At 13,345 feet above sea level, a group of Dutch researchers from the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in collaboration with Sabah Parks, discovered 160 new species previously unrecorded in Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia. Kinabalu Park, located in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“Mount Kinabalu carries quite a high proportion of species that are found nowhere else on earth,” Schilthuizen told the National Geographic. 3500 DNA samples were collected from more than 1400 species by Menno Schilthuizen, the expedition leader and his team. The Atlas moth, Malaysian horn frog, Red peddestoelen (Red mushroom) and Springspin (Jumping spider) were among the discoveries made in the expedition.
Majority of the newly discovered species were spiders and fungi. József Geml, a fungi expert commented, “While the plant and animal life of this mountain has been the focus of numerous research projects, Kinabalu has remained the terra incognita for scientific studies on fungi.”
With the DNA samples from obtained from the expedition, the researchers aims to study on the evolution of the endemic species. They intend to publish a paper on the evolution of Borneo within next year. “It has been a successful expedition, 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,” said Schilthuizen.
Fun fact: Mount Kinabalu is the home for more than 5000 species of plants, that is more than all of Europe and North America combined. The biodiversity richness of Mount Kinabalu creates great opportunity for local researchers to dive into for new discoveries, especially when it is just right at the doorstep, here in Malaysia.