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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Top ten new species of 2011

The International Institute for Species Exploration sorts through the hundreds of species that are discovered each year to bring you their top ten list. Species can be nominated for this great honor by researchers or by the public, but the ultimate choice is made by the Top 10 International Committee, this year chaired by Mary Jameson of Wichita State University.

Here are my two favorite winners:

The picture below is of a fungus.

Interior (left) and exterior (right) views of Spongiforma squarepantsii. 

Center: SEM photograph of spores of Spongiforma squarepantsii by Dennis E. Desjardin and Andrew Ichimura.
Photo credit: Thomas Bruns.

Astute observers will notice that it bears a striking resemblance to a sponge. Even more astute observers will see that it bears the scientific name of Spongiforma squarepantsii. In case that’s not clear enough, the common name of this fungus is the ‘Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom’. For some reason, journal editors originally rejected this name choice. Luckily, they came to their senses.

My second favorite species on the list is the Bonaire Banded Box Jelly (Tamoya Ohboya), a beautiful but deadly box jelly.

Photo credit: Ned DeLoach.

The public was invited to submit suggestions for its name, and the winning selection was provided by high school biology teacher Lisa Peck. Apparently, a lot of people associate ‘oh boy’ with encountering box jellies.

You can see the entire list here, as well as winners from previous years.