As for current species, new fossil species are described each year by scientists. In 2017, researchers working in a Swiss institution described a total of 138 new species. And eight of them are extinct species! Of these, the SSS elected Foreyia maxkuhni species of the year 2018.
Today's biodiversity is only a small part of global biodiversity since the beginning of life on Earth 3.8 billion years ago. Of the tens of millions of animal and plant species that have existed, some are only known from fossils.
Fossils of this extinct species were found in the Grisons Alps at 2740 meters altitude in Middle Triassic rocks, 240 million years old. Foreyia has been studied by paleontologists from the museums of Geneva, Basel and Zurich.
Foreyia is a coelacanth, a group of fish that has existed for 400 million years. In general, coelacanths are all alike, but Foreyia is an exception that is distinguished by a dome on the skull, its curved little mouth and a shortened body flanked by large fins. We do not know the color of this fish, but as it lived in a shallow sea, unlike the current coelacanth Latimeria, we can assume that it had more vivid colors than the latter.
The story of life on Earth is marked by episodes of significant species diversification, and Foreyia is witness to one of them. But life has also gone through periods of major extinctions, including five mass extinctions. It is possible that we attend, and contribute, to the sixth of these extinctions. To understand and try to prevent it from happening, a better understanding of the biodiversity of the past and of today is needed.
Swiss Systematics Society (SSS)
c/o Dr. Seraina Klopfstein