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Borneo expedition yields thousands of DNA samples and more than 160 new species

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.

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.

“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.
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 colors that sometimes are truly breathtaking. 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 preparations, the expedition itself, work in the DNA-lab and progress toward the publication can be followed step by step through the weblog on www.naturalis.nl.

Information for the press

For more information, please contact Astrid Kromhout, communication advisor,
tel. +31 – 71 – 56 87 625 or  astrid.kromhout@naturalis.nl.

Images

A number of photographs of the expedition can be downloaded in high resolution from http://www.naturalis.nl/en/about-us/press/pressreleases/. Please mention the names of the photographers with the photographs. Photos by Joris van Alphen to be used once-only during the year 2012 only in articles or broadcasts on the Kinabalu – Crocker Range expedition 2012.
If you are interested in photo, film or audio material made in the field, please contact Astrid Kromhout.
Photographer Joris van Alphen will also make a photo report of the expedition. His images can be found on www.naturepl.com.
Images and logos of Naturalis and the museum can be downloaded free of copyright for use in publications and print from www.naturalis.nl/nl/over-ons/pers/beeldmateriaal.