Every year, scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists discover 15,000 new species — on average — and we learn a little more about the wonderful planet we call home.
From walking sharks to giant flying squirrels, these are some of the best new species discovered in 2013.
1) Bassaricyon neblina: Olinguito, the carnivorous raccoon of the Andes
The clear winner this year is the olinguito, a member of the raccoon family that lives in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia. It's been 35 years since a carnivorous mammal was discovered in the Americas, which makes the olinguito a fairly big deal. There were almost two dozen olinguito samples in the United States, most collected in the early 20th century, but they were mislabeled. One olinguito even lived in an American zoo in the 1960s, lying low and refusing to mate with the red raccoons it lived with.
2) Tometes camunani: the vegetarian piranha of the Amazon
Sure, piranhas can eat a pig in 30 seconds, or something like that. Not this piranha. One of more than 440 new species discovered this year in the Amazon, this fish is a strict herbivore. It lives in rocky rapids and eats river weeds. Environmental threats from damning and mining projects suggest we might not have this peaceful little creature for much longer.
Written By: Timothy McGrath
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