Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion, the Dragon Ants: First described in July in the journal PLOS One, these ants were named after two of the dragons in writer George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, which inspired HBO’s popular series Game of Thrones. Both species are found on the eastern side of New Guinea; researchers studying ants on the island wanted to understand the purpose of the elaborate spiny protrusions on the backs of a class of ants known as workers. Using X-ray microtomography, the team found muscle fibers within the spines, suggesting that, although the protrusions are believed to be defensive, they may also provide support for the ants’ particularly large heads and help them to carry heavier objects.
Rattus detentus, a Rodent of Unusual Size: On Manus Island, separated from New Guinea by about 100 miles of ocean, researchers found one of the largest rats known from the Melanesian archipelago, a particularly rich region for rat diversity, according to the April study in the Journal of Mammalogy. That single living individual, as well as skeletal remains, indicate Rattus detentus has a heavy build and shorter tail than many other members of the genus. It weighs in at nearly a pound — that might not sound like much, but it’s bigger than most members of Rattus norvegicus, the species most likely to sniff around your garbage or hang out at the nearest subway station. The Manus Island rat’s scientific name is a reference to detention centers on the island for asylum seekers hoping to reach Australia.