Environment & Science

Photos of the 10 oddest new species of 2014: Vote for your favorite

The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius), a spectacular new species from remote northern Australia.
The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius), a spectacular new species from remote northern Australia.
Conrad Hoskin

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Super stealthy geckos, skeleton shrimp, fairy flies and dragon trees.

These are just a few of the approximately 18,000 new species named during the previous year. The International Institute for Species Exploration culled that large list down to the 10 most exciting, fascinating and unique lifeforms.

Now, it's your turn to pick the best of the bunch. Introducing the top ten new species of 2014.

Related: 'Khaleesi' slug: When scientists name species after pop culture

1. Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuarius eximius)

(Photo: Conrad Hoskin)

This stealthy critter has a mottled coloration and leaf-shaped tail allowing it to blend into its surroundings. To be even sneakier, the leaf-tailed gecko hides among rocky boulders during the day and pops out at night to hunt its prey, usually bugs.

2. Clean Room Microbes (Tersicoccus phoenicis)

Tersicoccus phoenicis is a tiny microbe that is tough as nails. These microbes were found in spacecraft clean rooms in Florida and French Guiana. Clean rooms are highly sterilized environments where scientists do everything they can to wipe out microbes so they don't hitch rides on things we send to space. Try as they might though, scientists were unable to kill these tenacious microbes.

3. Tinkerbell Fairyfly (Tinkerbella nana)

One of the smallest known insects, the Tinkerbell Fairyfly is a wasp that most likely lives just a few days. It has delicate, frayed wings and can be found in the tropical forests of Costa Rica. It's believed to be a parasitoid wasp, meaning it likely attacks the eggs of other insects. No word yet on whether it knows the way to Neverland.

4. Dragon Tree (Dracaena kaweesakii)

With sword shaped leaves and a name like 'dragon tree', you may think this plant comes straight from Game of Thrones. In reality, it comes from Thailand and Burma where people prize it for its beauty. The plant grows on limestone and  produces cream-colored flowers with bright orange filaments. Despite being hard to miss, it was only officially classified last year.

5. Orange Penicillium (Penicillium vanoranjei)

(Photo: Courtesy of Cobus M. Visagie)

What a showy fungus! This penicillium turns a bright orange color when it grows in a colony. It was named as a tribute to the Dutch royal family, specifically His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange. You can find it hanging out in dirt.

6. Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)

This teddybear of the trees lives in cloud forests. It's related to the raccoon and it is the first new carnivorous mammal described in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. It's nocturnal and spends its days in treetops, only coming down once in a while to snack on fruits such as guava. They can only have one baby at a time, but let's be honest, that one baby will ridiculously cute.

7. Skeleton Shrimp (Liropus minusculus)

(Photo: SINC and J.M. Guerra-García)

Also known as 'ghost shrimp,' these eerie creatures were found living in a cave on Catalina Island. It is the first of its genus to be reported in the northeastern Pacific, though they are believed to be common elsewhere. These guys are not great swimmers but they can hitch rides on other animals, including sea turtles. Cowabunga!

8. Amoeboid Protist (Spiculosiphon oceana)

(Photo: Manuel Maldonado)

Don't sell this one celled organism short. It's a giant among single celled creatures in part because of its actual size (4 to 5 centimeters) and in part because of how it feeds. It gathers fragments from sea sponges and builds a spiky shell. That shell traps small invertebrates and to eat those critters, the protist simply extends its arm-like pseudopods to grab them for a snack.  

9. ANDRILL Anemone (Edwardsiella andrillae)

(Photo: SCINI and Marymegan Daly)

This sea anemone was found living under a glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. It is the first species of sea anemone reported to live in ice and scientists are still puzzling over how it survives its harsh environment. They burrow most of their pale yellow bodies into the ice shelf and dangle their roughly two dozen tentacles into the frigid water below.

10. Domed Land Snail (Zospeum tholussum)

(Photo: Jana Bedek)

Living in total darkness some 900-plus meters (nearly 3,000 feet) below the ground in caves, this tiny snail  lacks eyes and pigmentation, giving it a ghostly appearance. Even for a snail this creature moves slowly, creeping just a few millimeters or centimeters a week. To travel greater distances, researchers think this snail rides in cave streams or grabs on to crickets and bats.