Scientific American has a great guest post about a driven entomologist who discovered a new order of life… one that had eluded discovery by hanging around at South African truck stops:
An order is one of the big categories of life, a big branch on evolution’s tree. Animal species are named every day, but finding another new order would be equivalent to discovering bats having not previously known they existed. Bats constitute their own order, as do primates, beetles, flies and rodents.
It is easy to imagine that we have found all of them, living and dead. Yet the grass had parted for [German biologist Oliver] Zompro and revealed his treasure. He was not the first person to see it, but he was the first to recognize its significance and, he hoped, to give it a name.
But before Zompro went public with his find, he craved more specimens. He had found one specimen that other scientists had overlooked. It was at least theoretically possible that he might find others. And so he began to search, with zeal. First, he visited the Natural History Museum in London. It is filled with dead animals and so a good place to begin.
There, in the collection, was a male very similar to the one he had found in his native Germany, but with one key difference. The label attached to it indicated that it had been collected in Tanzania in 1955, alive. This new life form might still be around, a living fossil!
Each of the individuals Zompro had discovered was named as a separate species. History would soon decide if the group was distinct enough to constitute its own order. In the meantime, Zompro and colleagues needed more specimens; they wanted to find these animals alive.
You gotta read how the story develops from there.