• (Clockwise, from top left) Feathered dinosaur; playful male and female pufferfish; bone-house wasp and giant walking stick.

(Clockwise, from top left) Feathered dinosaur; playful male and female pufferfish; bone-house wasp and giant walking stick. (Photo : ESF International Institute for Species Exploration)

An international committee of taxonomists has selected the top 10 plant and animal species of 2015 from among the 18,000 new species named during the previous year.

The ESF International Institute for Species Exploration released the list to coincide with the May 23 birthday of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish botanist and zoologist who founded modern taxonomy. Linnaeus is the "Father of Taxonomy" and his work in the mid 18th century was the beginning point for "modern" naming and classification of plants and animals.

Like Us on Facebook

The 18,000 plant and animal species discovered in 2014 add to the two million already known. But Quentin Wheeler, president of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry that released the list said another 10 million species haven't been discovered.

"The real purpose of the top 10 is to bring attention to how little we know about life on Earth", said Wheeler.

"In 250 years, we've discovered fewer than two million plants and animals and the best assessments say there's another 10 million awaiting discovery and many of those will inevitably disappear before they've ever been discovered and given a name".

The 2015 Top 10 species (with their scientific names) are:

Feathered Dinosaur (Anzu wyliei)

Bone-house Wasp (Deuteragenia ossarium)

Pufferfish (Torquigener albomaculosus)

Coral Plant (Balanophora coralliformis)

Cartwheeling Spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi)

The X-Phyla (Dendrogramma enigmatica)

Indonesian Frog (Limnonectes larvaepartus)

Walking Stick (Phryganistria tamdaoensis)

Sea Slug (Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum)

Bromeliad (Tillandsia religiosa)

A video of the 2015 Top 10 species of can be viewed here.

Feathered Dinosaur

Described as the "chicken from hell", the feathered dinosaur is from a bird-like group of dinosaurs that lived in North America during the time of the T. rex and Triceratops.

The feathered dinosaur made nests and sat on the eggs until they hatched. Among their bird-like features were feathers, hollow bones and a short snout with a parrot-like beak.

Because some caenagnathids were chicken-sized, this new dinosaur was dubbed "chicken from Hell." It was more than 10 feet in length (3.5 m), 5 feet in height (1.5 m) and 600 pounds (200 kg to 300 kg).

Bone-house Wasp

This 15 mm long wasp found in China protects its offspring by stuffing their nursery with dead spiders and ants. It constructs nests in hollow stems with several cells, each separated by soil walls. It kills and deposits one spider in each cell to provide nourishment for her developing young. 

Rather than provisioning the final cell with a spider, she fills it with as many as 13 bodies of dead ants, thus creating a chemical barrier to the nest. This is the first animal known to take this approach to securing the front door to a nest.


A new species of pufferfish, Torquigener albomaculosus, makes the most beautiful and architecturally astounding nest for its eggs. It turns out males construct these "crop circles" as spawning nests by swimming and wriggling in the seafloor sand.

Scientists found these intricate circles with geometric designs about two meters in diameter, found on the seafloor off the coast of Amami-Ōshima Island in Japan./

The nests, used only once, are made to attract females. The nests have double edges and radiating troughs in a spoke-like geometry. The design isn't just for show. Scientists discovered the ridges and grooves of the circle serve to minimize ocean current at the center of the nest. This protects the eggs from the turbulent waters and possibly predators

Coral Plant

This parasitic plant has elongated, repeatedly branching, and rough-textured aboveground tubers, giving it a coral-like appearance distinct from the more typical underground tubers of related species.

Found only in one location in the Philippines, this plant has no chlorophyll and is incapable of photosynthesis, so they draw their nutrition from other living plants. 

This species is, so far, known from fewer than 50 plants, all found between 4,800 and 5,600 feet (1,465 m and 1,735 m) elevation on the southwestern slopes of Mt. Mingan in mossy forest areas. Because so few plants are known to exist, and the narrow area in which they live is unprotected, the scientists who described it consider the plant critically endangered.

Cartwheeling Spider

This agile desert arachnid cartwheels its way out of danger. When danger arises, the spider first assumes a threatening posture. If the danger persists, the spider runs and, about half the time that running turns into cartwheeling, which is twice as fast.

Rather than attempting to cartwheel away, the spider propels itself toward the source of the threat, perhaps invoking the theory that the best defense is a good offense.

The X-Phyla

Dendrogramma enigmatica is a multicellular sea animal that looks like mushrooms, with a mouth at the end of the "stem" and the other end in the form of a flattened disc.

The new animal is small. It has a stalk less than a third of an inch (8 mm) in length and a "cap" that measures less than a half-inch (11mm) across. It was found on the sea floor, at a depth of about 3,200 feet (1,000 meters), off Point Hicks, Victoria.

The new animals lack evolutionary novelties unique to similar species and could be an entirely new phylum. They also resemble fossils from Precambrian time, perhaps making them living fossils of sorts.

Indonesian Frog

Unlike other frogs, Limnonectes larvaepartus from Indonesia gives birth to tadpoles that are deposited in pools of water.

Fewer than a dozen of the world's 6,455 frog species have internal fertilization and all except this new species lay fertilized eggs or give birth to tiny froglets.

The species, about 1.5 inches long (40 mm) lives in natural and disturbed forest habitats above flowing streams in leaf litter, grassy vegetation, or on rocky substrates.

Walking Stick

This new stick insect isn't the world's longest but belongs to a family known as giant sticks.

At 9 inches in length, Phryganistria tamdaeoensis proves more giant sticks remain to be discovered. This giant stick is common in the town of Tam Dao in Vietnam. Living specimens are on display at the vivarium of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

Sea Slug

This sea slug is a "missing link" between sea slugs that feed on hydroids and those specializing on corals.

This new species, which photographs in shades of blue, red and gold, also contributed to a better understanding of the origin of an unusual symbiosis in other species of the genus.

The newly identified species is an inch long, more or less (17 mm to 28 mm), and resides in the Japanese islands.


The bromeliad is an example of a species long known to local inhabitants but only recently discovered by science.

Tillandsia religiosa, with its rose-colored spikes and flat green leaves, can be found growing up to 5 feet tall (1.5 m) in rocky habitat in northern regions of Morelos, Mexico.

Stemless, solitary plants are found on cliffs and vertical walls in deciduous, coniferous, oak and cloud forests at altitudes between 6,000 and 7,000 feet (1,800 m to 2,100 m) elevation where they flower from December to March.

The ESF International Institute for Species Exploration at the State University of New York (SUNY) is dedicated to the exploration, inventory, and classification of earth's species, public awareness of the biodiversity crisis, advocacy for the important roles played by taxonomy and natural history museums, and in advancing cybertaxonomy, the application of cyber and digital tools to accelerate and improved comparative morphology, descriptive taxonomy, and phylogenetic classification.