I predict 30 of these species will outlast humans (1)

eriktderek (563388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468594)

In the big picture, DNA and life are just giant software programs. So they just discoverd 94 new utilities. We humans are trying to reverse engineer the code of life. When we succeed that will be endgame. There will be no need for economies if we have the power of life at our fingertips. AKA God. Programming in C++ or whatever are other attempts that will be superseeded by other languages. I predict ultimately the only thing valuable left on earth when we can program life will be life itself, the real evolved stuff, not the human created stuff that will become a commodity. So appreciate these 94 cos whatever is going to happen will happen soon, 50 years, extinction of them or us - and we have horrendous weapons - my bet is on 30 of these species outlasting humanity!

Re:I predict 30 of these species will outlast huma (1)

psithurism (1642461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468742)

Me too, but without guessing the exact ones, we'll never know which to attach our disembodied brains too with our genetically engineered, brain-payload parasites.

Re:I predict 30 of these species will outlast huma (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30469976)

There will be no need for economies if we have the power of life at our fingertips. AKA God

Don't forget thermodynamics. Being able to alter our own biology does not change the fact that we will continue to need energy.

Re:I predict 30 of these species will outlast huma (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30470350)

In the big picture, DNA and life are just giant software programs.

In the big picture, all software analogies breakdown.

There will be no need for economies if we have the power of life at our fingertips.

Case and point. Unless you actually believe that humans will no longer struggle-for/barter/buy power over the Earth's/Solar System's/Galaxy's/Universe's inherently limited resources just because we figured out how to live forever (violent deaths aside). The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine [wikipedia.org] still struggles to gather resources for itself with all it's energy despite it's effective immortality when compared to the mayfly.

Out of 94 New Species... (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468744)

Out of 94 new species,less the fossil and coral, how many actually taste good?
Hey, if they're gonna hang out here, they might as well be worth the space they take up.

One day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30469564)

Just think, one day we may even find intelligent species!

65 new kinds of spiders (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30469964)

Wherever they went, I want to stay far away from it.

Re: 65 new kinds of spiders (1)

ethogram (1094021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30473392)

Arthropods are a lot more than spiders, including things like insects (most of which are non-venomous) and crustaceans (some of which many people consider tasty). I would have been happy to hear about 65 new Arachnids, but that's not what the post said.

94 new species, versus 10-30 million unknown (1)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 4 years ago | (#30474020)

While it's nice to hear of new species being discovered, 94 is not a large number in this context, and you certainly don't need to travel all round the globe to find new species. They're everywhere around us, in every nook and cranny of the biosphere, in the air and inside rocks (even a few miles down), living on the surface of larger organisms and also inside. Even our bodies are hosts to unknown species --- like all higher animals, we're really just mobile habitats for smaller forms of life, and wherever there is life, there is unknown life as well.

We've catalogued roughly 1.4 million species, but biologists estimate that 10 to 30 million are still unknown to science. This page from University of Michigan [umich.edu] gives a detailed breakdown of the state of our species catalogue circa 2006. It puts TFA's study into perspective rather well.

Excellent (1)

nnnneedles (216864) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484576)

Great that we are finding new species! If we keep this up maybe we can replace the ones that are going extinct with these new ones. Besides, the other ones were getting old anyway.

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