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Christopher C. Austin
Christopher C. Austin

10 Awesome New Species Discovered in 2013

Christopher C. Austin
Christopher C. Austin

Geckos and shrubs and sharks, oh my! 2013 was a big year for new species. Scientists found hundreds of them this year. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Cape Melville Leaf-Tailed Gecko

Wikimedia Commons

The Cape Melville Leaf-Tailed Gecko was discovered on an expedition to the northern tip of Queensland, Australia led by James Cook University’s Conrad Hoskin and Harvard University’s Tim Laman, who is also a National Geographic photographer. The gecko grows to almost eight inches long and hunts mainly at night, sitting motionless on a rock or in a tree and waiting for an unsuspecting insect or spider to pass by. The gecko’s camouflaged skin allows it to blend in with its surroundings.

2. Lyre Sponge

Photo by 2013 MBARI

Discovered in the northeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, this carnivorous sponge lives mostly in deep water (around 3399 meters deep) and looks like a harp. The lyre sponge—also known as Chondrocladia lyra—has two to six horizontal branches. Each branch holds more than 20 parallel vertical branches that are each capped with a small ball. When a plankton comes in contact with these branches, the lyre sponge is able to catch it as prey.

3. Paedophryne amanuensis

Photo by Christopher C. Austin

Just in case “Paedophryne amanuensis” is kind of a mouthful, you can also call this tiny frog the world’s smallest vertebrate. The frog was discovered near the Amau village in Papua, New Guinea. The average adult frog in this species only measures 7.7 millimeters; that’s small enough to fit easily on the surface of a dime.

4. Cape Melville Shade Skink

The Cape Melville Shade Skink was found on the same expedition as the Leaf-Tailed Gecko. However, unlike the gecko, the skink hunts mainly in the day. The skink’s scientific name is Saproscincus saltus; "saltus" means leaping. While hunting, the skink hops from boulder to boulder in search of insects.

5. Eugenia

Photo by David Rahebevitra

Not all new species are animals. This new species, Eugenia petrikensis, is a beautiful shrub that grows to two meters and has bright clusters of small magenta flowers. Eugenia was discovered this past year in Madagascar.

6. Semachrysa jade

Photo by Guek Hock Ping

Unlike most new species, scientists did not discover the Semachrysa jade butterfly. Instead, an avid photographer took its picture in a Malaysian park. He had no idea that the butterfly had never been documented before. It was only when Shaun Winterton, an entomologist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, discovered the photo on Flickr that he recognized the butterfly as a new species.

7. Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia

Artwork by Chen Wang

This new species of hangingflies was found fossilized in a Middle Jurassic deposit in China’s Inner Mongolia. These insects hung beneath foliage and captured other insects to eat.

8. Carolina Hammerhead

Photo by Save Our Seas Foundation / Peter Verhoog

The Carolina Hammerhead (Sphyrna gilbert) was discovered this year off the South Carolina coast. This new species of hammerhead shark looks almost identical to the scalloped hammerhead. However, the new species contains 10 fewer vertebrae and is genetically distinct.

9. Olinguito

Imagine a cross between a teddy bear and a housecat, and you’ve just pictured an olinguito. The animal, which is a little over a foot long and weighs around two pounds, is indigenous to the forests of Ecuador and Colombia. While it was first designated as a new species in 2013, the olinguito has been hiding in plain sight for a long time—at the Smithsonian-run National Zoo in Washington. For the past several years, scientists believed that the critter housed in the zoo was an olingo. The zoo first became curious when their supposed “olingo” wouldn’t mate with any other olingos. Turns out the olingo wasn’t picky; it was actually an olinguito. It was only during an expedition to South America that the olinguito was discovered as a separate species.

10. Blotched Boulder Frog

The Blotched Boulder Frog was also discovered on the Cape Melville expedition, but it has a unique quirk: the Blotched Boulder Frog only mates in the rain. During the dry season in Australia, the frog lives deep within a boulder field that’s cool and moist. The Blotched Boulder Frog only comes to the surface when it rains.

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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