New species list features bugs that feed on 'Titanic'


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The Independent Online

A fish with arm-like fins; a two-inch leech with oversized jaws found living in a man's nose and a type of rust-eating microbe making a slow meal of the wreck of the Titanic are among the "top 10 new species" discovered in 2010, scientists announced yesterday.

The 10 new species includes a luminescent mushroom with a daylight glow found in Brazil, a small antelope known by only one specimen seized in a bush-meat market in West Africa and an orb-weaving spider from Madagascar that can spin webs up to 82-feet across with silk that is twice as strong as ordinary spider thread.

An international committee of taxonomists – led by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University – announced the top 10 species as a way a highlighting the amazing diversity of life on Earth, much of which has yet to be discovered and classified formally.

"At the same time that astronomers search for Earth-like planets in visible space, taxonomists are busily exploring the life forms of the most Earth-like planet of all, our own," said Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist who lead the institute at Arizona State University. "We can only realistically aspire to sustainable biodiversity if we first learn what species exist to begin with."

The leech with the gigantic teeth has been named Tyrannobdella rex, meaning "tyrant leech king" in honour of its fearsome jaws and was found attached to the nasal membrane of someone living in Peru. The Titanic bacterium, named Halomonas titanicae, is able to feed off iron-oxide, while the pancake batfish hops through the water with arm-like fins and was found in the Gulf of Mexico. Other unusual species include a jumping cockroach and a 6ft 6ins monitor lizard found on Luzon Island in the Philippines, with brightly-coloured scales and an insatiable taste for ripe fruit.

Dr Wheeler said: "Committee members had complete freedom in making their choices and developing their own criteria, from unique attributes or surprising facts about the species to peculiar names."