Jumping cockroach, giant leech among top discoveries

A new kind of leech that makes these ones look cuddly has been discovered in Peru. Photo / Thinkstock
A new kind of leech that makes these ones look cuddly has been discovered in Peru. Photo / Thinkstock

A jumping cockroach, a glow-in-the-dark fungus, a rust-eating bacterium and a leech named "T-rex" were among the top 10 species discovered in the world last year, US scientists said.

The creatures were uncovered in Brazil, Madagascar, South Africa, Peru, the Philippines, West Africa, the US state of Oregon, the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic Ocean.

The top 10 list is compiled by global experts and released annually by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.

The leech named after a ferocious meat-eating dinosaur was removed from a man's nose in Peru. While it measures less than 5cm long, its powerful jaw and massive teeth earned it the name Tyrannobdella rex, which means "tyrant leech king".

Scientists in Canada and Spain identified the iron-oxide munching bacterium from a section of the Titanic which in 1912 sank deep into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg.

"Researchers believe this bacterium could be useful in the disposal of old ships and oil rigs that lie deep in the ocean," the IISE said in a statement.

Minuscule mushrooms in the Brazilian forests at Sao Paulo were found to "glow constantly, emitting a bright, yellowish-green light," it said, becoming one of the about 70 species of fungi in the world known to be bioluminescent.

A cockroach that mimics a grasshopper in its jumping ability was detected in South Africa. The saltoblattella montistabularis has legs specially made for jumping, a stabilising antenna and round eyes at the sides of its head.

A raspy cricket, glomeremus orchidophilus, found in the Mascarene Archipelago in the Indian Ocean was discovered to be the only creature that pollinates a rare orchid, Angraecum cadetii.

Scientists in the north-western state of Oregon found an unusual mushroom thriving under the chilly waters of the Rogue River.

And a spider that can weave its web - with silk twice as strong as any spider known to man - across the entire width of a river was discovered in Madagascar.

"The webs of Darwin's Bark Spider have been found spanning rivers, streams and lakes, and in one instance, a web stretched 82 feet (25 meters) across a Madagascar river with at least 30 insects trapped in it," the IISE said.

Other top selections were new type of antelope, a pancake batfish - a fish that resembles a walking bat when it moves awkwardly through the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico - and a 1.8m-long, fruit-eating lizard in the Philippines.

"Our best guess is that all species discovered since 1758 represent less than 20 per cent of the kinds of plants and animals inhabiting planet Earth," said Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist who directs the IISE.

"A reasonable estimate is that 10 million species remain to be described, named, and classified before the diversity and complexity of the biosphere is understood," he said.

- AFP

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