The top 10 species discovered during 2013 run the gamut from a cute catlike teddy bear to a crazy kind of fungus among us. The list has been drawn up annually since 2008 by a committee of experts and published by the International Institute for Species Exploration. Here's one of the favorites: the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), which lives a secretive life in the Andes Mountains of Colombia and Ecuador. This cross between a cat and a bear is the first new carnivorous mammal described in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.
Kaweesak's dragon tree (Dracaena kaweesakii) sounds like a species that would fit right in with "Game of Thrones." This mother of dragon trees, found in Thailand and Burma, stands nearly 40 feet tall. The tree has been given preliminary endangered status because it grows on limestone that is extracted for the manufacture of concrete.
The ANDRILL sea anemone (Edwardsiella andrillae) takes its name from the ANDRILL drilling program in Antarctica. The species was discovered when ANDRILL's researchers sent a remotely operated submersible probe into holes that had been drilled into the ice. The creatures, which measure less than an inch in length, burrow into the ice shelf and let their tentacles dangle into the frigid water below.
Tiny specimens of this bizarre-looking skeleton shrimp (Liropus minusculus) were collected from a cave on Santa Catalina, off the coast of Southern California. The marine creature's translucent body is roughly an eighth of an inch long.
This new species of fungus is called orange penicillium (Penicillium vanoranjei) for two reasons. The obvious explanation is that the fungal colonies take on an bright orange tint, but the name also honors the Prince of Orange in the Dutch royal family. Dutch researchers isolated the drought-resistant species from Tunisian soil, and shared their findings in a journal published by the National Herbarium of the Netherlands.
The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius) is a spectacular new species from remote northern Australia. Its mottled coloration provides natural camouflage in the rocky terrain of the Melville Range's isolated rain forests.
This newly discovered carnivorous protist, known as Spiculosiphon oceana, measures just an inch and a half or so (4 centimeters), but that makes it a giant in the world of single-celled creatures. The foraminifer picks selectively from the skeletal pieces of dead sponges on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, building a shell that replicates not only the sponges' body shape but also their feeding strategy.
There are some things we don't want to send into space, and these newly discovered clean-room microbes (Tersicoccus phoenicis) are among them. Found in rooms where spacecraft are assembled, this microbial species could potentially contaminate other planets that the spacecraft visit. The bacterial cells were discovered on the floors of two separate clean rooms in Florida and French Guiana.
This new wasp species, known as the Tinkerbell fairyfly (Tinkerbella nana), doesn't match up with the Disney image of Peter Pan's sidekick. Nevertheless, its name is inspired by the winged fairy. "Nana" refers to the dog in the Peter Pan story, and also to the Greek word "nanos," meaning dwarf. This Tinker Bell is one of the world's smallest insects, measuring just 250 micrometers (less than a hundredth of an inch).
This eyeless domed land snail (Zospeum tholussum) lives in complete darkness, nearly 3,000 feet underground in the Lukina Jama-Trojama caves of western Croatia. It has no shell pigmentation, giving it a ghostlike appearance.