The world’s most fascinating plants and animals of 2014 also include a giant stick insect and a frog that gives birth to live tadpoles.

By Mary Bates, National Geographic

For 20 years, divers off the Japanese coast had wondered what was making mysterious “crop circles” on the ocean floor. In 2014, scientists discovered the culprit behind the intricately patterns—a new species of pufferfish,Torquigener albomaculosus.

Now, this marine artist is being honored as one of the Top 10 New Species for 2015. Since 2008, the State University of New York’s International Institute for Species Exploration has recognized the weirdest and most fascinating plants and animals found in the past year.

In addition to the pufferfish, this year’s lineup features a cartwheeling spider, a frog that gives birth to live tadpoles, and a sea slug with crazy colors.

The list highlights a small fraction of the approximately 18,000 new species found annually. Almost two million plant and animal species have been named so far, and it’s estimated that ten million more await discovery, says Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the institute for species exploration. (See the top ten species of 2014.)

However, threats such as habitat loss, pollution, and poaching mean that many species are disappearing before we can identify them.

“I’m concerned that with the biodiversity crisis happening, we are losing species at least as fast as we are discovering them,” says Wheeler.

“The importance of this list is that it draws attention to discoveries that are made even as species are going extinct at an alarming rate.”


All photo: NG