… well, it’s not a plant! And how predictable! The Top 10 new species of 2010 includes no plants. However, before all readers of this column jointly and severally get incensed, we must ask the obvious question: were any new plants discovered in 2010? Let me see: oh yes, there were! In fact, ‘On average, 2,000 new plant species are discovered each year’ and a small selection can be seen on the RBG Kew site at http://www.kew.org/news/science-conservation-news/discovery/discovered-2010/index.htm. So, why were there no plants – and here I mean proper plants, members of the Kingdom Plantae – in the top 10? Are plants not photogenic? Are they not useful? Were would we be without them? Why are they so unappreciated? Is it that they don’t move? (See first article in this month’s collection if still in doubt!) In the so-called top 10 were a large monitor lizard, a jumping cockroach, Titanic-eating bacterium, a duiker (type of antelope), Darwin’s Bark Spider, a T. rex leech, a pancake batfish, a mushroom that fruits underwater, and a bioluminescent fungus. I suppose the fungi have the virtue of being ‘not animals’. The lizard is frugivorous so at least has a plant association, as does the no-doubt herbivorous duiker. The only organism with anything like half-decent plant credentials is the pollinating cricket (http://species.asu.edu/2011_species05; whose pollinating activity was announced to the world in an article in this very journal: Annals of Botany 105: 355–364, 2010), but which was dismissively described as a ‘pollinating cockroach’ in the news item at http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-05-scientists-species.html! That notwithstanding, this top 10 is pure phytophobia and will not – indeed, must not – be tolerated. So, I urge you all to get voting now for the 2012 list of the top 10 new species from 2011 at http://species.asu.edu/species-nomination, and let’s try to get a plant into the top 10! Maybe next year might be better anyway because the IISE (the University of Arizona’s International Institute for Species Exploration), the organisation that runs the top 10, has recently been partnered by AIPC (the Italian Carnivorous Plants Association). Why might this help? Well, a new pitcher plant Nepenthes attenboroughii (pictured above) was one of the previous year’s top 10 new species (http://species.asu.edu/2010_species01). And at least carnivorous plants do something… Finally, for those who’d like to see the ‘pollinating cockroach’ in action, the IISE helpfully provide a ‘click here’ link (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8391540.stm) ‘to see video of the cricket pollinating the orchid provided by the BBC’ [one imagines it will also pollinate orchids provided by other news agencies(!)].
And the winner is…
I am a botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ - and to Botany One - for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. Happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
I’d still vote for Spongiforma squarepantsii – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615142629.htm