Yes folks, a caffeine-free coffee plant is one of 2009's top 10 new species, announced today by the International Institute for Species Exploration at the University of Arizona. It's the only caffeine-free coffee species to be found in the whole of West Africa.. Marvel at it. Just don't use it to make my morning brew.
Among the top 10 of 2009 is another interesting organism, a bacterium that lives happily in hairspray, dubbed Microbacterium hatanonis. Think about that the next time you're getting ready for a fancy evening out.
The above two species are the only two of the 10 winners that have anything remotely to do with health and nutrition, and they're why we even managed to squeeze the news in at this site. We encourage you to go to the Institute for Species Exploration website and view the whole list. A seahorse the size of a pea, a snail that coils on four different axes (it's a spectacular-looking mess!) and a gigantic palm in Madagascar that "flowers itself to death, producing a huge, spectacular terminal inflorescence with countless flowers. After fruiting, the palm dies and collapses."
And if you want to nominate your own species for next year, there's a place at the site where you can do so. And no, I don't think H1N1 swine flu virus would qualify.
-- Rosie Mestel
Photo: University of Montpellier II/ François Anthony