The Natural History Museum described over 400 new species in 2019

Ranging from beetles and lichen to marsupials, snakes, and dinosaurs, the Museum’s scientists have officially named 412 new species in 2019. The Natural History Museum’s 300 scientists represent one of the biggest groups in the world working on natural diversity.

During the past 12 months, scientists at the Natural History Museum have described over 400 new species which were previously unknown to science. Ranging from beetles and lichen to marsupials, snakes, and dinosaurs, the Museum’s scientists have officially named 412 new species in 2019. The Natural History Museum’s 300 scientists represent one of the biggest groups in the world working on natural diversity. 

The Museum's Executive Director of Science Tim Littlewood said: 'Species discovery is always exciting and shows just how much there is still to understand about our planet. Learning how evolution has yielded new species able to live in earth’s diverse habitats is awe inspiring. Sadly, much of that adaptation and biological diversity is now severely threatened and we are losing species faster than we can discover them. We are losing our understanding of the natural world, breaking our own connection with it and the connections that underpin nature’s stability. Greater awareness of what we’re losing and what can yet be found will hopefully inspire action towards a planet that thrives with our help.' 

The largest group of newly described species this year are Coleoptera, or beetles. Museum researchers have discovered 171 new species of beetles around the globe including Japan, Malaysia, Kenya and Venezuela including Scientific Associate Dr Michael Darby's Nelloptodes gretae, named in honour of the environmental activist Greta Thunberg. 

Max Barclay, Senior Curator in Charge, Coleoptera at the Natural History Museum, said: 'There are likely hundreds of exciting new species still to be discovered around the world as well as in the vast collections of the Natural History Museum. The name of this beetle is particularly poignant since it is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss - so it is appropriate to name one of the newest discoveries after someone who has worked so hard to champion the natural world and protect vulnerable species.' 

2019 has seen the naming of eight lizards, five snakes, four fish and an amphibian native to India, including the striking red snake Trimeresurus arunachalensis, the first new species of pit viper described from India in the last 70 years. Researchers also identified eight wasps, five centipedes, four aphids, 13 snails and 34 moths and butterflies.   

Some of the new discoveries are extinct including the pig-footed bandicoot Chaeropus yirratji, an unusual marsupial that was extinct by the 1950s and two new species of dinosaur including a new species of stegosaur Adratiklit boulahfa, found in Morocco. 

The 2019 discoveries also included seven new plants and seven new lichen as well as 12 new species of deep sea polychaete worms from the sediments of the vast Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean. Museum Researcher Dr Adrian Glover said: 'It's a little bit surprising that this work hasn't taken place already, particularly in an environment that is already quite well sampled. We really want to be able to describe these species in order to understand these environments. You can't begin to interpret an ecosystem without first knowing the components of it.' 

Notes for editors  

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