News

Ten remarkable new marine species from 2021

WORMS, 19.03.2022

As for previous years, the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) has again released its annual list of the top-ten marine species described by researchers during the past year to coincide with World Taxonomist Appreciation Day on March 19th!

Every day in labs, museums, out on fieldwork, taxonomists are busy collecting, cataloguing, identifying, comparing, describing, and naming species new to science. Some 300 taxonomists globally also contribute their valuable time to keeping the World Register of Marine Species up to date. Today is a chance for us at WoRMS to thank our taxonomic editors for this important task. We celebrate the work of taxonomists now with the WoRMS list of the top-ten marine species described in 2021 as nominated and voted for by taxonomists, journal editors and WoRMS users!

This top-ten list is just a small highlight of over 2,000 fascinating new marine species discovered every year (there were 2,241 marine species described in 2021 and added to WoRMS, including 263 fossil species).

How were the species chosen?

A call for nominations was announced in December 2021, sent to all editors of WoRMS and editors of major taxonomy journals, and posted openly on the WoRMS website and social media so anyone had the opportunity to nominate their favourite marine species. Nominated species must have been described between January 1st and December 31st, 2021, and have come from the marine environment (including fossil taxa). A small committee (including both taxonomists and data managers) was brought together to decide upon the final candidates. The list is in no hierarchical order.

The final decisions reflect the immense diversity of animal groups in the marine environment (including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, corals, sponges, jellies and worms) and highlight some of the challenges facing the marine environment today. The final candidates also feature some particularly astonishing marine creatures, notable for their interest to both science and the public.

Each of these marine animals has a story. This year the chosen species range from the extremely tiny and often overlooked, to a new species of whale! We feature the tiny Japanese Twitter Mite, discovered on social media, the Quarantine Shrimp, described during the COVID-19 lockdown, a new species of mysid hiding in plain sight, the massive Yokozuna Slickhead, honouring high ranking sumo wrestlers, and the astonishing Jurassic Pig-Nose Brittle Star!

About the WoRMS top-ten list of Marine Species

After 250 years of describing, naming and cataloguing the species we share our planet with, we are still some way off from achieving a complete census. However, we do know that at least 240,000 marine species have been described because their names are managed in WoRMS by almost 300 scientists located all over the world.
In 2018, to celebrate a decade of WoRMS’ existence, we compiled a list of our top marine species, both for 2017 and for the previous decade in order to highlight the fascinating discoveries of the numerous new marine species being made every year ( http://www.lifewatch.be/en/2018.04.23-WoRMS-LifeWatch-press-release).

We decided to continue this process every year as a celebration of the work that taxonomists do and of the fascinating marine species that are discovered each year. Our previous lists of the top-ten marine species described for the decade 2007–2017, for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 can be found here:

https://www.lifewatch.be/en/worms-top10-2007-2017
https://www.lifewatch.be/en/worms-top10-2017
https://www.lifewatch.be/en/worms-top10-2018
https://www.lifewatch.be/en/worms-top10-2019
https://www.lifewatch.be/en/worms-top10-2020

A list of the ‘Top Ten Species’ described from ALL habitats and taxa has been announced annually since 2008. The oceans cover over 70% of the surface of our planet, and yet they still include the least explored regions. Although the ESF list often contains one or two marine species, we decided to pay homage to the ‘largest habitat on earth’ by producing our own list of the top marine species.

We hope some of our favourites will make it to the global list!

Ten remarkable new marine species from 2021

The Hidden Horniman Mysid, Heteromysis hornimani
The Cebimar Moon Jellyfish, Aurelia cebimarensis
The Emperor Dumbo, Grimpoteuthis imperator
The Yokozuna Slickhead, Narcetes shonanmaruae
The Quarantine Shrimp, Periclimenaeus karantina
The Japanese Twitter Mite, Ameronothrus twitter
The Jurassic Pig-Nose Brittle Star, Ophiojura exbodi
Ramari’s Beaked Whale, Mesoplodon eueu
The Balloon Backpack Isopod, Akrophryxus milvus
Winter’s Basket Coccolithophore, Syracosphaera winteri

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For more information, please contact: Tammy Horton: tammy.horton@noc.ac.uk
Stefanie Dekeyzer: stefanie.dekeyzer@vliz.be; Leen Vandepitte: leen.vandepitte@vliz.be

Please contact authors of individual species for information on these, and Tammy Horton, Stefanie Dekeyzer or Leen Vandepitte for information on the top-ten list and the World Register of Marine Species.