Revealed: T-rex leech found living inside a Peruvian girl's nose

A "T-REX" leech with enormous teeth, a 6ft-long fruit-eating lizard and a glowing tree fungus are on a top ten list of weird and wonderful new species published by scientists.

Experts made the selection from thousands of plants, animals and microbes, described for the first time last year, to draw attention to the importance of conserving life on earth.

The fearsome leech Tyrannobdella rex has a mouthful of gigantic teeth, much like its namesake, the "king of dinosaurs" Tyrannosaurus rex.

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Scientists discovered the bloodthirsty invertebrate when they pulled a 2in-long specimen from the nose of a girl in a remote region of Peru.

A somewhat more attractive example of a new species is the striking fruit-eating monitor lizard, Varanus bitatawa, from Luzon Island in the Philippines.

At 6ft 6in in length, it has a blue-black body mottled with pale yellow-green dots and spends most of its time in trees.

Another large species on the top ten list is Walter's duiker, Philantomba walteri, an antelope first identified at a bushmeat market in West Africa.

At the other end of the size scale is an iron-eating bacterium found growing on the submerged wreck of the Titanic. Halomonas titanicae might provide a useful function in helping to dispose of sunken ships and oil rigs.

Other new species include a glowing forest mushroom from Brazil, a jumping cockroach, a pollinating cricket, a hopping batfish and a spider that weaves webs large enough to span rivers and lakes.

The list was compiled by experts at the International Institute for Species Exploration, based in Arizona State University in the US.

Director Dr Quentin Wheeler said: "At the same time that astronomers search for earth-like planets in visible space, taxonomists are busily exploring the life forms of the most earth-like planet of all, our own.

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"We can only realistically aspire to sustainable biodiversity if we first learn what species exist to begin with. Our best guess is that all species discovered since 1758 represent less than 20 per cent of the kinds of plants and animals inhabiting planet earth.

"A reasonable estimate is that 10 million species remain to be described, named and classified before the diversity and complexity of the biosphere is understood."

Details of the top ten species of 2010 were published yesterday on Arizona State University's website to commemorate the 304th anniversary of the birth of Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who pioneered the system of plant and animal classifications and names still in use today.

Dr Mary James, who helped draw up the list, said: "Each of these amazing discoveries tells a story about our planet. They are pieces of the puzzle that help us to understand how all of the components of life on earth work together."