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.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.