Thousands of new species were discovered this year — including these cool little guys.

Though many animals and plants are at risk of going extinct, that doesn't mean we aren't finding new ones. In fact, new species are being discovered all the time. In 2015, over 100 new plant and animal species were discovered by the California Academy of Sciences researchers alone.

And though some of these might sound more like Dungeons and Dragons monsters, they are most definitely real creatures.



GIF via Nerdist.

Researchers discovered new species of Dracula ants.

These tiny ants really do earn their name. They suck hemolymph — the insect equivalent of blood — from their own young. And, like their namesake, you're not likely to see them running around in the sunshine. These tiny ants prefer to live in tunnels and pockets under the forest floor.

+2 to hit, AC 14. Image by the California Academy of Sciences, used with permission.

They were discovered by Dr. Brian Fisher, the California Academy of Sciences' resident ant expert.

These weren't the only vampires discovered this year. Two species of brightly-colored Javanese vampire crabs were scientifically cataloged this year after researchers spotted them in an aquarium store. Locals had known about them and sold them as pets for years before scientists had a chance to investigate.

How about some slugs that look like they're ready for Mardi Gras.

+1 to hit, applies poison. Doto splendidisima. Image by the California Academy of Sciences, used with permission.

Researcher Terry Gosliner's team found nine new species of nudibranchs — a kind of ooo-la-la-looking sea slug. Two were even found during student training exercises, and three of the new species were found in one particular spot in the Philippines.

"It was like an underwater Easter egg hunt. It was one of the most exciting scientific dives of my 50-year career," said Gosliner.

Nudibranchs can come in a startling variety of colors and shapes (including our bulbous friend up at the top) and can be quite poisonous. Some can even steal stinging nematocyst cells from jellyfish; some can steal chloroplasts from algae too. This means they can photosynthesize like a plant!

They found strange and spooky sharks and rays.

AC 16, 1d4 electric attack. This is a common torpedo — a relative of the new species. The new species is much less colorful. Image from Roberto Pillon/FishBase.

Another researcher, David Ebert, spent his year finding rare, unknown sharks. Ebert found ghost sharks, a deep-sea catshark, and an electric torpedo ray.

"Torpedo rays have an amazing set of defenses," said Ebert. "These rays can discharge a powerful electric shock of 45 volts — enough to knock down a human adult."

These weren't the only shark species discovered this year. Researcher Victoria Vásquez discovered the ninja lanternshark. Its body was also stored at the California Academy of Sciences.

The ninja lanternshark is a small, sleek, black shark that lives in the deep ocean. Glow-in-the-dark organs help them camouflage themselves in the darkness.

And 10 little goblin spiders.

+3 to hit, save vs. fear. This related species goblin spider is found in western Europe. Image via Arnaud Henrard, Rudy Jocqué, and Barbara C. Baehr/Wikimedia Commons.

"Small-but-mighty goblin spiders are extremely unusual," said researcher Charles Griswold. "Unlike most spiders that spin webs above the ground and hunt above the leaves, these goblins exist in darkness. They use their tough armor to bulldoze their way through the substrate, parting leaves and soil as easily as a fish moves through water."

Griswold and his team found 10 new species of these incredibly tiny spiders living in Madagascar.

These are only a handful of the thousands of species discovered last year alone.

Original images from Pop Culture Geek/Flickr and Jonathan W. Armbruster/Wikimedia Commons.

It wasn't just the one academy working on this; people around the world discovered new species this year. There was a frog that looks suspiciously like Kermit the Frog and a catfish that bore an uncanny resemblance to Greedo, an alien from "Star Wars" (above).

Some of the discoveries were made by field expeditions, but others relied on tracking down and analyzing DNA samples. One group of researchers from the University of Basel even identified a new species of cicada by listening to its song.


Image from TED-Ed/Tumblr.

These incredible discoveries are a glimpse at a hidden world.

The Age of Discovery might have ended in the 18th century, but for biologists, there's still a lot to find. So far, humanity has discovered and named over a million species of plants, animals, and other forms of life.

But that might be only about a tenth of what's actually out there. There's still a lot more left.


A dumbo octopus — who knows what amazing looking species will be discovered next? Image via oceanexplorergov/YouTube.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash
white sheep on green grass during daytime

Heroes don't always wear capes. Some sport a viking beard with a tank top.

A video went viral on Twitter yesterday of a man who in my mind shall be called Sheep Thor. In the video, Sheep Thor steps out of his car after seeing a helpless lamb struggling to release itself from the death grip of a barbed wire fence. We see Sheep Thor step out of the car and grab both sides of the sheep with his bare hands, gently trying to pull it out.

Alas, no buck wouldn't budge. The camera zooms in on the poor beast, still stuck in the fence, and Sheep Thor gives a narration that would fill Crocodile Hunter fans with nostalgia. "So he's got this barbed wire here, he's got his horns caught behind the wire...gotta be careful." He then takes a horn and gingerly works it back through the wire. Despite Sheep Thor's requests to "hurry up buddy," the ram doesn't seem too keen on aiding his rescuer.

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