Scientists announce top 10 new species

May 23, 2008

Shocking pink millipede, 75-million-year-old dinosaur and ‘Michelin Man™’ plant make the list

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of taxonomists – scientists responsible for species exploration and classification – unveiled May 23 the world's top 10 new species described in 2007.

On the list are an ornate sleeper ray, with a name that sucks: Electrolux; a 75-million-year-old giant duck-billed dinosaur; a shocking pink millipede; a rare, off-the-shelf frog; one of the most venomous snakes in the world; a fruit bat; a mushroom; a jellyfish named after its victim; a life-imitates-art “Dim” rhinoceros beetle; and the “Michelin Man™” plant.

The taxonomists are also issuing a SOS – State of Observed Species report card on human knowledge of Earth’s species. In it, they report that 16,969 species new to science were discovered and described in 2006. The SOS report was compiled by ASU’s International Institute for Species Exploration in partnership with the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the International Plant Names Index, and Thompson Scientific, publisher of Zoological Record.

Photos and other information on the top 10 and the SOS report are online at"> />
Among the top 10 picks is an ornate sleeper ray – Electrolux addisoni – whose name reflects “the vigorous sucking action displayed on the videotape of the feeding ray” from the east coast of South Africa that “may rival a well-known electrical device used to suck the detritus from carpets.”

Also on the list is a 75-million-year-old giant duck-billed dinosaur – Gryposaurus monumentensis – discovered in southern Utah by a team from Alf Museum, a California-based paleontology museum on a high school campus.

From the plant kingdom is the “Michelin Man™” plant – Tecticornia bibenda – a succulent plant in Western Australia that resembles the Michelin® tire man.

And, in the category of life imitating art is a “Dim” rhinoceros beetle – Megaceras briansaltini – which, according to the author, looks like the Dim character from the Disney film “A Bug’s Life.”

“The international committee of taxon experts who made the selection of the top 10 from the thousands of species described in calendar year 2007 is helping draw attention to biodiversity, the field of taxonomy, and the importance of natural history museums and botanical gardens in a fun-filled way,” says Professor Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist and director of ASU’s International Institute for Species Exploration.

“We live in an exciting time. A new generation of tools are coming online that will vastly accelerate the rate at which we are able to discover and describe species,” says Wheeler. “Most people do not realize just how incomplete our knowledge of Earth’s species is or the steady rate at which taxonomists are exploring that diversity. In 2006, for example, an average of nearly 50 species per day were discovered and named.

“We are surrounded by such an exuberance of species diversity that we too often take it for granted. Charting the species of the world and their unique attributes are essential parts of understanding the history of life and is in our own self-interest as we face the challenges of living on a rapidly changing planet,” Wheeler says.

Today’s announcements fall on the anniversary of the birth of Carolus Linnaeus, who initiated the modern system of plant and animal names and classifications. The 300th anniversary of his birth on May 23 was celebrated worldwide in 2007 and this year marks the 250th anniversary of the beginning of animal naming.

The majority of the 16,969 species described (named) in 2006 were invertebrate animals and vascular plants, which according to the SOS report is consistent with recent years and reflects, in part, “our profound ignorance of many of the most species-rich taxa inhabiting the planet.”

There are about 1.8 million species that have been described since Linnaeus initiated the modern systems for naming plants and animals in the 18th century. Scientists estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth, though most set the number closer to 10 million.

According to the authors of the SOS report: “There are many reasons that scientists explore Earth’s species: to discover and document the results of evolutionary history; to learn the species that comprise the ecosystems upon which life on our planet depends; to establish baseline knowledge of the planet’s species and their distribution so that non-native pests and vectors of disease may be detected; to inform and enable conservation biology and resource management.

“Perhaps most compelling is curiosity about the diversity of life analogous to our quest to map the stars of the Milky Way and the contours of the ocean floor.”

The State of Observed Species report will be issued annually on May 23 by ASU’s International Institute for Species Exploration, along with the top 10 new species from the previous year.

