I've whinged about it multiple times in the past (see here and here), but the number one misunderstanding that most people seem to have about biodiversity is how much we know about it. Only a relatively small fraction - possibly less than 10% - of the world's species have been described. Corrolary to that is the idea that new species are only discovered in exotic, far-off lands, wonders of darkest Africa and hidden Himalayan Shangri-La. Well yes, doubtless those places do harbour their fair share of undescribed species, but sometimes new species can be discovered right on civilisation's doorstep (by which, being the parochial types we are, we mean Western civilisation, of course).
ArtPlantae Today has a story about a new plant species discovered in California, Brodiaea santarosae (the photo at the top of the post is of a different Brodiaea species, B. californica ssp. leptandra, and comes from Wikipedia). An information page here gives more info on the plant, as well as a link to the actual published paper. It also mentions the tragically interesting fact that B. santarosae is restricted to a basalt soil that has mostly been removed by (natural) erosion, with only some three percent of its area left. With continued erosion, the basalt soil might be expected to disappear within the next 100,000 years or so, carrying the habitat of this new species with it. [Hat-tip to Seeds Aside]
Even more amazing, I hear from Benny Bleiman that not one, not two, not even three, but no less than 57 new species of fish have been identified in a survey of Europe! Benny has the audacity to call this discovery boring, but the idea that there could be so many species yet to be discovered in the very continent that invented the whole concept of scientific taxonomy is just completely mind-blowing!
It's a magical world.
Chester, T., W. Armstrong & K. Madore. 2007. Brodiaea santarosae (Themidaceae), a new rare species from the Santa Rosa Basalt area of the Santa Ana Mountains of southern California. Madroño 54 (2): 187-198.
10 hours ago in The Phytophactor