Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Species Found in the Heart of Borneo

 By Poppy Simon

With frequent news about drowning polar bears, rainforest destruction and virulent diseases, biology may seem like a depressing subject. However recent species-hunting expeditions show that there is still hope for the animal kingdom. In September came the exciting news that a new species of monkey, the Lesula, had been found in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and just last month another new primate was discovered in Peru. 

This new species of night, or owl, monkey was found in the Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary in northern Peru and was one of eight new mammals described on an expedition that took place between 2009 and 2011. The discovery is particularly important because the night monkey is already listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and ‘endangered’ by the government in Peru.

On a similar expedition to the Mount Kinabalu region of Borneo over 160 new species of plant, animal and fungus were found in September. Of particular interest is the high level of endemicity on the mountain, which means that many of these species are found nowhere else in the world. This is because they evolved in total isolation on top of the mountain, just like the strange and unique life often found on islands. 

The main aim of the expedition was not to hunt for new species but to collect DNA samples in order to investigate the patterns of evolution found in the ‘Heart of Borneo’, making such discoveries an added bonus. The majority of new species belonged to spider and fungi families, but the team also found a handful of new bugs, and even an unconfirmed new frog species. The scientists were particularly excited by the new fungi, however, because the area is relatively unstudied with regards to these; one scientist, Jozsef Geml, described the area as an “El Dorado” for mushrooms. 

While finding new species does not help those in danger of extinction, such expeditions show that we still has much to learn about the diversity of life on Earth.



Anonymous said...

Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750–2000 mm

Anonymous said...

The undergrowth in a rainforest is restricted in many areas by the poor penetration of sunlight to ground level. This makes it easy to walk through undisturbed, mature rainforest.

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