Urban Wild Discoveries of Birds, Frogs and Mollusks (North America and Internationally)

We live in a vast mystifying world with varying landscapes where millions and millions of species have adapted to different conditions including water and air and differing temperatures and climates.

It's hard to imagine, especially for those living in cities where our environments don't change all too much that there is so much out there including an incredible amount of species that haven't even been described, identified or seen yet.

According to National Geographic:

"only 7 percent of the predicted number of fungi
—which includes mushrooms and yeasts—
has been described, 
and less than 10 percent of the life-forms in the world's oceans 
has been identified."

If you asked me, I would have thought that the detection of new species happens in deep jungles, under water in the oceans and in the remote corners of the world, especially when it comes to larger animals (rather than microscopic creatures) but surprisingly there have been some new findings right in our own backyard (so to speak!).

Check these urban discoveries out:


"New bird species discovered in bustling Asian city" (CBC, 2013)

(Cambodian Tailorbird, Orthotomus chaktomuk)

This small wren-sized bird was found by a scientist out snapping pictures of birds at a construction site close to where four rivers merge.  While the bird lives in dense scrub undergrowth it was found in a large city of 1.5 million people.  It looks similar to another type of "coastal tailorbird" but has been confirmed as a new species that lives only in Cambodia.




"10 cm Etobicoke Slug a Big, Slimy Mystery" (Toronto Star, 2009)

(Red Slug, Arion rufus)

This small (yet big!) discovery was made by an Etobicoke mom and her daughter on their walk to school one day.  While it may not be a new species, it was a rare and unusual finding in the Canadian city suburb of Toronto. And you only need one slug to start populating an area as these creatures have both male and female reproductive organs.




"New Leopard Frog Found in New York City" (Smithsonian Magazine, 2014)

(Genetically distinct Leopard Frog, Rana kauffeldi)

Imagine having a new species named after you?  Well that is what happened to herpetologist Carl Kauffeld who recognized that perhaps the two species of leopard frogs found in New York City (with varying descriptions) could actually be three. But it took more than half a century to finally prove his theory (posthumously), when a study team from Rutgers University netted and classified the frogs.  This particular species has a very different call from the other two leopard frogs, "a particular chirp-chirp call that was distinct from the croaks" of the others.  A very surprising discovery in "one of the most developed, heavily settled and well-inventoried places on Earth".

* Species photos (treated with art filters) are from the individual news articles.



Just in case you want to make your own discovery, I remember reading in Amy Stewart's book "The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms" (2012) that worms are a very under studied species.  Out of sight - out of mind.  Here's an article from the Seattle Times (2000) that talks about a giant worm species: "Scientist Seeks to Uncover Secrets of Giant Worm" and highlights the fact that there are still new worm species to discover.

"Invertabra, in general, are not very well-studied," 
said Dan Rosenberg, an assistant professor in Oregon State University's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife 
who said he knew little about worms before he started working with McKey-Fender about a year ago.

"People just aren't aware of the diversity."

And here is a link to UC Davis Earthworm Identification (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program) with descriptions of the more common earthworm species found in California including:
  • Green Worm (inhabits heavy, poorly drained soils)
  • Snake Worm/Crazy Work (can shed its tail and leap)
  • Southern Worm (abundant in orchards)
  • Canadian Worm (up to 150 mm long, also found in orchards)
  • Manure Worm (lives up to 5 years, lays up to 900 eggs a year)
  • Nightcrawler (burrows up to 2.5 meters deep)
  • Red Marsh Worm (burrows into mineral soil)

Who knows what new species will be next?


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