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.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the pandemic, you'd think people would have the basics figured out. Sure, there was some confusion in the beginning as to whether or not masks were going to help, but that was months ago (which might as well be years in pandemic time). Plenty of studies have shown that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of the virus and public health officials say universal masking is one of the keys to being able to safely resume some normal activities.

Normal activities include things like getting a coffee at Starbucks, but a viral video of a barista's encounter with an anti-masker shows why the U.S. will likely be living in the worst of both worlds—massive spread and economic woe—for the foreseeable future.

Alex Beckom works at a Starbucks in Santee, California and shared a video taken after a woman pulled down her "Trump 2020" mask to ask the 19-year-old barista a question, pulled it back up when the barista asked her to, then pulled it down again.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

When you picture a ballerina, you may not picture someone who looks like Lizzy Howell. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Howell is busting stereotypes and challenging people's ideas of what a dancer should look like just by being herself and doing her thing in her own body. The now-19-year-old from Delaware has been dancing since she was five and has performed in venues around the world, including Eurovision 2019. She has won scholarships and trains up to four hours a day to perfect her skills in various styles of dance.

Jordan Matter Photography shared a documentary video about Howell on Facebook—part of his "Unstoppable" series—that has inspired thousands. In it, we get to see Howell's impressive moves and clear love of the art form. Howell shares parts of her life story, including the loss of her mother in a car accident when she was little and how she was raised by a supportive aunt who helped her pursue her dance ambitions. She also explained how she's had to deal with hate comments and bullying from people who judge her based on her appearance.

"I don't think it's right for people to judge off of one thing," Howell says in the video. And she's right—her size is just one thing.

Keep Reading Show less