This past spring a major expedition of huge significance to the biological world of science took place. This expedition took place in one the most bio-diverse hotspots in the world - the Philippines. Despite this reputation of the Philippines, still little was known about about the extent of it's biodiversity.

The expedition was funded by the Margaret and Will Hearst Foundation and was called the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. During this 42 day expedition, new species were found on nearly every dive and hike that was taken. This was significant because scientists estimate that more than 90% of the species on our earth have yet to be discovered. These new species have supported the belief that the Philippines is one of the most critically bio-diverse environments in the world and that it's marine areas are home to more species than anywhere else.

What the scientists found on this expedition was over 300 species that are likely new to science, including dozens of new insects and spiders, deep-sea armored corals, ornate sea pens, bizarre new sea urchins and sea stars, a shrimp-eating swell shark, and over 50 colorful new sea slugs. The reason these species have gone undetected in the past is that many of them are very diminutive in size. Others were found in areas that had not been visited by humans before such as on the bottom of the ocean.

What was also unique about this expedition is that unlike the traditional approach of previous expeditions where new information is withheld until it is completely analyzed, the scientists on this one began sharing their finding while they were still in the Phillipines. They conducted outreach sessions in each of the communities closest to the expedition's survey sites, sharing their preliminary findings with local teachers, politicians, and conservation workers.

Since the expedition, the scientists have made recommendations as to outlining the most important locations for establishing or expanding marine protected areas. They also suggested areas for reforestation to reduce sedimentation damage to the reefs. Since plastic litter was found in all places of their research, even as far down as 6,000 ft in the ocean, they made an urgent request to make plastic reduction a major conservation priority in the world.

Below are photos of some of the new species found. They are proof that there is still much that we do not know about our magnificent planet's inhabitants. Some we may never know about as the extinction rate continues to increase because of climatic changes and increased pollution around the world.

The first Trapania darvelli from the Philippines
(Source: California Academie of Science)

Sea Pen
(Source: California Academie of Science)

The first specimen of Dermatobranchus dendronephthyphagus
(Source: California Academie of Science)

A new species of Favorinus that feeds on the eggs of other nudibranchs
(Source: California Academie of Science)

Swell Shark
(Source: California Academie of Science)

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