New Species Found in Venezuela
August 29, 2003 4:57 AM   Subscribe

'Punk' Catfish Among New Species Found in Venezuela : Scientists studying an unspoiled jungle river wilderness in Venezuela on Thursday announced the discovery of 10 new fish species, including a red-tailed tiddler, a "punk" catfish with a spiky head and a piranha that eats fruit as well as flesh, says The Associated Press.
A little more Here.
Other new species found recently include Baffling 'Mystery Apes' [More on them], some gross, weird things, and even some Odd Critters that thrive without oxygen, growing in salty, alkaline conditions, and may offer insights into what kinds of life might survive on Mars. But it's not just little critters, Pseudoryx nghetinhensis was the first of the new mammal species discovered in quite some time, and even A New giant squid.
Like this stuff? A New Theory says many of the ecological patterns we see can be more simply and often better explained if competing species are treated as if they were essentially identical.
posted by Blake (11 comments total)
There are dozens of species of large squid in the world's oceans, but the giant squid is by far the largest.

...makes sense.
posted by backOfYourMind at 5:36 AM on August 29, 2003

I hear a pack of those fruit-eating piranhas can skeletonize a watermelon in 30 seconds flat.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2003

Very soon we're going to be faced with the quandary of *more* species. That is, more *unnatural* species derived from genetic engineering.
More than anything else, the lack of law concerning this subject is terrifying. For example:

Can a new species by patented? (Very possibly)

Since humans and chimpanzees share about 98% of their DNA, if you take chimp DNA and "humanize" it with other nonhuman DNA, how close to the DNA of a human can you get and still patent it?

What is the liability if an unnatural species wipes out a natural species, either directly or through cross breeding?

Should there be liability if unnatural DNA strands turn up in similar species due to DNA exchange? (currently, Yes, but liability of those whose species are "infected" with the proprietary DNA, not the owner of the "infectors")

What are the limitations and liabilities on producing pathogenic or destructive lifeforms?
posted by kablam at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2003

[this is good]

Awesome set of links, Blake. Thanks. I love this sort of thing.

What is the liability if an unnatural species wipes out a natural species, either directly or through cross breeding?

How is it any different when an "unnatural" species wipes out a "natural" species than when a natural species wipes out a natural species, or when a natural species wipes itself out by failing to adapt? Why is "natural" the magic word here? And what do you mean by liability?
posted by biscotti at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2003

Nice attempt to hijack a good post kablam. Positive aspects of science and awe at the beauty and diversity of the natural world (what's left of it) vs knee-jerk panic
posted by devon at 10:46 AM on August 29, 2003

I love this stuff.

I could be happy for years with a volume of books/videos of all the weird creatures on our planet.
posted by cinderful at 11:35 AM on August 29, 2003

The animals that can live in weird, harsh enviroments always fascinate me. It's strange to think everywhere all over the planet, living things are doing their best to live everywhere, no matter how harsh the enviroment. Gives hope for life elsewhere, to say the least. If these things can live in these nasty areas, who knows where life could be? It's even harder to imagine how humankind could ever possibly come close to really killing the planet. There are animals that can live with damn near anything, from high pressure, high heat, no oxygen, acids, bases, everything. Always makes me think that humans aren't nearly as powerful as we think we are.
posted by stoneegg21 at 4:28 PM on August 29, 2003

devon: while I agree that my comments were tangential at first to the post, in essence do you think we're going to continue to find new species at this rate forever? Soon scientists will go "Aha! a new species, get a DNA sample", as a matter of course, and not necessarily as a bad thing.
Right now, genetics is showing up errors in assuming relationships between some species and the lack of relationships between others. A brand new science, it is advancing our knowledge and respect for our entire ecosphere. Biological discoveries are now also genetic discoveries.

Japanese and Russian scientists are in a race to re-create the wooly mammoth. How magnificent! Equivalent in many ways to landing on the moon, as a great accomplishment.

Scientists must also eventually compile complex databases of the DNA of endangered species, as insurance against them dying out.
But cloning and genetic engineering, for good or bad, are the future of discovery and innovation in biology; yet are marching forward with minimal legal *understanding* (there is some case law, but maybe not a grasp of all of the big picture issues). And this was my sole point.

The thread may seem to be about one subject, but in fact it is about two. The discovery of a new species no longer means just an annotation in the textbooks, or an interesting picture on the Internet.
posted by kablam at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2003

Interesting links, Blake. I'm glad you posted the article from the Animal News Center. I used to check them regularly, but somehow forgot about them over time. Thanks for the pics of the mystery ape, thematrix.
posted by lobakgo at 5:36 PM on August 29, 2003

wonderful links. thanks
posted by mert at 6:34 PM on August 29, 2003

Kablam: Thanks for the explanation. I see what you are saying, with regards to the impact of modern genetics of species and speciation and your concerns are valid.

IMO however, i would say that newly discovered species are arguably less threatened from the issues you raise than are other better known species. The paths of these new discoveries obviously cross fairly minimally with modern human civilization or we'd have been aware of them sooner. Where contact does occur, I would think that the apes of the Congo have more pressing environmental concerns than contamination of their gene pool.

Sadly ecology is till a very young science and struggles to make a strong factual case against the continued destruction and degradation of the natural world, legal or otherwise.

The loss of most pristine natural environment has already occurred and hundreds of thousands of species have disappeared with it; some mourned, some never known, and some more that would have gone anyway. This has happened for the most part without the specter of genetic modification. human expansion on its own has been enough.

Genetics is an emotive topic and something with which we should exercise care in our uses and our criticisms, but it is not currently a primary factor in the loss of biodiversity or habitat.
posted by devon at 2:44 AM on August 30, 2003

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