During the last year, the National History Museum (NHM) in London has described a total of 552 new species of animals and plants, including several new dinosaurs, two ancient mammals, 291 crustaceans, 52 wasps, 13 moths, seven crabs, six flies, five amphipods, and 90 beetles.
This year has been particularly important for the discovery of new species of dinosaurs (four in the UK, one in China, and one in Morocco). “It’s been a fantastic year for the description of new dinosaurs, especially from the UK,” said Dr. Susannah Maidment, a senior researcher in Paleobiology at the NHM, who helped describe some of these new species.
“Although we’ve known about the UK’s dinosaur heritage for over 150 years, the application of new techniques and new data from around the world is helping us to uncover a hidden diversity of British dinosaurs. These specimens are parts of a vast palaeobiological jigsaw puzzle that allows us to understand environments of the past and how they changed over time.”
These dinosaurs include two massive carnivorous spinosaurs found on the Isle of Wight, a “chunky” sauropod with an unusually large funny bone discovered in China, and an ankylosaur found in Morocco with had an odd series of spikes attached to its ribs.
The museum has also discovered two ancient mammals, Megalomys camerhogne, a species of rodents that once lived scattered across the Caribbean, and Borealestes cullinensis, a “Jurassic mouse” from the Isle of Skye, Scotland that lived together with the dinosaurs 166 million years ago.
Among the 13 species of moth described by NHM, the most impressive one is Wallace’s sphinx moth, which is considered to have the longest tongue of any insect, measuring up to 30 centimeters in length. This moth is famous for having been predicted to exist by Charles Darwin four decades before its actual discovery.
Some other fascinating discoveries include a large number of copepods, small shrimp-like creatures that are found in water and are critical for our planet’s ecology and carbon cycle, a pair of glitteringly purple and green metallic beetles from India, a chunky monochromatic beetle with a huge pair of jaws found in Philippines, as well as five new snakes and three lizards.
“Finding – or finding out about – something for the first time is at the root of discovery,” said Dr. Tim Littlewood, the Director of Science at the NHM. “Discovery can be a personal, community or even a global revelation, or just a nudge towards advancing knowledge. Discovering new species is what the Museum does, and it’s a matter of personal and institutional pride that we continue to be at the forefront of recognizing and naming new species – especially at a time when we are losing so many.”