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351 new species named by the Natural History Museum – and a quarter are wasps | Natural History Museum

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Eighty-five new wasp species are among more than 350 new species identified in 2022 by the Museum of Natural History, and scientists say many more are to come.

By combing through their collections, as well as sending scientists on research trips, curators and researchers managed to describe a total of 351 new species.

The biggest group of new discoveries was the wasp, including some miniature creatures with what scientists describe as “beautiful feather-like wings”.

The tiny parasitic wasps of the Megaphragma family are some of the smallest insects in the world, but researchers have found that they can be important for agriculture. The insects parasitize the eggs of thrips, a type of insect that can damage crops and, as such, wasps can be important biological control agents.

doctor Gavin Broad is the main curator in charge of insects at the museum and an expert on Hymenoptera, the group that contains wasps. He said: “It’s no surprise that new species of wasps have made it to the top, it’s just a surprise that wasps don’t make it to the top every year.

“The abundance of parasitoid wasps makes the order Hymenoptera the most species-rich order of insects, but it lags far behind some other groups in terms of actual species descriptions. Watch out for a lot more wasps next year.”

The scientists also named 84 species of beetles, 34 species of moths, 23 species of mosses (also known as bryozoans), and 13 species of fluke worms. There were also 12 new species of protists, seven species of flies, two bumblebees from Asia, two polychaete worms from the deep oceans, and a centipede with an array of segments never before seen by scientists.

Other notable discoveries this year include 19 new species of stick insect, all of which originated in the tropics of Australia. Scientists used genetic analysis to tell them apart.

Some vertebrates were also discovered, including a new species of gecko from Seychelles, three species of fish and seven species of frogs.

Six of these frog species are tiny and among the smallest known vertebrates. They were discovered in Mexico and grow to just eight millimeters in length. It is still unknown why they evolved to be so small.

While many of the species described by the scientists have been known for some time to the locals who live alongside them, the Natural History Museum said it is important to give them official names so they can be monitored and protected from the impacts of climate breakdown.

With more species lost each year, it’s a race against time to name them all before they go extinct so they can be saved, scientists said.

The researchers described a total of 11 new species of algae this year, both fossil and living, while four new plant species were described from South Asia.

Dr. Sandra Knapp of the Museum of Natural History was involved in describing these new plant species.

She said: “While flowering plants are relatively well known as far as groups of organisms are concerned, it is estimated that although we have given scientific names to around 450,000 species, there are around 25% left to describe. Not to find out – surely these things we don’t know are known to the local and indigenous peoples where they occur – we taxonomists just give them names that put them in the language of global botany.

“Most plants have a variety of names, some specific to an area or linguistic group, others more widespread, but the scientific names we came up with can be used by anyone anywhere. That means there’s a common language, one of the things we really need to help bend the biodiversity curve. After all, if we can’t talk about a species, how can we want to save it?”

Wildlife Trusts also made some significant marine life discoveries this year, including a new species of coral found at depths of up to 2,000m in the Rockall Trench, about 240 miles off the west coast of Scotland, a 100-year-old Greenland shark Newlyn , Cornwall and new sea slug records.

The Manx Wildlife Trust spotted the first recorded swordfish off the Isle of Man, Leicester and the Rutland Wildlife Trust unearthed the fossilized remains of Britain’s largest ichthyosaur, a prehistoric ‘sea dragon’, and Albie, the only known albatross in the northern hemisphere, it returned to the cliffs of Bempton in Yorkshire.

The charity said this life is under threat from pressures including the global bird flu pandemic which has killed thousands of seabirds across the UK, pollution including oil and plastic spills, as well as people recklessly disturbing the wild life.

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