2008’s strangest nature discoveries named

What’s weirder than a naturally caffeine-free coffee plant? How about a two-foot long insect? Or perhaps a ghost slug.

They are all featured in a list of the 10 strangest species discovered around the world in 2008. The list is the work of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, and is produced by a committee of 13 scientists from eight countries.

Technically the list is simply the top ten new species, but the committee is quite open about the fact that they select those with unusual traits to make the list more newsworthy. The Institute’s Quentin Wheeler said “We’re trying to get attention for this neglected area of science.”

The ten species, in no particular order, are:

  • Tahina Palm – Found in Madagascar, it’s a palm which produces a spectacular array of countless flowers, which unfortunately causes it to collapse and die.
  • Phobaeticus chani – A stick insect with a record-setting 14 inch body length and total length of 22.3 inches.
  • Satomi’s Pygmy Seahorse – Named after the diver who collected the samples, this seahorse is just 0.54 inches long and 0.45 inches high.
  • Barbados Threadsnake – A snake which more resembles a worm, with a total length of barely 4 inches (pictured).
  • Ghost Slug – Named for its spectre-like appearance and its nighttime predatory behavior.
  • Opisthostoma vermiculum – A snail whose shell coils four times: one more than any previously discovered species.
  • Deep Blue Chromis – Notable not only for its bright blue skin, but for being the first species discovered and recorded in Zoobank, the new official registry of scientific names for animals.
  • Mother Fish – A 380 million year old fossil which is the oldest known fossilization of an vertebrate mid-birth.
  • Charrier Coffee – Central Africa’s first caffeine-free coffee plant.
  • Microbacterium hatanonis – A bacteria discovered in hairspray.

[Top 10 New Species – 2009]