International Institute for Species Exploration

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International Institute for Species Exploration
Founded 2007
Focus Taxonomy, Biodiversity
Area served
World wide
Owner State University of New York
Key people
Quentin D. Wheeler, Executive Director[1]

The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) is a research institute located in Syracuse, New York. Its mission is to improve taxonomical exploration and the cataloging of new species of flora and fauna. Since 2008, IISE has published a yearly "Top 10" of the most unusual or unique biota newly identified in the previous year, with the aim of drawing attention to the work done in taxonomy across the world over the previous year.

In 2011, the institute contributed towards the estimate that Earth was home to approximately 8.7 million species.


The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) is a research facility dedicated to exploring cataloging the Earth's species across all kingdoms.[2] IISE cites three reasons why an improved taxonomic understanding of life is important: without knowing what exists today, humans will be unable to tell when species go extinct; the diversity of life driven by billions of years of natural selection means nature likely holds the answers to many human problems; to better appreciate our place in the world.[3]

IISE is hosted by State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry and located in Syracuse New York, United States. It was founded in 2007.[2] IISE was previously associated with Arizona State University.[4] The institute's executive director is Professor Quentin D. Wheeler, a former Cornell University entomologist.[5]

In 2011, the institute contributed towards the widely publicized estimate that Earth is home to approximately 8.7 million species.[6]

Top 10 New Species list[edit]

Starting in 2008, the IISE has published an annual list of the "Top 10 New Species" in an effort to increase public awareness of the diversity of life on Earth.[5] The list is credited with bringing attention to the abundance of new discovers, just as the world's species are declining. Additionally, Wheeler said he hopes it spurs a sense of urgency to catalog Earth's creatures.[3]

Each year an international panel picks the list from the 17,000–18,000 species described during the previous calendar year, emphasizing diversity with their picks.[7] To be eligible for inclusion, the species must have been formally described in an accredited scientific journal and named within the previous calendar year.[8] The list is published on or just before May 23, the birthday of Carl Linnaeus, the "father" of taxonomy. The list is unordered.[3] According to selection committee chair Antonio Valdecasas, it is very difficult to select the list due to the large number of species discovered each year. He added that "always surprised" by the diverse discoveries each year and that we are "very far" from a complete description of life on Earth.[3]

The list regularly draws considerable press attention. The Dehli Daily News said the list "highlights the most amazing species found last year", while the New Zealand Herald called the creatures it features "bizarre discoveries".[9] TIME magazine called the list the "best of the best when it comes to new life".[10]


The Top 10 New Species for 2012 were announced on May 24, 2012 and included (in alphabetical order):[11]


The Top 10 New Species for 2013 were announced on May 22, 2013 and included (in alphabetical order):[12][13][14]


The 2014 list was announced on May 22, 2014. According to National Geographic, the list featured "a lineup of startling creatures notable for their scrappiness, weirdness, thrift, and sloth."[15] Valdecasas said the list shows that "not all of the 'big' species are already known or documented."[3] Highlighting that fact was Kaweesak's dragon tree, which the BBC called "inescapable evidence" that large species remain undiscovered.[16] The 40-foot (12 m) tree is native to Thailand. It grows only on limestone, which is being harvested at a rapid rate to make concrete, endangering the estimated 2,500 specimens in existence. It has cream-colored flowers and leaves that are shaped like a sword. Another surprising find was the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), the first new carnivorous mammal found in the Americas in 35 years. It lives in cloud forests found in the Andes Mountains. It's like "a cross between a slinky cat and wide-eyed teddy bear" and weighs about 4.5 pounds (2.0 kg).[3]

Edwardsiella andrillae is a sea anemone that lives in the icy waters of Antarctica. It was discovered when the ANtarctic DRILLing Project (ANDRILL) submarine spotted it while surveying the waters under a glacier. The anemone is less than an inch long and is pale yellow in color. It is unknown how the creature withstands the extreme cold, as no other anemone lives in icy water. Liropus minusculus is a shrimp discovered off the coast of Southern California in a cave on Santa Catalina Island. A type of skeleton shrimp, its translucent appearance makes it look like a skeleton. Individuals are about an eighth of an inch long.[3]

