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Planet Earth

Species Exposed!

The cover is blown on these creatures that have a particular set of skills.

By Sylvia MorrowFebruary 1, 2018 6:00 AM
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Nick Kerhoulas

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Stealth, disguise and some good hiding spots had previously left these agents undetected. The species that scientists exposed and identified in 2017 had been squirreled away in all kinds of places, from the depths of remote oceans to right under our noses.

Codename: Hoodwinker ocean sunfish Name:Mola tecta Compromised: JulyKnown territory: Southern HemispherePhysical characteristics: Weighs 2 tons; bizarre, flattened bodyNotable skills/traits: EVASION: Researchers first caught wind of M. tecta in 2009, but the fish continued to evade them for years despite its massive size.

Codename: Skywalker hoolock gibbonName:Hoolock tianxingCompromised: JanuaryKnown territory: Myanmar and southwestern ChinaPhysical characteristics: Downturned white eyebrowsNotable skills/traits: ELITE STATUS: Tucked away in isolated mountains known as sky islands, these rare gibbons have taken careful tracking to find and identify. Biologists finally discovered them, but they’re already on the brink of being lost.

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Nick Kerhoulas

Codename: Humboldt’s flying squirrelName:Glaucomys oregonensisCompromised: MayKnown territory: Pacific NorthwestPhysical characteristics: Webbed skin between limbs and torso, used for gliding down from heightsNotable skills/traits: CAMOUFLAGE/IMPERSONATION: Since the 1800s, G. oregonensis remained hidden among populations of other flying squirrels in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. However, recent genetic testing has outed G. oregonensis as a separate species.

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Ryan Ridenbaugh and Miles Zhang

Codename: Crypt-keeper waspName:Euderus setcompromised: January Known territory: Southeastern U.S.Physical characteristics: Iridescent exoskeletonNotable skills/traits: STEALTH ASSASSINATION AND IMPERSONATION: It wasn’t until one researcher happened upon this wasp’s home on a casual stroll that its cover was blown. E. set lays its eggs in the new, growing stems of oak trees, in which another wasp, the crypt gall wasp, has also laid its eggs. Just as the new generation of adult gall wasps bores its way out of the tree, newly hatched E. set wasps kill their hosts, eating their way through their victims’ bodies and hiding in the corpse until they reach maturity.

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Jannes Landscho and Rafael Lemaitre, Zookeys 676: 21–45 (2017)

Codename: Green-eyed hermit crabName:Paragiopagurus atkinsonae Compromised: May Known territory: South African coastPhysical characteristics: Green eyes; living shell composed of anemones held together by sandNotable skills/traits: EVASION/CAMOUFLAGE: P. atkinsonae wasn’t spotted until 2012. It could have been just another hermit crab, but a researcher conducting a sea life survey spied P. atkinsonae’s signature green eyes. Much like M. tecta, it took experts another five years to root out this agent.

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