New Species and the Highway to Prosperity

Typically when one hears about the topics of energy consumption, fossil fuels and new things happening within the animal kingdom, it is overwhelmingly negative. We are using too much fossil fuel, polluting the air, and killing the animals with our pollutants and deforestation. YES! All this is certainly true and a tremendous problem, but to move forward we need to also recognize the positive. This year science has given us amazing alternative sources of energy, and as well as a few newly recognized members 0f the animal family.

Since 2008 the International Institute for Species Exploration has released a list of the top ten most interesting or bizarre species discovered from the previous year. 2014 revealed a discovery that has not been matched for over 35 years. The Olinguito was publicly recognized as a species in August of 2013, in the journal ZooKeys. This new species, described as a cross between a slender raccoon, and a teddy bear is the first carnivorous mammal to be discovered in the Americas in over three decades! What may be equally as amazing is that the Olinguito has been residing a collection at the Chicago Field Museum for over 100 years. A sure case of mistaken identity, as for decades it has been confused with Olingo’s, a similar species in the same family as raccoons. So it was no surprise to be number one on the IISE’s top ten list.

In addition to the Olinguito the year 2014 also revealed a two inch long single celled organism and the first known sea anemone which can actually live within a glacier, as well as seven other amazing creatures. But we can’t welcome all these newcomers with open arms. A new strand of bacteria, Tersicoccus phoenicis has been revealed to live in several clean-rooms where spacecraft’s are assembled, having the ability of withstanding extensive sterilization processes, and presenting the problem of interstellar contamination. This can drastically interfere with space exploration, and possibly cause information collected by instruments like NASA’s Mars Rover to be compromised and unusable, wasting years of research and billions of dollars.

Regardless of what is being discovered, we as a global community need to continue to make the IISE’s top ten countdown possible. The only way to do this is to keep preservation and sustainability in mind. A new invention by Julie and Scott Brusaw has been gaining popularity recently. About six years ago the couple was given a $100,000 grant by the USA’s Federal and Highway Administration to build a solar roadway prototype. These are basically ultra-heavy-duty solar panels embedded with LED lights to be placed atop current road systems. The success of this project could drastically decrees fossil fuel consumption in America as well as a plethora of other benefits the Brusaw’s hope to incorporate.

Europe has a similar product which can be found popping up in some major cities worldwide. Pavegen, stationed in London is a company which takes the kinetic energy wasted by everyday footsteps and transfers it to renewable energy. Founded by Laurence Kemball-Cook they have installed energy absorbing floor panels in places like high schools, parks and business throughout Europe and even in the United States!

The world is not perfect, and humans as a whole certainly have a long way to go to fix the damaged caused by years of neglect and destruction on our planet. With innovative thinkers in science like Cook, and the Brusaw’s maybe we can rebuild a better healthier global community. But let’s not just leave it up to them. Let us all find a way to do our part in preserving our planet, and hopefully continue to have new discovers like the Olinguito for years to come.

If you want to know more about IISE’s top ten or new ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption check out the websites listed below.



Photo Source: Mark Gurney