The Top 10 list of new species from 2008 has now been compiled by the ASU institute and an international committee of taxonomists. Last year, thousands of new species were described by science, many of them native to hard-to-access regions of our planet, such as remote tropical areas or deep sea habitats, but two of the species on the list actually hail from much less exotic locations: Cardiff and a bottle of hairspray.

Most people do not realize just how incomplete our knowledge of Earth’s species is,” said Quentin Wheeler, director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, which announced the top 10 new species list. “We are surrounded by such an exuberance of species diversity that we too often take it for granted“.

These are the selected few that made it all the way to the ASU Top 10:

1.) A palm with no close relatives in the neighbourhood

80px Tahina spectabilis Top 10 List of New Species

Name: Tahina spectabilis
Common Name: Tahina Palm

This plant produces truly spectacular inflorescence with numerous flowers. After fruiting, the palm dies and collapses. Strangely enough, the genus Tahina is not closely related to any of the other 170+ palm species found on Madagascar. Its closest relatives are instead found in Afghanistan, Thailand, Vietnam and China.

Soon after the publication of the species, seeds were disseminated throughout the palm grower community, raising money for its conservation by the local villagers.

2.) The world’s longest known living insect

Name: Phobaeticus chani
Common Name: This insect has no common name in English. Perhaps Chani’s stick insect would be a suitable English common name? Do any of the readers of this blog know if this species has a common name in Malaysia?

With a body length of 35.6 cm (14 inches) and an overall length of 56.7 cm (22.3 inches), Phobaeticus chani is the world’s longest known now living insect. Once upon a time, insects grew much larger than this, but none of those gigantic insects have survived into our time.

3.) The world’s smallest seahorse

Name: Hippocampus satomiae
Common Name: Satomi’s Pygmy Seahorse

This is the smallest known seahorse in the world. It has a standard length of no more than 13.8mm (0.54 inches) and an approximate height of 11.5mm (0.45 inches).

4.) The world’s smallest snake

Leptotyphlops carlae Top 10 List of New SpeciesName: Leptotyphlops carlae
Common Name: Barbados Threadsnake

This is the world’s smallest snake with a total length of 104 mm (4.1 inches).

5.) A Welsh ghost slug

120px Ghost Slug adult Top 10 List of New SpeciesName: Selenochlamys ysbryda
C
ommon Name: Ghost Slug

The word ysbryda is a Latinized version of the Welsh word ysbryd which means ghost or spirit. The name alludes to the species’ ghostly appearance, nocturnal, predatory behaviour and the element of mystery surrounding its origin. Strangely enough, this new species was discovered in Cardiff, UK, a well-collected and densely populated part of the world. (For all the Torchwood fans out there, this mesmerizing find naturally comes as no surprise.)

6.) A snail with a surprising twist

Name: Opisthostoma vermiculum
Common Name: This species has no common name in English. Do any of the readers of this blog know it has a common name in Malaysia?

Most gastropod shells tightly coil according to a logarithmic spiral and have an upper limit of three coiling axes, but the shell of Opisthostoma vermiculum consists of four different coiling axes which is the highest number ever seen in gastropods. As if this wasn’t enough, the shell whorls detach three times and reattach twice to preceding whorls in a fairly consistent manner, which suggests that the coiling strategy is under some form of strict developmental-gene control.

7.) Deep-blue deep-dweller

Name: Chromis abyssus
Common Name: Deep Blue Chromis

Compared to other members of its genus, the deep blue Chromis abyssus lives pretty far from the surface but it is certainly not found at abyssal depths. The name is instead a reference to the BBC documentary Pacific Abyss, since the type specimen was collected during the making of this show. This species was also the first one to have its description registered in the newly launched taxonomic database Zoobank.

8.) A 380 million year old delivery

 Top 10 List of New SpeciesName: Materpiscis attenboroughi
Common Name: Mother Fish

This is the oldest known live bearing (viviparous) vertebrate and we know of it from fossil record only. Amazingly, the fossil shows a female fish in the process of giving birth some 380 million years ago. It was found at Gogo Station in Western Australia. The name of the genus, Materpiscis, means “mother fish” in Latin, while the species itself is named in honour of Sir David Attenborough who first drew attention to the Gogo fish sites in his 1979 series Life on Earth.

9.) African decaf

Name: Coffea charrieriana
Common Name: Charrier Coffee

This is a true member of the genus Coffea, but it is completely void of caffeine. Coffea charrieriana is the first known caffeine-free Coffea species from Central Africa and coffee makers are now pondering the idea of using it to make natural decaf coffee.

10.) Hair spray bacteria

Name: Microbacterium hatanonis
Common Name: None

This new species wasn’t found in some remote rainforest or deep down in blue; it was isolated as contaminant of hairspray.

The Top 10 New Species were selected from the thousands of species fully described and published in 2008. The public could nominate species through the IISE Web site and nominations were also generated by IISE staff and committee members themselves. The Committee had complete freedom in making its choices and developing its own criteria to provide a breadth of species attributes and importance.

I am sorry that we don’t have pictures of all species. To see pictures of all species you can here.

If you would like to nominate a species for the 2010 Top 10 New Species please click here.