California Academy of Sciences researchers discover more than 70 new species in 2021

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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – If you weren’t sure the world needs six new species of scorpions, California Academy of Sciences researcher Lauren Esposito, Ph.D., might not agree. .

“What we’re really talking about is how we conserve humans, how we maintain the balance of ecosystems on earth,” says Esposito.

She points to the unusual barked scorpions she and her colleagues collected and described last year. Instead of residing near the ground, they thrive in the canopy of the tropical rainforests of Mexico and Central America. When that canopy is disturbed enough, it says they fall off the site, perhaps reflecting the pressures on the rainforest itself. Kind of like the recent fires here in California.

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“The California woodland scorpions that live in the forest that have suffered severe fires are gone. They are missing from this ecosystem, and who knows how long it will take them to come back,” Esposito said.

And documenting previously undescribed creatures and the ecosystems that support them is a core mission of the Academy. In the past year alone, researchers have identified more than 70 species of plants and animals. From starfish around Easter Island to a pygmy pipehorse living near the coast of New Zealand. From the endangered guitar fish native to Madagascar to the Easter egg weevils found atop the Philippine mountains.

“And so, in many cases, different species have different meanings. So major predators, like starfish or sharks, when lost, can have immediate effects on the functioning of this ecosystem,” declares the head of the Academy. of Science Shannon Bennett, Ph.D.

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Bennett says pressures can range from climate change to human activity. Identifying unknown species is sometimes a laborious process involving high resolution imaging and even DNA analysis. Researchers say it’s often a race against time,

“And so with new technologies like DNA sequencing, with citizen scientists documenting what’s going on in their everyday world, we’re doing it faster and we’re doing it better. But we have to keep increasing that rate if we never do, will have the chance to reduce biodiversity loss on earth, ”says Esposito.

And you can learn more about these species in a virtual event, happening this Thursday. Some of the researchers describing this year’s collection will join them to discuss their findings in more detail.

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