Beetles, snakes and dinosaurs among species discovered in 2019

Beetles, snakes and dinosaurs among species discovered in 2019

More than 400 new species previously unknown to science have been discovered in the past year by experts at the UK's Natural History Museum.

Species described and named for the first time in 2019 include 171 beetles found around the world, one of which was named in honour of teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Nelloptodes gretae, a previously unknown species of beetle, was named after Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (Natural History Museum/PA)
Nelloptodes gretae, a previously unknown species of beetle, was named after Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (Natural History Museum/PA)

New finds of lichen, marsupials, snakes and even long-extinct dinosaurs are among the 412 species officially named in the past year by the museum’s scientists, who represent one of the world’s biggest groups working on natural diversity.

But the experts warn that species are being lost faster than they are being discovered and many may be vanishing before they are even known about.

The museum’s executive director of science, Tim Littlewood, said: “Species discovery is always exciting and shows just how much there is still to understand about our planet.

“Learning how evolution has yielded new species able to live in Earth’s diverse habitats is awe-inspiring.

“Sadly, much of that adaptation and biological diversity is now severely threatened and we are losing species faster than we can discover them.

“We are losing our understanding of the natural world, breaking our own connection with it and the connections that underpin nature’s stability.”

An ancient invertebrate species named Rhenopyrgus viviani was among more than 400 new species previously unknown to science that were discovered in 2019 (Natural History Museum/PA)
An ancient invertebrate species named Rhenopyrgus viviani was among more than 400 new species previously unknown to science that were discovered in 2019 (Natural History Museum/PA)

The largest group of newly described species are Coleoptera, or beetles, found in places including Japan, Malaysia, Kenya and Venezuela, with scientific associate Dr Michael Darby naming the Nelloptodes gretae after 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta.

Max Barclay, senior curator in charge of Coleoptera at the Natural History Museum, said: “The name of this beetle is particularly poignant since it is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss.

“So it is appropriate to name one of the newest discoveries after someone who has worked so hard to champion the natural world and protect vulnerable species.”

This year has seen the naming of eight lizards, five snakes, four fish and an amphibian native to India, including Trimeresurus arunachalensis, the first new species of pit viper described from the country in the last 70 years, as well as new wasps, centipedes, aphids, snails, moths and butterflies.

Discoveries of extinct species including the pig-footed bandicoot Chaeropus yirratji, an unusual marsupial that had vanished by the 1950s.

A new species of sauropodomorph dinosaur, Ngwevu intloko, was in a South African collection for three decades (Natural History Museum/PA)
A new species of sauropodomorph dinosaur, Ngwevu intloko, was in a South African collection for three decades (Natural History Museum/PA)

And two new species of dinosaur were discovered, including a stegosaur Adratiklit boulahfa, found in Morocco.

The 2019 discoveries also included seven new plants and seven lichen, as well as 12 species of deep sea polychaete worms from the sediments of the dark depths of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean.

More on this topic

Tesco to remove plastic wrapping on some multi-packsTesco to remove plastic wrapping on some multi-packs

190 tonnes of marine litter taken from sea last year190 tonnes of marine litter taken from sea last year

Waste and litter offences lead to 850 environmental prosecutions in 2018Waste and litter offences lead to 850 environmental prosecutions in 2018

Over 850 people brought to court for breaking waste or litter laws in 2018Over 850 people brought to court for breaking waste or litter laws in 2018

More in this Section

450 jobs to go as BBC cuts news services including 5Live and Newsnight450 jobs to go as BBC cuts news services including 5Live and Newsnight

Two more accusers to testify against Harvey WeinsteinTwo more accusers to testify against Harvey Weinstein

Man accused of killing British police officer asks for trial to be in PakistanMan accused of killing British police officer asks for trial to be in Pakistan

Boeing posts first annual loss since 1997Boeing posts first annual loss since 1997


Lifestyle

The duo are hosting a new Netflix competition show, putting designers through their paces.Next In Fashion: Why Alexa Chung and Tan France are style icons

Fresh water no filter: #instagood.The 10 most Instagrammed lakes in the world

A stay at tranquil hideaway The Residence is an indulgent way to unwind, rest and recuperate, says Sophie Goodall.Why this luxurious Turkish resort is the ultimate sanctuary for wellness and relaxation

The benefits of cutting down on booze can last way beyond the new year. Lauren Taylor finds out more about strategies to help make the change stick.Beyond Dry January: Is it time to reassess our relationship with alcohol in the longer term?

More From The Irish Examiner