New Discoveries is a collaboration between Stanford and Academy scientists and staff, appearing on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. Here we celebrate new species publications and demonstrate how much more there is to learn about life on Earth.
Last week, Stephen Colbert took issue with three Brazilian scientists who discovered a new cave-dwelling species of arachnid and named it after The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings character Smeagol. Colbert argued that it should instead be named after the corrupt, cave-dwelling Gollum, whom Smeagol becomes after falling under the Ring’s influence. But now it’s our turn to take issue with Colbert: Iandumoema smeagol is a harvestman, not a spider, as Colbert referred to the new species—and there is a difference! Harvestmen, also known as daddy longlegs, are arachnids related to spiders. The new Smeagol/Gollum harvestman is eyeless and never leaves its subterranean habitat, so it will never know of Colbert’s classification slight. (But we will.)
New Endangered Tree
Last month, researchers published the discovery of a new species of tree, Sommera cusucoana, found in Cusuco National Park in Honduras, very close to the Guatemala border. The tree is from the Rubiaceae family, which includes 13,000-some species of flowering plants including coffee and gardenias. Sommera cusucoana grows to a height of 10 meters (33 feet) and has large leaves, small white flowers, and bright red fruits. The scientists found only two trees of this species in the park and are concerned for the species’ survival. “Sadly, this type locality is within 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) distance of areas… that were logged in the period 2010–13,” they write. “[T]his relatively conspicuous and distinctive species has not been noted elsewhere within the Park, and its proposed conservation status must be Critically Endangered.”
Image: MSc. Rafael Fonseca-Ferreira