(PHOENIX) — What’s new in animal species? Plenty, according to the sixth annual Top 10 list by the Institute at Arizona State University that includes everything from a glow-in-the-dark cockroach to an “Old World” monkey with a bright blue buttocks.
“Through the top 10, we are really just trying to raise awareness about how many species there are on the planet,” Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), told ABC News. “On average, 18,000 species a year are discovered. That sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t.”
Wheeler said there are an estimated 10 to 12 million living species, but only about 2 million have been discovered. This year’s top 10 list was whittled down from more than 140 nominees.
While the institute simply compiles a list, “These discoveries are actually made by professionals and amateurs around the world,” he said.
The 2013 release by the IISE showcases, among many impressive things, the discovery of the world’s smallest vertebrate — a tiny, 7 millimeter frog found in Papua, New Guinea. An image released by the institute shows the frog taking up about a third of the space on the face of a U.S. dime. The largest known vertebrate in the world is the blue whale, measuring 85 feet long.
A new type of luminescent (or glow-in-the-dark) cockroach specimen was discovered in Ecuador. Though the species may have already been extinct for some time, Wheeler said it’s believed that the cockroach would mimic the toxic luminescent clicking beetle to ward off predators. This cockroach is one of more than a dozen species of luminescent cockroaches discovered since 1999.
Another fascinating finding was a new species of monkey, the lesula, only the second new species of monkey to be discovered in Africa in the last 28 years. The IISE said the lesula has been known to the people of Congo, where it was discovered by scientists, but the species was never recorded. This species of monkey has eyes that observers say look human, with brown coloring, and males have large, bare patches of skin on the buttocks and testicles that is a brilliant blue.
But the most interesting discovery may be that of the Semachrysa jade — a green lacewing. What is believed to be the first ever photo of the insect was taken by Malaysian photographer Hock Ping Guek, though unbeknownst to him at the time. A California scientist happened upon the image of the lacewing on Guek’s Flickr and asked him to mail the specimen to London’s Natural History Museum where it was eventually identified registered as a new species.
Wheeler explained to ABC News that some scientists are predicting half of the world’s species could be gone by the end of the century (a type of extinction that last happened at the time of the dinosaurs), so furthering these discoveries and spreading interest through the yearly top 10 list is important.
In a statement attached to this year’s list of species, Wheeler pressed the urgency of exploring now: “We are calling for a NASA-like mission to discover 10 million species in the next 50 years. This would lead to discovering countless options for a more sustainable future while securing evidence of the origins of the biosphere.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio