More than 400 new species previously unknown to science have been discovered in the past year by experts at the Natural History Museum.
Species described and named for the first time in 2019 include 171 beetles found around the world, one of which was named in honour of the teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
Lichen, marsupials, snakes and even long-extinct dinosaurs are among the 412 new finds officially named in the past year by the museum‘s scientists, who represent one of the world’s biggest groups working on natural diversity.
But the experts warn that species are being lost faster than they are being discovered and many may vanish before they even become known.
Tim Littlewood, the museum‘s executive director of science, said: “Species discovery is always exciting and shows just how much there is still to understand about our planet.
“Learning how evolution has yielded new species able to live in Earth’s diverse habitats is awe-inspiring. Sadly, much of that adaptation and biological diversity is now severely threatened and we are losing species faster than we can discover them. We are losing our understanding of the natural world, breaking our own connection with it and the connections that underpin nature’s stability.”
The largest group of newly described species are Coleoptera, or beetles, found in places including Japan, Malaysia, Kenya and Venezuela, with scientific associate Dr Michael Darby naming the Nelloptodes gretae after Thunberg.
Max Barclay, the senior curator in charge of Coleoptera at the Natural History Museum, said: “The name of this beetle is particularly poignant since it is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss.
“So it is appropriate to name one of the newest discoveries after someone who has worked so hard to champion the natural world and protect vulnerable species.”
This year has seen the naming of eight lizards, five snakes, four fish and an amphibian native to India, including Trimeresurus arunachalensis, the first new species of pit viper from the country in the last 70 years, as well as wasps, centipedes, aphids, snails, moths and butterflies.
Discoveries of extinct species including the pig-footed bandicoot Chaeropus yirratji, an unusual marsupial that had vanished by the 1950s. Two new species of dinosaur were discovered, including a stegosaur Adratiklit boulahfa, found in Morocco.
The 2019 discoveries also included seven new plants and seven lichens, as well as 12 species of deep sea polychaete worms from the sediments of the dark depths of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean.