Natural History Museum identifies more than 500 new species in 2021 | Natural History Museum

Six new dinosaurs, an Indian beetle named after Larry the cat, and dozens of crustaceans essential to the planet’s carbon cycle were among 552 new species identified by scientists at the Natural History Museum this year.

In 2021, researchers described previously unknown species through the Tree of Life, of a pair of giant carnivorous dinosaurs known as spinosaurs – nicknamed the “river hunter” and “hell heron”. – to five new snakes that include Joseph’s runner, which was identified using an 185-year-old painting.

With limited international travel to the field sites, scientists at the London Museum focused on describing the existing collections and species that roamed the Earth millions of years ago.

Two newly described spinosaur dinosaur species discovered on the Isle of Wight, named ‘Hell Heron’ and ‘Bank Hunter’. Photography: Anthony Hutchings

“It’s been a fantastic year for describing new dinosaurs, especially from the UK,” said Dr Susannah Maidment, senior palaeobiology researcher at the museum, who helped describe some of the new findings. “Although we have known about the UK’s dinosaur heritage for over 150 years, the application of new techniques and data from around the world is helping us uncover a hidden diversity of British dinosaurs.”

Spinosaurs were among four species of British dinosaurs described by researchers alongside a new, unusually snouted iguanodontian from the Isle of Wight, and Pendraig milnerae, the oldest known carnivorous dinosaur in the UK.

More than half of the new species identified at the museum this year were copepods, small shrimp-like creatures found in salt and freshwater. They make up a large portion of the zooplankton on which krill, fish and other invertebrates feed, playing a vital role in the ecology and carbon cycle of the planet.

Due to their abundance, copepods are among the oceans’ greatest carbon sinks. Scientists have described 291 species this year, many of which come from a collection created over six decades by French researchers Claude and Françoise Monniot.

“Copepods are not only free, but many are parasites, and they can be found living in virtually every other major group of animals,” said Professor Geoff Boxshall, a researcher in the museum’s department of life sciences. who identified the crustaceans with a South Korean. colleague, Il-Hoi Kim.

“The huge Monniot collection has been made available to Il-Hoi Kim and myself, and since we are both recently retired, we theoretically had time to finally browse it. However, the collection was so huge it was somewhat intimidating – but then Covid-19 came along and the completion of the article series became my lockdown project. “

Impatiens versicolor, a new species of gemweed or touch-me-nots, discovered in East Africa in 2021
Impatiens versicolor, a new species of gemweed or touch-me-not, discovered in East Africa. Photography: Eberhard Fischer

Other newly identified species included 52 wasps, 13 moths, seven crabs, six flies, and five amphipods. Beetles were very present, as they did in 2020, with 90 new species described. They included a pair of purple and green metallic beetles from India, a monochrome beetle with a large pair of Philippine jaws, and a swamp-loving beetle named in honor of Larry the Cat, the Mouse of Downing Street.

A new Southeast Asian bush cricket, known for its song even before the animal was ever seen, was ultimately determined to be a species found in Singapore – now known as Mecopoda simonodoi – a copy of which has been in the museum since 1984.

Five new species of plants from East Africa have been identified: known as Jewelweeds or touch-me-nots, they usually produce delicate pink or white flowers, with the exception of a few species that have moved on to red flowers to attract birds rather than butterflies for pollination.

In addition to plants, eight new species of algae, six parasitic worms and three diatoms – unicellular algae – have been identified.

Find more coverage on the Age of Extinction here and follow the biodiversity journalists Phoebe weston and Patrick greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

Comments are closed.