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6 Strange Species Discovered in Museums

New Species

More than 3 million specimens make up the Museum's world-class paleontology collections, and only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time. The rest are stored behind the scenes, where they

More than 3 million specimens make up the Museum's world-class paleontology collections, and only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time. The rest are stored behind the scenes, where they

Although some new species are found in the great outdoors and immediately identified, many specimens hang out in museum collections for years before scientists get around to classifying them. Here's a list of cool new species discovered in drawers and on shelves in museums.

Barosarus

An artist's interpretation of how the Barosaurus looked when alive about 150 million years ago. Scientists recently pieced together the nearly complete Barosaurus skeleton from bones scattered in museum drawers.

An artist's interpretation of how the Barosaurus looked when alive about 150 million years ago. Scientists recently pieced together the nearly complete Barosaurus skeleton from bones scattered in museum drawers.
(Image credit: © copyright Michael W. Skrepnick 2007)

How do you miss an 80-foot (24-meter)-long dinosaur? You stick it in a museum storage room. In 2007, scientists reported the discovery of Barosaurus, a long-necked dino that had been lurking in the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. Individual bones scattered throughout the museum's collection were discovered to belong to a single specimen.

Hummingbird-size ant

Ant and hummingbird

A two-inch-long ant that once roamed Wyoming rivals today's hummingbirds in size.
(Image credit: Bruce Archibald)

Now this is a big bug. An extinct hummingbird-size ant hid away in fossil form in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science until 2011, when researchers reported that the huge insect was a newly discovered species and dubbed it Titanomyrma lubei.

Triceratops cousin

Xenoceratops, a newly discovered Cretaceous-era dinosaur,likely grazed on cattails and ferns in a primeval forest in what is now Canada.

Xenoceratops, a newly discovered Cretaceous-era dinosaur,likely grazed on cattails and ferns in a primeval forest in what is now Canada.
(Image credit: Copyright Danielle Dufault 2012)

Paleontologist Wann Langston Jr. uncovered some intriguing bone bits on a field expedition in Alberta, Canada, in 1958. But he was too busy to look at them, so they got shelved at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and forgotten.

Until 2003, that is. Royal Ontario Museum paleontologist David Evans and colleagues learned of the fragments and started investigating. They realized immediately that they had a new species, a shield-necked dinosaur called Xenoceratops foremostensis.

This is the skeleton of the primitive flatfish Heteronectes shown as an x-ray image (top), photograph before preparation (middle), and photograph after preparation (bottom).

This is the skeleton of the primitive flatfish Heteronectes shown as an x-ray image (top), photograph before preparation (middle), and photograph after preparation (bottom).
(Image credit: Image by M. Friedman)

A strange flatfish ancestor that may help explain how these weird creatures evolved turned up not in the ocean, but in a drawer of unidentified fossils at the Natural History Museum of Vienna, Austria, researchers reported in June 2012. The 50-million-year-old fish, Heteronectes, has an eye that has partially migrated across its head, but has not quite reached the point of having both eyes on one side like a modern flounder.

Shieldcroc

Shield croc lived during the age of the dinosaurs.

'Shieldcroc,' an enormous ancient crocodile, sported a thick-skinned shield on its head and likely used its long jaws to capture fish.
(Image credit: Henry Tsai/University of Missouri)

Dubbed "Shieldcroc" for its ornamental headgear, Aegisuchus witmeri is the oldest modern crocodile ancestor found in Africa. Originally collected in Morocco, the specimen that identified this giant crocodile hung out at the Royal Ontario Museum for a few years before scientists turned their attention to it.

A whole lot of wasps

A parasitoid wasp species of the genus Orthocentrus from Ecuador. It is one of 177 species identified in a study involving Museum scientists. It is not yet scientifically named.

A parasitoid wasp species of the genus Orthocentrus from Ecuador. It is one of 177 species identified in a study involving Museum scientists. It is not yet scientifically named.
(Image credit: Natural History Museum, London)

Sometimes having a lot of unknown species on hand is useful. In October 2012, researchers examined 1,549 unknown parasitic wasps originally collected in Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Nicaragua, and identified a massive amount of diversity — not to mention 177 distinct species. Previously, only 14 species of these parasite wasps were known in those regions. Scientists are now working on identifying all the individual species in this wasp jackpot.