It’s that time of the year, i.e., the beginning of a new one, when the “lists” start coming in – the best, the worst, the most exciting or just plain curious people and events of 2012. One of the most interesting lists we found comes from National Geographic, which compiled the Top Ten Most Popular Discoveries of the year just past. Among the more purely scientific discoveries we found three of interest to conservationists, all involving animals large and small.
On the smaller side was the discovery of eight new mammals found during an expedition in a northern Peruvian national sanctuary, which came in as Discovery #4 on the list. Included is a previously unknown species of monkey, the night-dwelling bushy-bearded Titi monkey. Although the team of Mexican and Peruvian scientists found this “heaven of diversity” in 2009-2011, they didn’t announce the new species until September 2012. Rarely seen and little-studied, night monkeys are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and endangered by the Peruvian government, “making the new discovery especially notable,” according to the National Geographic web site.
Of note, the expedition’s co-leader was Gerardo Ceballos, one of the six finalists for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize, and a great supporter of conservation and maintaining biological diversity. Among the other species found were a common shrew opossum, an enigmatic porcupine, and a small-eared shrew.
Also on the small side was Discovery #3 – potentially six new species of limbless amphibians found in northeastern India. Looking like a cross between worms and snakes, these armless and legless creatures are completely new to science – and pretty creepy looking, too.
Our favorite story on this list, however, is probably Discovery #10 – which involves something really big – probably the world’s largest crocodile in human care – ever. And when you see the photos of this thing, there’s no doubt that this 20-foot, 2,400-lb. saltwater croc is mighty impressive. What’s more interesting than his size, however, is the fact that his capture stimulated the Philippine government to pass laws further protecting crocodiles, especially the critically endangered Philippine crocodile.
And here’s one just for The Big Bang Theory fans out there — #7 was the probable discovery of the Higgs boson particle, not by Sheldon Cooper. Sorry, Sheldon — no Nobel for you this year.
To see the complete list of Top Discoveries, check out the National Geographic site, from which this information comes and whose photos are used here.