Spotted by researchers in the Lomami Basin of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2007, the lesula monkey (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) is only the second new species of monkey found in Africa in the past 28 years.
Conservationist John Hart and a team of scientists first spotted a juvenile female at the home of a primary school teacher in the town of Opala (map). The teacher had received the monkey from a family member who had killed the youngster's mother.
The lesula monkey is one of ten newly described species from the past year that researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) hope will help raise awareness of biodiversity on Earth.
On Thursday, the ASU researchers released their list of what they say are the top 10 newly discovered species from last year, an annual tradition dating to 2007. The group always unveils the list on the anniversary of the birth of botanist Carolus Linnaeus, the man responsible for devising the scientific classification of organisms.
"There are a lot of scientists now that think we could lose 50 percent of the species [on Earth] before the end of the 21st century," said Arizona State University researcher Quentin Wheeler, who specializes in discovering new species and figuring out how they fit into the evolutionary history of life on Earth.
"I find it ironic that we're spending so much money on these telescopes to hunt for Earth-like planets while we're allowing the most Earth-like planet of all to be decimated."
—Jane J. Lee
Photograph courtesy Maurice Emetshu via ASU
Scientists described this glowing cockroach (Lucihormetica luckae) in a paper last September based on one specimen collected 70 years ago. It is possibly already extinct.
Found in Ecuador near the Tungurahua volcano, no more specimens of L. luckae have been found since a major volcanic eruption in 2010, according to news accounts.
Images courtesy Peter Vrsansky, Slovak Academy of Sciences
The lyre sponge (Chondrocladia lyra) may look like an underwater candelabra, but make no mistake: It's a carnivore with indiscriminate tastes. Its vertical stalks maximize the surface area exposed to drifting, microscopic prey.
The paintings, dated to the Upper Paleolithic period around 40,000 to 10,000 years ago, began to disappear under the black fungus in 2001.
"The [fungus experts] actually think the treatments that got rid of a previous fungus ended up encouraging the growth of this new one," said Arizona State's Wheeler.
"I normally don't think of undescribed species having such a profound threat on cultural treasures," he said. "Most of the noxious species that we think of are the usual suspects—they're very common and worldwide. And for a species new to science to become a threat, I just find fascinating."
Image courtesy Pedro M. Martin-Sanchez via ASU
World's Tiniest Vertebrate
This newly described frog (Paedophryne amauensis) lives among the leaf litter on the floor of New Guinea's rain forests.
So small that it perches comfortably on the U.S. dime, members of this species are the world's smallest vertebrates. Adults grow to about 0.3 inches (7.7 millimeters), barely shorter than the world's previous record-holder, an Indonesian carp whose females gets as big as 0.31 inches (7.9 millimeters). (Listen to this frog chirp.)
Photograph courtesy Christopher Austin, Louisiana State University
The fly's wings almost perfectly match the shape of the ginkgo-like leaves, the authors note in an article published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Related pictures: "Oldest Flying Insect Imprint Found.")
Photograph courtesy Wang, Labandeira, Shih, and Ren via ASU
Social Meets Science
When Hock Ping Guek uploaded a picture of a green lacewing (Semachrysa jade) to the photo-sharing website flickr, he set in motion a series of events culminating in the recognition that this insect was a new species.
Shaun Winterton, an insect researcher with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, saw the picture on flickr and thought it might be a new species, according to an account in The Guardian. But scientists needed to examine an actual specimen to be sure.
So Guek collected a female S. jade and sent it to Steve Brooks, an insect specialist at the Natural History Museum in London, who confirmed the lacewing was a new species.
Winterton, Brooks, and Guek eventually described their find in a paper published August 2012. The "jade" in the lacewing's scientific name refers to Winterton's daughter, Jade.