It was a very busy and productive year for the Natural History Museum as their experts described 552 new species that included dinosaurs, crustaceans, plants, and even a meteorite.
The majority of the new species described by the museum were a group of crustaceans called copepods. Wherever there is water, you’ll find the small shrimp-like creatures. “Copepods are not only free-living but many are parasites and they can be found living in virtually every other major animal group,” stated Professor Geoff Boxshall. A total of 291 copepods species were described in 2021.
A total of 52 wasps, 13 moths, 7 crabs, 6 flies, and 5 amphipods were described as well. Additionally, 91 new beetle species were described that included a couple of green and purple glittering metallic beetles that were from India.
There were 10 new species of amphibians and reptiles that included five snakes. The other five included a fan-throated lizard and a gecko found in India; a frog from Vietnam; another frog that is categorized as likely extinct; and a snake-like amphibian called a caecilian. Eight algae species, six parasitic worms, and three diatoms were described as well.
Five new plants species from the eastern part of Africa were described which included jewelweeds that have white or pink flowers (very few have red flowers).
Six new dinosaur species – four which were found in the United Kingdom – have been described by the museum. Two of them were large carnivorous spinosaurs that were found on the Isle of Wight. The other two that were discovered in the UK were a dinosaur with a huge nose called a Brighstoneus simmondsi (also found on the Isle of Wight); and the Pendraig milnerae which was the earliest ever carnivorous dinosaur found in the United Kingdom. The two species that were not found in the UK were the Spicomellus afer which was the first ever ankylosaur discovered in Africa; and a sauropod from China named Rhomaleopakhus turpanensis.
Other discoveries included fossil bryozoans (also called moss animals), algae, arachnids, and brachiopods that were trapped inside of amber. An ancient relative of crocodiles was described as well. There were two prehistoric mammals – Megalomys camerhogne from the Caribbean, and the Borealestes cullinensis which was a “Jurassic mouse” that lived about 166 million years ago in Scotland.
A very interesting discovery was made in February of 2021 when a fireball flew through the sky before landing in a driveway in the town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England. More than 600 grams of the meteorite were located in the driveway. It was revealed that the space rock had come from billions of kilometers away and was heated to more than 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,912 degrees Fahrenheit) when it streaked across the sky. This meteorite, which has been classified as being a carbonaceous chondrite, was the first to have been found in the United Kingdom in the last 30 years and is believed to date back 4.6 billion years when our Solar System first formed.
Pictures of some of the creatures and of the meteorite can be viewed here.