From the extinct to the endangered to the flourishing, researchers are constantly discovering “new” species never before catalogued by modern science. The Australian rainforest, the Amazon and the ocean are all home to animals and plants that we humans have been unknowingly coexisting with. The species listed here are all alive today, though some are endangered. Though some were first observed in prior years, all were identified as distinct during 2013. Either way, they serve as a reminder that much of Mother Earth remains a mystery, even in the present. Below is a roundup of the cutest and/or cuddliest creatures, with a couple of creepy-crawlies thrown in—plus a bowl of purple spaghetti.
1. Olinguito, South America
Move over pandas and koalas. The cuddly-looking olinguito rivals both teddy bears and kittens for cuteness, and until recently this animal's existence was not known to those beyond its habitat high in the Andes. But scientists were cooing earlier this year as this previously unknown member of the raccoon family was catalogued in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia.
2. Tigrina, Brazil
A couple of long-extinct monster cats were found to have existed this past year, but another, living cat species was identified in Brazil using molecular markers, BBC Nature News reported on November 27. Researchers at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, compared DNA sequences from several varieties of L. triginus wildcat and found two populations that don’t interbreed and are thus evolutionarily distinct, BBC Nature News said. It joined at least seven other species of small Leopardus wildcat in Central and South America, BBC Nature said. The animals are thought to have arrived their between 2.5 and 3.5 million years ago. The scientists, led by Eduardo Eizirik, published their findings in the journal Current Biology.
3. Cambodian Tailorbird, Cambodia
This little warbler, Orthotomus chaktomuk, was hiding in plain sight in a major city. First observed in Phnom Penh in 2009, it was only in 2013 classified as a distinct species of tailorbird. They are known for weaving leaves together to build their nests, which is what earns them their name, according to BBC News. The bird’s plumage, song and genetic makeup show that it is a distinct species of tailorbird.
4. Scorpion, Turkey
Out of mythical sites in Turkey comes a newly identified species of scorpion. Who knew?
Euscorpius lycius is part of a group called small-wood scorpions, which are widespread in North Africa and Europe. Named after Ancient Lycia, a historical region that shows up in both Egyptian and Ancient Greek mythology, the species is “rather secretive,” its discoverers said in a press release. It hides in pine forests, or on rocks and stone walls. It keeps to humid, cool, moss-covered environs. At one to three inches long, it is a relatively small version of a scorpion. But these scorpions are not the fearsome venom-injecting killing machines that popular mythology makes them out to be.
“Euscorpius scorpions are relatively harmless, with poison that has effects similar to a mosquito bite,” said the researchers in a press release from ZooKeys, the open-access journal in which the results were published.
5. Spaghetti Passion Flower, Brazil
Numerous plant species were discovered during 2013, many of them in the Amazon, and many of them orchids. The World Wildlife Fund announced earlier this year that from 2010 through mid 2013, a consortium of scientists had discovered more than 400 species in the Amazon. A magnificent variation on the passion flower, Passiflora longifilamentosa, was among them, and it looks like an overflowing bowl of purple spaghetti.
“Together with vivid purple petals, the new species displays fantastic and quirky 'noodles' or 'spaghetti' (corona filaments) that burst out of the flower's centre,” the World Wildlife Fund said in its writeup of the discovery. "The new species was collected in a six year old reforested area of Saracá-Taquera National Forest, Pará State, in northeastern Brazilian Amazon."