Homo naledi. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND/JOHN HAWKS
Homo naledi. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND/JOHN HAWKS

HOMO naledi‚ the extinct hominin species discovered at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site‚ has been named among the top 10 newly-discovered species of 2016.

Among the others is a giant Galapagos tortoise and two fish — a bright red seadragon and an anglerfish that looks like a creature out of a science fiction thriller.

The list of top 10 species is compiled annually by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s International Institute for Species Exploration in New York.

The list is chosen from about 18,000 new species identified during the previous year and released around May 23 to recognise the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus‚ an 18th century Swedish botanist who is considered to be "the father of modern taxonomy".

The species were discovered in various countries‚ including Brazil and Gabon‚ each of which contributed two new additions to the planet’s biodiversity. The others hail from Ecuador‚ the Gulf of Mexico‚ Australia‚ Spain and Peru.

"In the past half-century‚ we have come to recognise that species are going extinct at an alarming rate. It is time that we accelerate species exploration‚ too‚" said Dr Quentin Wheeler‚ founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration.

"Knowledge of what species exist‚ where they live‚ and what they do will help mitigate the biodiversity crisis and archive evidence of the life on our planet that does disappear in the wild‚" he said.

The new species for 2016 are:

1. Giant tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi): It is found in Galapagos‚ Ecuador.

2. Giant sundew (Drosera magnifica): Found in Brazil and is believed to be the first new species of plant discovered through photographs posted on Facebook.

3. Hominin (Homo naledi): Discovered in South Africa‚ Homo naledi is similar in size and weight to a modern human‚ and with human-like hands and feet. This species has a braincase more similar in size to earlier ancestors living 2-million to 4-million years ago‚ as well as shoulders‚ pelvis‚ and ribcage more closely resembling earlier hominins than modern humans.

4. Isopod (Iuiuniscus iuiuensis): From Brazil‚ the isopod is a blind‚ unpigmented‚ multi-legged animal that represents a new subfamily‚ genus‚ and species of amphibious isopod discovered in a South American cave. It has a behaviour never seen before in its family: It constructs shelters of mud.

5. Anglerfish (Lasiognathus dinema): Found in Mexico‚ the fish was discovered during a Natural Resource Damage Assessment process conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

6. Seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea): Discovered in Australia‚ the seadragon is the third known species of seadragon‚ it is found in slightly deeper and more offshore waters than the related common or leafy seadragons.

7.Tiny beetle (Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington): The new beetle hails from Peru. Most of them are found on the forest floor where they feed on decomposing materials.

8. New primate (Pliobates cataloniae): Nicknamed "Laia" by her discoverers‚ she was a small female that lived about 11.6-million years ago in what is now Spain‚ climbing trees and eating fruit.

9. Flowering tree (Sirdavidia solannona): The tree found in Gabon is less than six metres high with a diameter of 10cm. It was found "hidden" just metres from the main road in the Monts de Cristal National Park‚ in Gabon and was thought to have already been well explored by science.

10. Sparklewing (Umma gumma): Also found in Gabon‚ this species is one of a staggering number of newly discovered dragonflies and damselflies from Africa.

TMG Digital