Top 10 New Species for 2014
An appealing carnivorous mammal, a 12-meter-tall tree that has been hiding in plain sight and a sea anemone that lives under an Antarctic glacier are among the species identified by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry's (ESF) International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) as the top 10 species discovered last year.
An international committee of taxonomists and related experts selected the top 10 from among the approximately 18,000 new species named during the previous year and released the list today to coincide with the birthday, May 23, of Carolus Linnaeus, an eighteenth century Swedish botanist who is considered the father of modern taxonomy.
The list includes a quartet of tiny newcomers to science: a minuscule skeleton shrimp from Santa Catalina Island in California, a single-celled protist that does a credible imitation of a sponge, a clean room microbe that could be a hazard during space travel and a teensy fringed fairyfly named Tinkerbell.
Also on the list are a gecko that fades into the background in its native Australia and a fungus that, conversely, blazed its way into contention by virtue of the bright orange color it displays when it's produced in colonies. Crawling slowly into the final spot on the alphabetical list is Zospeum tholussum, a tiny, translucent Croatian snail from one of earth's deepest cave systems.
The Top 10 Species of 2014:
The annual list, established in 2008, calls attention to discoveries that are made even as species are going extinct faster than they are being identified.
"The majority of people are unaware of the dimensions of the biodiversity crisis," said Dr. Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the IISE and ESF president.
Scientists believe 10 million species await discovery, five times the number that are already known to science.
"The top 10 is designed to bring attention to the unsung heroes addressing the biodiversity crisis by working to complete an inventory of Earth's plants, animals and microbes,” Wheeler said. “Each year a small, dedicated community of taxonomists and curators substantively improve our understanding of the diversity of life and the wondrous ways in which species have adapted for survival."
"One of the most inspiring facts about the top 10 species of 2014 is that not all of the 'big' species are already known or documented," said Dr. Antonio Valdecasas, chair of the selection committee and a biologist and research zoologist with Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain. "One species of mammal and one tree species confirm that the species waiting to be discovered are not only on the microscopic scale."
Valdecasas pointed specifically to two of the species: "the shrimp, Liropus minusculus with its phantasmagoric appearance" and the gecko, which bears a "disturbing likeness to some imaginary monster."
"Beautiful beasts, I would rather say!" Valdecasas said.
Why Inventory Matters
"I have been participating in the top 10 since its beginning in 2008, and I am always surprised by the constant number of species discovered in all the organic kingdoms," Valdecasas said. "It makes selecting the species challenging and demanding, but at the same time, inspiring. We are very far from having exhausted the knowledge of the biodiversity on Earth."
Wheeler offered three reasons why an inventory of Earth's species is critical:
1. Without a baseline of what exists, humans will not know if something disappears, moves in response to climate change or invades new habitats. "As long as we remain ignorant of the vast majority of species, we unnecessarily limit our effectiveness at conservation goals."
2. Billions of years of natural selection have driven plants and animals to solve the same survival problems that humans face. "By studying the millions of ways in which organisms have met challenges, we open a great library of possibilities for meeting our own needs more sustainably."
3. Simple curiosity is a factor. "If we want to understand what it means to be human the answer is buried deep in evolutionary history. We are a modified version of our ancestors, and they of theirs … all the way back to the first species on Earth. With the loss of every species, we lose one chapter in our own story that we'll never get back."
Wheeler hopes the Top 10 draws attention to the urgent need, and real possibility, of completing an inventory of all of Earth's species. "Advances in technology and communication mean that the centuries-old dream of knowing all species is within our reach. The benefits of learning our world's species are incalculable and the single most important step we can take in preparation for an uncertain environmental future."
Valdecasas concluded by conjuring an image of a human who had arrived on Mars with a one-way ticket. At some point, that space traveler would begin pining for the flowers and animals of home, the smell of spring and the sound of running water. "Nothing, nothing could ever compensate for that," he said. "Now, think how fortunate we are to have at hand such a universe."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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