Scientists Discover New Species

Biodiversity reaches through time and across the land, air and sea. It’s demonstrative of how diverse life on planet Earth is, has been and can be. This knowledge can illuminate how climate disruption, habitat loss and pollution threaten our own viability as a species. At Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, scientists have once again broadened our view of the life that surrounds us by entering dozens of new species into the scientific record in 2020.

Drexel researchers unveiled 38 new taxa, 37 new species and one new subfamily last year. Below are a few of these new discoveries.

Adults of Cichla cataractae, all captured from the same rocky shoals in Rupununi River, Essequibo Drainage, Guyana. A. female (c) Kirk O. Winemiller.


On the rocky shoals of the Rupununi river bordering the Brazilian Amazon, Mark Sabaj, PhD, and colleagues uncovered a new species of peacock bass. A highly popular sportfish, Cichla cataractae is found only in the Essequibo Basin of Guyana and Venezuela and was first collected by scientists in 1908.

The co-authors used molecular evidence and unique patterns of adult and juvenile pigmentation to distinguish C. cataractae from another species of peacock bass inhabiting the same river system. Sabaj, the interim curator of Ichthyology in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, recognized specimens of the new species in the Academy’s collection which aided its description.

Fossil material of the new fossil fish Megalichthys mullisoni. Body scales. (c) Samuel Bunson.

Fish Fossil

Since the 1990s, the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Vertebrate Paleontology team has worked together to collect, prepare and describe fossils from Late Devonian-age strata (363-370 million years old) in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. This extensive collecting and research effort has made the research program one of the most productive in the world for the study of Late Devonian vertebrates.

Jason P. Downs, PhD, a research associate at the Academy and Ted Daeschler, PhD, professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Academy, together described a new species of Megalichthys (Sarcopterygii, Megalichthyidae) from the Late Devonian (Famennian) in Pennsylvania.

They chose to name the new species, Megalichthys mullisoni, in honor of fossil preparator Fred Mullison. Mullison started as a volunteer at the Academy in 1995. He has been working full time as a preparator in the Vertebrate Paleontology Department since 1999 and retired in late 2020.

“Fred has been a critical member of our high-functioning team for many years. His incredible skills have been an indispensable part of all the work we’ve done,” said Downs. “To have the opportunity to name this interesting new species for Fred is only fitting.”

Pseudosimnia alisonae Lorenz and Rosenberg, 2020 [sea snail (false cowry)]. (c) Mark Sabaj.

Sea Snail

Gary Rosenberg, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, as well as Pilsbry Chair of Malacology in the Academy of Natural Sciences. Rosenberg and his colleague Felix Lorenz discovered a new species of Pseudosimnia from Hawaii (Gastropoda: Ovulidae) and published its description in the journal Acta Conchyliorum. 

“The Hawaiian sea snail, Pseudosimnia alisonae n. sp. differs from its Western Pacific congeners by the lack of a sutural band, the stronger development of callus and the shorter and more solid posterior extremity, along with several other subtle characters,” explains Rosenberg.


Daniel Otte, PhD, has dedicated his career to studying the biodiversity of Orthoptera, an order of insects comprised mostly of grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. He has paid particular attention to the grasshopper fauna of the country of his birth, South Africa. Otte, is a professor emeritus in the department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science, in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a senior curator emeritus in the Academy of Natural Sciences. 

Otte, in 2020, published a paper on the taxonomy of 11 genera in the grasshopper family Lentulidae from South Africa. They are: Afrotettix Dirsh, with eight species, six of which are new (abuntix, berupo, eduva, tinipa, frixo and rabex); Calviniacris Dirsh with one species; Atopotattix Brown, with one species; Devylderia Sjostedt, with eleven species, seven of which are new (locapsa, lishe, compoti, seche, segasa, solveigae, and koenigkrameri); Karruia Rehn, with three species, one of which is new (nova); Dirshidium Brown, with three species, two of which are new (kado and jati); Gymnidium Karsch, with three species, one of which is new (ydiumi); Leatettix Dirsh, with 18 species, 11 of which are new (carinae, lillianae, erymnita, fursti, elizabethae, cowperi, greeni, knowlesi, armstrongi, cadei and rohweri); Tsautettix Otte, with one new species (adriani); Kalaharicus Brown, with one species; and Shelfordites Karny with five species, three of which are new (lapollailaurelae, and spearmani).

Otte named one species, Leatettix cowperi, in honor of Academy entomologist Greg Cowper, with whom he shared collecting adventures in Africa, Texas, and the Caribbean.

By Emily Storz, Drexel news manager

This post originally appeared on the Drexel University News Blog.

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