Could you discover a new species?

Several notable new species have been revealed by Plymouth University scientists in recent years. Here’s just a few of them.

1. Canthyporus namaqualacrimus

The name translates as "the tears of Namaqualand". It’s a diving beetle found in trickles of water over bare rock in the highest mountains of the arid region of the Northern Cape of South Africa. These summits act as a relatively wet ‘island’ in an otherwise semi-desert landscape, and are home to many endemics (species found nowhere else).

Bilton, D.T. 2015. A review of the Canthyporus exilis group, with the description of two new species (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). Zootaxa 3957: 441–454.

Canthyporus namaqualacrimus
Hyalinobatrachium dianae

(image credit: Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center)

2. Hyalinobatrachium dianae

A new species of glass frog was discovered last year by a group of scientists in Costa Rica, among them Dr Robert Puschendorf, lecturer in Conversation Biology at Plymouth. Glass frogs get their name from their translucent abdominal skin, allowing the internal organs to be visible to the naked eye. The new species marks the first time a new glass frog has been discovered in this region since the 1970s.

3. Oniscus asellus occidentalis

This new woodlouse was discovered living in ancient woodlands on Dartmoor, and had been overlooked due to its superficial similarity to a much commoner relative. It is restricted to the extreme west of Europe, from southern Ireland to France. Genetic studies show that it diverged from this common relative millions of years ago, but despite this the two forms can and do hybridise where they meet, which is why it was described as a subspecies.

Oniscus asellus occidentalis
Prosthetops wolfbergensis

4. Prosthetops wolfbergensis

A giant at 4.2 mm long – this is by far the largest known 'minute moss beetle' in the world amongst the thousands described to date. Relatively widespread in the Western Cape of South Africa, occurring in temporary pools where rainwater has dissolved bare rock. Named after the Wolfberg Arch, a striking geological feature of the Cederberg mountains, in whose shadow the beetle was abundant.

Bilton, D.T. 2013. Prosthetops wolfbergensis sp. nov. – a giant amongst the ‘minute moss beetles’, with new data on other members of the genus (Coleoptera, Hydraenidae). Zootaxa 3666: 345–357.

5. Capelatus prykei

Known to exist only in a single wetland close to Cape Town, South Africa, within Table Mountain National Park. It was discovered during an annual field trip as part of a BSc (Hons) in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology. It appears to be a striking example of an evolutionary relict, which may have survived in the Western Cape due to its relatively stable climate. It is both evolutionarily unique and critically endangered, and could easily have gone extinct before it was named.

Bilton, D.T., Toussaint, E.F.A., Turner, C.R. & Balke, M. 2015. Capelatus prykei gen. et sp. n. (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae: Copelatinae) - a phylogenetically isolated diving beetle from the Western Cape of South Africa. Systematic Entomology 40: 520–531.

Capelatus prykei