HOW TO DISCOVER A NEW SPECIES
How to discover a new species? I’ve written several posts about new species. This made me wonder how difficult it would be to find a new species!
Where would we even begin? I decided to investigate exactly how to discover a new species.
Scientists continue to astound, finding new species with regularity.
Cataloguing a new aquatic species is a bit less surprising: like a cool octopus that lives in the ocean depths. Less surprising because of our physical limitations. (Breathing underwater is a big limitation that comes to mind.)
Humans don’t spend a lot of time hanging out in the ocean depths!
That said, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds primarily breathe air. Keen-eyed enthusiasts armed with binoculars have opportunities to locate new creatures. A map recently compiled by Yale University hypothesizes exactly what I was wondering. It literally maps where we ought to go to discover a new species!
I studied the world map and found the four most likely places we could go to discover a new species! While I was researching, I posted a twitter poll to see which of the four species people liked best. The results surprised me a bit!
Why do people go to all this trouble?
The hunt, the mystery, the adventure of new places, and meeting new people must factor in.
Here’s another important factor. The discovery of any new species means efforts can immediately begin to protect them.
Not to mention that we’d be able to name our new species!
The why is clear cut. Not the how we’d go about discovering a new species.
To me, part of the how to discover a new species partially involves being in the right place at the right time. With the map, we can get to the place with the best odds.
Let’s explore this idea!
NEW REPTILE SPECIES
As I was researching this post, as I expected, reptiles were in dead last in my poll.
Reptiles had a late surge and tied with amphibians!
Our best chance to find a new species of reptile is in Malaysia!
Since reptiles are cold blooded, it makes sense that we go at a warm time. Malaysia’s warmest month is April! Bring your rain gear, hiking shoes, and camera. We could start in Khao Nam Khang National Park and circle out, searching the surrounding areas.
GETTING TO MALASYIA
Yes, Khao Nam Khang is a national park, but it’s not recommended that tourists travel there alone. A guide may be in order, perhaps one who is an experienced camper!
Let’s go with this guide instead! You can find him here!
That white tissue is Kurt’s DIY Diffuser. He says , “Direct, undiffused light is harsh and unpleasant, but to make things worse, most insects are shiny and reflective. With poorly diffused light, you’ll get blown highlights.”
No, we’re not hunting for insects but no one wants bad results. So grab some tissues because we’ll need a lot of photos! And take careful notes about where we took these photos.
NEW BIRD SPECIES
I understand if reptiles aren’t for you. How about birds? They fill our world with song and color. Birds came in second place in my twitter poll. (I see now that I picked out a lot of blue birds. More on the color blue in nature here!)
We should go to the area with the highest probability of success. That’s in Colombia!
TRAVEL TO COLOMBIA
HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE'VE FOUND A NEW SPECIES?
What happens next? How do we know that the bird we’ve spotted is a new species?
NEW AMPHIBIAN SPECIES
If altitudes cause you discomfort or angst, we can return to sea level. How about if we find a new species of amphibian?
Amphibians didn’t rank too highly on my poll, either. But amphibians are intriguing.
Plus, they eat mosquitoes! Who doesn’t like that? (okay, maybe the mosquitoes don’t like this but too bad for them.)
Mosquito-borne illness affect 700 million people annually.
Let’s go to the country with the highest probability of success! That’s Sri Lanka.
TRAVEL TO SRI LANKA
Maybe our map extrapolated that we’d have the best odds of finding an amphibian in Sri Lanka, because the small island has highest amphibian endemism in Asia. (endemism = species being native to a single defined geographic location.)
NEW MAMMAL SPECIES
Humans tend to like mammals. We are mammals, after all.
Even predators have expressive faces and soft fuzzy bodies. Mammal babies scream out for us to protect them.
Remember from that map we’ve got a 1.22% probability of finding a new species of mammal. That is most likely to occur in Madagascar.
I think we’ll need a professional guide here, too. That area above doesn’t have many cities, for one thing!
First we have to get there.
TRAVEL TO MADAGASCAR
It’s no wonder that researchers apply for field grants! This is an expensive endeavor. We are helping local economies though. And it’s clear that my hiking shoes were an excellent investment.
Madagascar has amazing biodiversity. A new predator species of mongoose was discovered there recently. He isn’t quite as cute as a puppy but deserves our protection! This mongoose instantly made the top 100 most threatened species list.
With a little luck, we’ll discover another needy mammal.
And we’ll make our discovery on another cool island. Did you notice that two of the four best spots to find new species are islands?
All the mammals below are endangered, all on Madagascar. (Except for Louie, he’s feeling left out because he couldn’t go on any of these expeditions! So he insisted that I include him in the slide shows.)
HOW ABOUT DISCOVERING A NEW SPECIES IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD?
While we’re all saving for these excursions, let’s consider nearby habitats! This is a great STEM activity. Take your kids, grandkids, or significant others to the park, or into your backyard, and practice searching. People have discovered new species this way!
My milkweed alone was chock full of species. (read more about our adventure raising monarchs here!)
YOU CAN FIND A NEW SPECIES
Malaysia, Colombia, Sri Lanka, or Madagascar! If you could only choose one destination to find a new species, which one would you choose? And why?
Whichever the destination, congratulations! You’re helping to preserve biodiversity!