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160 new species discovered in Borneo - Spiders, bugs, beetles, damselflies, fungi and possibly a frog

09/10/2012 15:00:27

Atlas moth found on Mount Kinabalu. Photo credit Constantijn Mennes

Borneo expedition yields thousands of DNA samples and more than 160 new species
October 2012. At the conclusion of a large scale expedition on the island of Borneo, researchers of the Malaysian nature conservation organization Sabah Parks and Naturalis Biodiversity Center in The Netherlands collected some 3500 DNA samples of more than 1400 species. Among these are approximately 160 species new to science.

Mount Kinabalu
In the Naturalis DNA laboratory, the biologists will generate family trees of all the collected plants, fungi and animals. They want to find out about relationships among the unique species on top of Borneo's Mount Kinabalu compared to more widespread species on Borneo. This will answer the question whether these unique species have evolved long ago, or only recently.

Jumping spider. Photo credit Peter Koomen/Naturalis

Jumping spider. Photo credit Peter Koomen/Naturalis

"It has been a successful expedition", says expedition leader Menno Schilthuizen of Naturalis. "A lot of material has been collected and close collaborations have been established between the Malaysian and Dutch researchers. Now the next phase will start, namely DNA research into the relationships." Mid 2013, all this work will result in a joint scientific publication on the way evolution works in the Heart of Borneo.

The largest numbers of new species were found among the spiders and fungi. Other new species include true bugs, beetles, snails, stalk-eyed flies, damselflies, ferns, termites and possibly a frog. Also a new location of the spectacular pitcher plant Nepenthes lowii has been found.

Striking fungus found on Kinabalu. Photo credit Luis Morgado.

Striking fungus found on Kinabalu. Photo credit Luis Morgado.

For the fungi experts, the area was an Eldorado. József Geml: "While the plant and animal life of this mountain has been the focus of numerous research projects, Kinabalu has remained terra incognita for scientific studies on fungi. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by this task. One of the manifestations of this diversity comes in the endless variety of shapes and colours that sometimes are truly breath-taking. While the detailed scientific work will take years, we already know that many of these species are new to science."

Dr. Maklarin Lakim and Mrs. Rimi Repin, the two leading Malaysian researchers, are pleased with the expedition results. "We would like to stimulate cooperation, especially with such a well-known institute as Naturalis. It is also important that research in the Crocker Range has started. This area has always been overlooked compared to Kinabalu Park. The more knowledge we accumulate, the more valuable these areas will become and the more effective their protection will be."

The expedition explored some of the higher reaches of Borneo's Mt Kinabalu. Photo credit Menno Schilthuizen 


The preparations, the expedition itself, work in the DNA-lab and progress toward the publication can be followed step by step through the weblog on

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