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Discovering New Species: A 42-day journey

Updated on August 27, 2015
Sea Slug from the Philippines
Sea Slug from the Philippines | Source

Copyright Kris Klueg Heeter, Ph.D.

In 2011, more than a dozen scientists from the California Academy of Sciences journeyed to the Luzon Island in the Philippines to survey the biodiversity of the island.

During their 42-day journey, researchers discovered as many as 500 new species. The species survey focused on the shallow waters, the deep sea surrounding the island, and the mountain habitats.


140 Newly Found Species Confirmed

The analysis of the new species found on and around the island of Luzon continues. It will take years to complete.

Of the estimated 300-500 new species, 140 have been formally identified and confirmed to be never before discovered species.

The 140 newly described species include:

  • 72 arthropods (includes insects)
  • 31 sea slugs
  • 13 fishes
  • 11 plants
  • 9 sponges
  • 3 coral
  • 1 reptile

The full list of species formally identified by the California Academy of Sciences in 2011 at Luzon Island as well as other locations throughout the world can be found by contacting the Academy.

As scientists continue to working towards identifying the remaining species, the number of "new" species will most likely exceed 140.

The Discovery Of New Species

Each year, thousands of new species are being discovered. As specimens are collected, it can take months and even years to study phenotypic and genetic traits to confirm a new species.

In most cases, the “new” species have been around for centuries. Often they exist in habitats never before accessed or surveyed.

Prior to the advancement of DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analyses, the determination of a new species was largely based on phenotypic comparisons. Now, genome sequencing is quick and easy and is used alongside phenotypic analyses. Comparing the genome of a potential “new” specimen with the sequences of related organisms helps scientists to determine whether it is a new find or not.

Philippines | Source

The Species Hunter

Who hunts down and discovers new species?

The identification of new organisms can be made by both scientists and amateurs alike.

While there are several universities and institutes devoted to understanding and identifying new biodiversity. Two notable institutes (and my favorites) include:

The California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. It is devoted to scientific education and research and describes their mission as being at “the forefront of efforts to understand and protect the diversity of Earth’s living things”.

Arizona State University’s International Institute for Species Exploration whose mission is to: “inspire, encourage and enable the advancement of taxonomy and exploration of earth’s species”.

Each year, the International Institute for Species Exploration surveys the international literature for evidence of newly identified species and compiles a report. It typically takes three years to thoroughly scour the literature and complete a yearly report.

The Future of Species Discovery

It is estimated that millions of species still remain unknown or unidentifiable. Much of this has been due to inaccessibility. Technological advances both in oceanographic exploration and DNA sequencing has allowed some progress.

Between 2000 and 2009, there were 176,311 new species discovered.

The statistics for 2010 and 2011 have not yet been completed.

The number of new species discovered in 2009 alone was 19,233. Over 50% of these were insects. Less than 1% were mammals.

Many of the species that remain unknown are likely to be found in the deep seas, rain forests, and other habitats that have previously been difficult to access.

It will be exciting to see what still lurks out there in the vast unknown corners of the earth!


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    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @tammyswallow and @Cathy Fideibus - thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you both learned something from the this hub. And I'm with Tammy in wondering what other cools and weird stuff is out there!

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 5 years ago from NJ

      Great information and a fun read, thanks for teaching me something new!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      This is such an interesting hub. I didn't know about these new discoveries. Makes me wonder what else we don't know about. Great hub!!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @prezy anza - thanks for stopping by. I'm looking forward to seeing what new species were discovered this year. And like you, I think it would be a fun job to have!

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 5 years ago from USA

      Wow! Would be fun to see more new discovered species! And I had just watched a new species of frogs discovered a couple of months ago from the Philippines. And with the part of the job of going to countries and discovering and seeing new species before the world knows about it sounds like a fun job ^-^' Voted up and shared!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @miscellanea- thanks for stopping by and I'm glad to hear you found this interesting.

    • miscellanea profile image

      Tarik Aarbaoui 5 years ago from Morocco

      that's really so interesting

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @epigrmman - thanks for contributing. The work being done and the species still being discovered, in my mind, is simply stunning. I just hope that we all can take care of this planet so that all these amazing creatures can continue to survive.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      ....this is an incredible story Kris - and you have presented us, your lucky readers, with a world class Hub presentation. Charles Darwin, in spirit would be so proud of you for this research and compilation of it with stunning photography, text and images.

      Yes in the sea and in the ocean particuarly who knows what else there is to find - that seems to be the last frontier for mankind to discover - and of course there is the other direction - into space and beyond another galaxy .....

      sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 7:44am with first cup of coffee and some nice harp music

      and hubbravo to you for your great work here

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @Jackie Lynnly - thanks for stopping by!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This is great, I love watching these things on TV, it is so interesting. Makes sense there would be much we are yet to find out about and exciting too. Thanks for sharing! ^

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @ignugent17 - I would love to visit there someday. My brother's inlaws live there and he went to visit. The photos were amazing!

    • profile image

      ignugent17 5 years ago

      Hi Kris!This is really amazing to read. I am also proud that I am from the Philippines just like alocsin. It is nice of you to write new species found in the Luzon.

      Thanks! Voted up and more. :-)

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @alocsin - wow, that's a really interesting bit of trivia (the WWII soldiers)! I would love to visit there some day.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm originally from that country and must say that, with 7,000 islands, it's probably hiding quite a few new plants and animals. Up until about the late 80s, Japanese soldiers from WWII would even pop up, not knowing the war was over. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @billybuc - thanks, I'm looking forward to checking it out!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      If you get the time, check out my hub on Monday; there is a very good chance that you are mentioned in it. :)

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      @lord de cross - maybe some day! They are finding unusual species 8000 feet down in hydrothermal vents (living in temperatures that reach nearly 400 degrees C) which no one originally thought possible. I happen to know one of the scientists that was on the team of that first discovery years ago - pretty cool!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 6 years ago from New York

      Excellent hub! I wonder if James Cameron will ever find out about more species 14,000 feet under sea level. This os so amazing. Maybe the link to our origins will eventually come to light.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      @fpherj48 - thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation!

      @whonunuwho - there is just so much cool stuff out there yet to be discovered! Now that access to the deep ocean is becoming easier, there will undoubtedly be some really cool stuff. Just the few things I've seen so far are pretty incredible! Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 6 years ago from United States

      Interesting hub, I have often wondered why scientists and researchers don't exhaust every means and turn over every stone well before we jump to explore the universe and make landings on the moon. There are vast species numbers and discoveries to be made here on this planet and especially beneath the oceans which make up more than 70% of the earth. Thanks for the great information.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      kris....always something new and interesting to learn about. This is what I appreciate about our community. You've shared some unusual facts and we have a new topic of conversation! UP ++

    • profile image

      kelleyward 6 years ago

      That would have been amazing!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      @kellyward - thanks for checking it out. As I wrote this hub I was thinking how cool it must have felt for those guys to see something that no one has ever seen for the very first time!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 6 years ago

      Wow Kris Heeter the world is full of surprises! I loved this hub full of new information. Voted up and shared! Take care, kelley


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