Another element of the institute’s public awareness campaign is the co-production of a humorous video on biodiversity titled “Planet Bob,” launched on YouTube last October. The video, produced with Media Alchemy of Seattle, combines live action, state-of-the-art animation, and the vocal talents of venerable TV host Hugh Downs and others.

“The Web site">"> and the video ‘Planet Bob’ represent new ways to present taxonomy and biodiversity, in a creative fusion between academia and popular technology,” says Wheeler, who also is ASU vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The International Institute for Species Exploration was created to advance the emerging field of cybertaxonomy in partnership with leading natural history collections, engineer new cyber tools, and educate and inspire the next generation of species explorers.

An international committee of experts, chaired by Janine Caira of the University of Connecticut, selected the top 10 new species for this year’s list. Nominations were invited through the Web site and generated by institute staff and committee members themselves.

The Caira Committee had complete freedom in making its choices and developing its own criteria from unique attributes of or surprising facts about the species to peculiar names. Committee members included Daphne Fautin, University of Kansas; Mary Liz Jameson, University of Nebraska; Niels Kristensen, Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; James Macklin, Harvard University; John Noyes, Natural History Museum, London; Alan Paton, International Plant Names Index, Royal Botanical Garden, Kew, U.K.; Andrew Polaszek, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, London; Adam Slipinski, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia; Gideon Smith, South African National Biodiversity Institute; Antonio Valdecasas. Museo National Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain; and Zhi-Qiang Zhang, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, New Zealand. Download Full Image

Azahara Munoz claims individual NCAA Championship

May 23, 2008

Arizona State junior golfer Azahara">">Aza... Munoz made her first career tournament win an important one as she shot a 1-under 287 (69-72-73-73) to claim the NCAA individual championship at the 6,424-yard, par-72 University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course on May 23. Munoz defeated UCLA's Tiffany Joh in a tie-breaker to be declared winner.

Munoz is ASU's first individual champion since Grace Park in 1999 and ninth overall. Other previous winners include Kristel Mourgue d'Algue (1995), Emilee Klein (1994), Danielle Ammaccapane (1985), Cathy Gaughan (1970), Jane Bastanchury-Booth (1969), Carol Sorenson (1962) and Joanne Gunderson-Carner (1960). Munoz is sixth-year head coach Melissa">">M... Luellen's first individual champion. Download Full Image

Munoz was named Golf World's Best Player You've Maybe Never Heard Of this past December, as well as being named a Mid-Season All-American. She has now recorded 13 top-five appearances in her career at ASU. The Malaga, Spain native had previously been named an NGCA second-team All-American in her first two seasons as a Sun Devil. This is her 10th top-10 finish this season. Munoz recorded a 71.97 stroke average. At last season's NCAA Championships, Munoz finished 65th.

The team placed fifth overall. The Sun Devils shot a 37-over 1189 (290-301-301-297) over the four day tournament. The tournament proved to be an interesting one as inclement weather delayed play numerous times. Luellen has now led the team to four top-10 national finishes. USC won the tournament, shooting a 16-over 1168.

Sophomore All-American Anna">">Anna Nordqvist shot a 3-over 291 (75-73-72-71) to tie for fifth overall. Nordqvist shot a 1-under 71 in the final round. Her fifth place finish is her ninth top-10 finish of the season. The Sun Devils were the lone team in the tournament to have two players finish in the top-five.

Juliana">">Ju... Murcia was the third lowest-scoring Sun Devil. The sophomore finished the tournament at 16-over 304 (73-79-75-77) to tie for 54th overall. Jennifer">">J... Osborn shot a 24-over 312 (73-77-86-76) to tie for 89th overall while Liisa">">Liisa Kelo recorded a 32-over 320 (76-84-81-79).

Arizona State Women's Golf Individual National Champions:
2008- Azahara">">Aza... Munoz
1999-Grace Park
1995-Kristel Mourgue d'Algue
1994-Emilee Klein
1985-Danielle Ammaccapane
1970-Cathy Gaughan
1969-Jane Bastanchury-Booth
1962-Carol Sorenson
1960-Joanne Gunderson-Carner