|Newly identified Rana kauffeldi Photo credit: Brian Curry|
New species are often discovered when scientists look at the genome of one species only to find out that one species is really two or more separate species. For example, Bornean and Sumatran orangutans were once thought to be one species. No attention was given to breeding Bornean orangutans only with Bornean orangutans, and many zoos now have hybrid orangs because of this. It was through genetic analysis that we discovered that each island held its own, distinct species.
Some of the time scientists do discover completely new species that are unheard of to science. This usually happens in far-away and poorly studied areas of the globe. Scientists talk to locals in remote areas and hear about a species that doesn't match descriptions of known species. Behavior, anatomy, reproduction, and even vocalizations are all examined when determining if something is a new species. Scientists hunt around in the jungle, struggle to obtain a photograph or grab a sample specimen, and ideally consult with as many other experts as possible to make sure that this is in fact a new, distinct species. It's important to compare a possible new species with existing species to ensure that there are enough differences to satisfy calling something an entirely new species.
|Classification of Saimiri oerstedii|
So the next time you click on a link about the ten most interesting species discovered in 2014, you understand how it is species are found, how it's determined that those species are distinct, and how they are named.
Food for thought: What do you think is the best way to determine if a species is separate or distinct from another? Would you rely on genetics? Or look at the behaviors of the animal? Is whether or not the two populations coexist in the wild important? There are many things to consider!
News stories about recently discovered species:
Head to LiveScience to read about a species of monkey first spotted in 2007.
Read about a coughing frog species that was recently discovered or
five new bird species discovered in 2014.