A secretive tree-living carnivore from the cloud forests of the Andes heads this year’s top 10 list of newly discovered species.
The olinguito, from Columbia and Ecuador, is the first new carnivorous mammal described in the western hemisphere in 35 years.
A smaller cousin of the raccoon, weighing around 4.5 pounds, it is threatened by deforestation.
Other new species on the list include a ghostly looking skeleton shrimp from California, a super-camouflaged “leaf-tailed” gecko from Australia, and a bright orange soil fungus from Tunisia.
The largest is the 13 metre Kaweesak’s Dragon Tree, which somehow remained unnoticed until its discovery in the Loei and Lop Buri mountain regions of Thailand.
At the other end of the scale is the “clean room” microbe Tersicoccus phoenicis, from the US and French Guiana.
The bug was found to have infected spacecraft assembly rooms and could potentially contaminate other planets.
The list was chosen by a committee of experts from around 18,000 new species named in the past year.
It was released to coincide with the birthday on May 23 of the 18th century Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who is considered the father of modern taxonomy.
Dr Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), said: “The top 10 is designed to bring attention to the unsung heroes addressing the biodiversity crisis by working to complete an inventory of earth’s plants, animals and microbes.
“Each year a small, dedicated community of taxonomists and curators substantively improve our understanding of the diversity of life and the wondrous ways in which species have adapted for survival.”
Colleague Dr Antonio Valdecasas, from the National Museum of Natural Science in Madrid, Spain, who chaired the selection committee, said: “One of the most inspiring facts about the top 10 species of 2014 is that not all of the ‘big’ species are already known or documented.
“One species of mammal and one tree species confirm that the species waiting to be discovered are not only on the microscopic scale.”
The Top 10 (alphabetically)
Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) (Columbia and Ecuador)
Kaweesak’s Dragon Tree (Dracaena kaweesakii) (Thailand)
Anemone (ANDRILL) (Edwardsiella andrillae) (Antarctica)
Skeleton Shrimp (Liropus minusculus) (US)
Orange Penicillium (Penicillium vanoranjei) (Tunisia)
Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuarius eximius) (Australia)
Amoeboid Protist (Spiculosiphon oceana) (Mediterranean Sea)
Clean Room Microbes (Tersicoccus phoenicis) (US)
Tinkerbell Fairyfly (Tinkerbella nana) (Costa Rica)
Domed Land Snail (Zospeum tholussum) (Croatia)