5. Translucent Snail
Scientific name: Zospeum tholussum
In 2013, scientists discovered a new species of an unusual cave-dwelling snail in Lukina Jama–Trojama in Croatia, one of the deepest cave systems in the world. These tiny and fragile snails, classified as Zospeum tholussum, have a beautiful dome-like translucent shell. They are a part of a genus of minute air-breathing land snails that are exclusive cave-dwellers.
Remarkably, only one specimen of this new species of snail was found when it was initially discovered. The snail was resting 980m (3,200 feet) below ground, deep inside the cave system in a little cavity full of rocks and sand with a small stream running through it.
The miniature snail doesn’t have visual orientation as there’s no light that far below the earth’s surface.
6. Narluga Whale
Scientific name: Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) x narwhal (Monodon monoceros) hybrid
A unique whale skull at the Natural History Museum of Denmark had been puzzling scientists for over 30 years. The skull was found in the Arctic and had features of both the beluga and narwhal whales. After years of study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen finally concluded in 2019 that the skull belonged to what was an extraordinary hybrid animal — a cross between a narwhal and a beluga. Both these whales are very common in the Arctic and share quite a few similarities.
The new hybrid species was found after the researchers managed to extract DNA from the skull’s teeth. The analysis showed that the whale’s DNA was 54% beluga and 46% narwhal. The hybrid, named as Narluga, is likely a male. Further study is being conducted to ascertain when and how the hybrid was born and whether there are any members of the species still alive.
(Note: the picture above is that of a beluga whale)
7. Spectacled Flowerpecker
First spotted in the lowland forests of Borneo, Malaysia, in 2009, the spectacled flowerpecker is a unique bird that eluded description for over a decade. Researchers weren’t certain about it and hence the fruit-loving passerine bird had a sense of wonder and mystery about it.
A decade later, in 2019, scientists were eventually able to identify the unobtrusive little bird as Dicaeum dayakorum or the spectacled flowerpecker. At just two inches in height, drab in color and having only faint white markings around its eyes, this bird is hard to spot. The species belongs to Dicaeidae, which is a family of fruit-eating passerine birds found in tropical southern Asia and Australia. The spectacled flowerpecker is not closely related to any of the other flowerpecker species.
Scientific name: Bassaricyon neblina
The first mammal carnivore species to be discovered in America in 35 years, the olinguito is the latest addition to the raccoon family tree. This new species of mammal, called Bassaricyon neblina, was discovered in 2013 by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History scientists. The small animal has a fluffy red-orange fur along with a bushy tail and is found in the misty Andean Mountains in South America.
Interestingly, scientists had previously assumed olinguitos were members of their sister species, the olingos (Bassaricyon gabbii) – another tree-dwelling mammal that lives in the same mountains. They are, however, larger and have longer faces than olinguitos. This mammal was identified after gathering DNA sequences from live specimens. In appearance, these remarkably beautiful little animals look like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear.