Scientists at the British Museum discover more than 550 new species in 2021

A roly-poly monochromatic beetle. A fan-throated lizard. A rice rat which can be an example of island gigantism. And two crocodile-faced dinosaurs. These are some of the more than 550 species that researchers at the Natural History Museum in London discovered in 2021, despite COVID-19 restrictions.

The museum’s biggest finds were two carnivores dinosaurs unearthed on the Isle of Wight UK. Extinct spinosaurids, which sported crocodile-like mubs, were affectionately referred to as “hell heron” and “bank hunter”, respectively. Another new species of British dinosaur was named the ‘chief dragon’, although it was the size of a chicken, Previously reported live science.

“It’s been a fantastic year for describing new dinosaurs, especially from the UK,” said Susannah Maidment, senior researcher at the museum, said in a press release. “Although we have known about the UK’s dinosaur heritage for over 150 years, the application of new techniques and data from around the world is helping us uncover a hidden diversity of British dinosaurs.”

Related: 10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the museum’s access to international field sites and other museums. Despite this, the museum’s researchers, curators and scientific associates managed to describe 552 new plant and animal species from Earthis past and present.

More than half of the new species were part of a group of crustaceans called copepods, which accounted for 291 of the finds. These shrimp-like animals live in water and provide food for larger animals like fish, according to the museum’s statement.

Retired museum researcher Geoff Boxshall and his colleague in South Korea Il-Hoi Kim described the new copepods this year from a massive batch collected over 60 years by French researchers Claude and Françoise Monniot .

“The huge Monniot collection has been made available to Il-Hoi Kim and myself, and since we are both recently retired, we theoretically had time to finally browse it,” said Boxshall. “However, the collection was so huge it was a little intimidating – but then COVID-19 happened.

Boxshall completed a series of articles describing the copepods as a “lockdown project” when he was unable to enter the museum. The rest of the new findings included 90 beetles, 52 wasps, 13 moths, eight algae, six parasitic worms and five plants.

Two ancient mammals were also part of the 2021 loot: Scientists have discovered the remains of an oversized rodent, Megalomys cameroon, also called rice rat, which once lived along the Caribbean; they also discovered a Jurassic mouse-like creature now called Borealestes cullinensis who would have run at the feet of the dinosaurs in what is now Scotland some 166 million years ago.

Originally posted on Live Science.

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