The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius) lives in the rain forests of Melville Range, Australia. It is well camouflaged, blending in with both leafy debris and rocky surfaces. It captures prey by being still and waiting for creatures to approach. It has long legs, a slender body, and big eyes as compared to other members of its genus. Zospeum tholussum is a terrestrial snail that lives in complete darkness. It was found in western Croatia's Lukina Jama-Trojama caves, some 3,000 feet (910 m) below the surface of the Earth. It lacks pigmentation and has no eyes, giving the creature a ghost-like appearance. It is less than a tenth of an inch long.[3]

Tinkerbella nana is a species of fairyfly, a type of parasitic wasp, named after Tinkerbell. It is a mere 250 micrometers long (less than a hundredth of an inch) and likely has a lifespan of no more than a few days. It was found at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. Orange penicillium (Penicillium vanoranjei) is a bright orange fungus found in Tunisia. The name was chosen to honor the Prince of Orange of the Dutch royal family. The fungus creates an extra-cellular matrix layer that might help protect it in times of drought.[3]

Spiculosiphon oceana is a "giant" protist, growing up to 2 inches (5.1 cm) in length. It uses sponge fragments to construct a shell and looks and feeds much like a sponge does, extending its pseudopods to feed on invertebrates caught on its shell. It was discovered in underwater caves off the coast of Spain. Tersicoccus phoenicis is a microbe that was found in two clean rooms used to assemble spacecraft. One of the rooms is in Florida, while the other is in French Guiana, more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km) away. The microbe is resilient to extreme dryness, as well as a wide variety of pHs, temperatures, salt concentrations, and chemicals used to clean the rooms such as hydrogen peroxide. It is also unaffected by UV light.[3]

State of Observed Species report[edit]

The IISE also releases an annual report that inventories the complete list of species cataloged two years prior and discusses the state of new species discovery. The 2011 report, for example, found that 19,232 species were named in 2009, a 5.6% increase over the prior year. The report takes about two years to compile due to the lack of standardized registration for new species, and issue which IISE has campaigned for. It routinely finds that insects make up roughly half of all new species discovered, followed by vascular plants and arachnids.[4]


  1. ^ "Staff & Partners," IISE, Arizona State University. Accessed: February 22, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "About us". International Institute for Species Exploration. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lawrence LeBlond (May 22, 2014). "Rich Biodiversity Of Species Makes Annual Top Ten List Of Discoveries". Red Orbit. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Remy Melina (January 28, 2012). "Insects Top Newly Discovered Species List". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Rosanne Skirble (May 22, 2014). "New Species Identified in 2014". Voice of America. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ The Guardian (August 23, 2011). "Planet Earth is home to 8.7 million species, scientists estimate". London. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  7. ^ James Vincent (May 22, 2014). "Top ten new species of 2014 - from tree-dwelling carnivores to translucent shrimp". The Independent. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Top 10 New Species Announced By Scientists". Red Orbit. May 22, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Top 10 New Species 2014 listed". Dehli Daily News. May 22, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  10. ^ Bryan Walsh (May 22, 2014). "Top 10 New Species for 2014". TIME. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  11. ^ Christine Dell'Amore (May 29, 2014). "Top Ten New Species: Snub-Nosed Monkey, Devil Worm, More". National Geographic. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ Newswise (May 22, 2013). "Scientists Announce Top 10 New Species". Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Newswise, Inc. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  13. ^ Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (May 22, 2013). "Top 10 new species of 2012". ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, LLC. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  14. ^ Varma S (May 23, 2013). "Amazing top 10 new species include glowing cockroach, tiniest vertebrate and new monkey". The Times of India. Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  15. ^ Frazer, Jennifer (May 22, 2014). "Top 10 New Species of 2014". National Geographic. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Snail, gecko and carnivore in 'top 10 new species' 2014". BBC. May 22, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 

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