Stunning New Orchid Species Discovered
Katia Silvera, UC Riverside
Lophiaris silverarum was named after the researcher who found it in central Panama.
James O'Hanlon, Macquarie University
Animals and insects that resemble flowers deceive in a unique and powerful way, since who could resist a beautiful flower?
In this case, the "orchid" is actually a predatory insect -- the orchid mantis. Researcher James O'Hanlon of Macquarie University and colleagues recently studied the unusual insects in Malaysia.
"Their bright floral colors and petal-shaped legs create a tantalizing lure for insects," O'Hanlon told Discovery News, adding that they attract flying insect pollinators more than actual flowers in the region do. "So it seems that orchid mantises not only look like flowers, but they may also even beat flowers at their own game as they deceptively attract their unsuspecting prey."
The star-nosed mole is in the record books for a few different reasons. First, it is the world's fastest eating mammal. Second, its nose looks like a coral-colored flower, allowing the mole to poke out of the ground as though it were a plant.
Finally, the flower or "star" on its nose has the highest density of nerve endings known in any mammalian skin, according to biologist Diana Bautista of the University of California at Berkeley and colleagues. By studying the nose, they are hoping to identify genes that may mediate touch and pain, leading to better treatments for chronic pain conditions.
Fred Hsu, Wikimedia Commons
Flower hat jellyfish, native to the West Pacific off the coast of southern Japan, sport translucent, pinstriped bells that make up this marine animal's "flower."
The tentacles below can sting, and are used to catch small fish. Humans who have the misfortune of encountering the flower hat jellyfish can also be stung, and often suffer a nasty rash as a result.
Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons
The term anthozoa comes from the Greek words for flower and animals. These flower animals are so-called because their earliest stage of growth takes on a floral appearance.
Relatives of anthozoa were in existence possibly as early as 570 million years ago, putting those ancestors well ahead of the dinosaurs. They are among the oldest known types of animals on Earth.
Yuvalif, Wikimedia Commons
The devil's flower mantis has three distinct looks. It can, as this image shows, appear as its true insect self. Here, one was snapped marching on a car tire. But among plants, the other two looks become more evident.
Imagine this mantis sitting on a green leaf. It would seem to be an extension of that leaf, or just blend in with the green. When the insect lifts its forelegs, however, bright colors are revealed. In this pose, it resembles an orchid. To other devil's flower mantises, the pose signals a threat, making the aggressor look large and mean.
The High Fin Sperm Whale, Wikimedia Commons
"Lionfish" refers to an entire genus of venomous marine fish. They sometimes resemble floating tropical flowers, but the appendages are actually spiky and full of venom.
Flowers display colors, in part, to attract pollinators. Color for lionfish is meant to do just the opposite: repel others. Like a bright red stop sign, the color is meant to gain attention. The different colors tell would-be predators that the lionfish can be dangerous.
Darius Bau, Wikimedia Commons
When wrapped around a twig, the pale tussock caterpillar could easily be mistaken for an unusual bright yellow-hued flower. The coloration, as for the lionfish, warns others not to eat it.
The caterpillar's color and appearance also functions as a flower disguise. Once the caterpillar turns into a moth, all of that psychedelic color fades away, leaving behind beige and brown tones.
BerndH, Wikimedia Commons
Animals and insects aren't the only ones that fool others with their looks. Flowers also sometimes take on the appearance of animals.
The bird of paradise is a classic example. But nature seems to be teasing us with the monkey orchid. From a distance, this flower looks just like a lavender and white orchid. Up close, however, the flower resembles a monkey, complete with a head, long arms and a tail.
Orchi, Wikimedia Commons
With Halloween around the corner, special mention goes to the orchid Dracula gigas. While it may not look like Dracula, it does take on human-like features.
From above, as seen in this photo, it appears to have eyes, a nose, a mouth and quite a dramatic hairdo.
A gorgeous species of orchid in Panama has a new name — it was named after the family of the researcher who discovered the flower.
The orchid, which belongs to the Lophiaris genus, was named Lophiaris silverarum after Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father, who discovered the plant about eight years ago while they were hiking in a mountainous area of central Panama.
"I have always liked orchids, since I was a kid," said Silvera, who grew up surrounded by orchids because her parents own a commercial orchid business in Panama. "That got me into studying biology," Silvera said. [See Stunning Photos of the New Orchids]
She and her father had gone out looking for potential new plant species. When they found the orchid, they contacted orchid expert German Carnevali.
"After looking at the plant for a while, he informed us that it was a new species, and that it was very rare," Silvera told Live Science.
However, the new species was not actually named until recently, as describing a new plant species tends to be a long process. Researchers usually have to study the plant's structures and examine its biochemistry to determine whether it is indeed a species that has not been described before, Silvera said.
Researchers estimate that about 30,000 known orchid species exist worldwide, and there are likely many others that have not been discovered. In Panama, there are about 1,100 known orchid species, whereas the United States hosts about 200 described species.
"Discovering a new species is a rare thing," Silvera said, partially because the plants tend to grow in areas that are difficult to access. Human development of land also interferes with such discoveries.
"The diversity of orchids is best seen in the tropics, where, unfortunately, habitat is being destroyed very fast," Silvera said in a statement. "As a result, we are rapidly losing the diversity of orchid species."
The study describing Lophiaris silverarum was published March 13 in the journal Phytotaxa.
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