New wildlife species discoveries in Malaysia


This video says about itself:

16 September 2017

Incredible nature and landscapes at Penang Hill in Penang, Malaysia.

This beautiful area has a cable car/funicular which takes you up to the top of the mountain. From the top you can go on scenic walks to see wildlife, butterflies and walk through tropical jungles.

From the California Academy of Sciences in the USA:

New species discovered in Malaysian rainforest during unprecedented, top-to-bottom survey

December 6, 2017

Summary: This fall, the California Academy of Sciences partnered with The Habitat Penang Hill and colleagues to conduct a rainforest survey on Malaysia’s island state of Penang. A 117-member team documented flora and fauna from the tops of trees to the dark reaches of caves and discovered several species previously unknown to science living just miles from a major metropolis. Survey results will contribute to this ancient rainforest’s nomination as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

This fall, the California Academy of Sciences partnered with The Habitat Penang Hill and colleagues to conduct a top-to-bottom rainforest survey unprecedented in its comprehensive approach. On Malaysia’s island state of Penang, a 117-member team of scientists documented flora and fauna from the tops of towering trees to the dark reaches of damp caves.

Over the course of two weeks the international team discovered several species previously unknown to science — including a new species of scorpion and likely new species of fly, water bear, and bacterium — living just miles from a major metropolis. The expedition also tallied new regional sightings: birds, bats, orchids, mammals, flies, ants, mosquitoes, spiders, and frogs never known to occur in Penang were documented for the first time. Survey results (which included the canopy and not just the forest floor) will advance the understanding of this little-explored rainforest and contribute to its future nomination as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) biosphere reserve.

“This forest is special because it stands protected in a region of the world facing rapid deforestation,” says Dr. Meg Lowman, the Academy’s Lindsay Chair of Botany and expedition leader. “It’s also important as a pristine rainforest located so close to a major metropolis. Yet prior to this survey, which included the often forgotten canopy, we knew very little about what lived there.”

Experts from the Academy, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and other partner institutions participated in the effort to create a comprehensive catalogue of the forest’s inhabitants. From-the-field updates were broadcast digitally by JASON Learning to classrooms around the world and over 1,400 species observations were logged on the nature-tracking mobile app iNaturalist. Formal findings are now being compiled to support a UNESCO nomination in 2018.

A gallery of expedition photos appeared today in the online magazine bioGraphic (http://www.biographic.com/posts/sto/the-rainforest-next-door).

Many firsts

During the two-week survey of Penang Hill — a rolling, mountainous landscape thick with tropical hardwood trees — the international team created species lists that will contribute valuable data for mapping the region’s distribution of wildlife. In their tireless scan of the forest, the scientists encountered many species likely new to science.

In an exciting nighttime collection, Academy arachnologist Dr. Lauren Esposito and post-doc Dr. Stephanie Loria discovered a new species of scorpion belonging to one of the oldest lineages on Earth, known as the ghost scorpions. This group is native to Southeast Asia and fluoresces when under ultraviolet light (like all scorpions), but they do so faintly enough that spotting them is incredibly difficult.

“We had a hunch this new species was out there,” says Esposito, “but it was really a matter of odds. For every hundred logs or so we turn over, we find a scorpion. We got lucky.”

Other notable finds likely new to science include a species of iridescent fly that lives among coastal palm-like plants and a species of tardigrade (or “water bear“). These microscopic, aquatic animals inhabit moss and lichen in trees and are found on all seven continents. Zoologists from USM also managed to capture a sought-after recording of the elusive, cryptic colugo (or flying lemur), which will add valuable new insights into how these nocturnal gliding mammals communicate. Detailed findings will be published in the coming months.

The expedition also logged several species known to science but never recorded in Penang: the spectacular Red-rumped Swallow and Stripe-throated Bulbul; the spotted-wing fruit bat; one species of vibrant orchid; three groups of algae found in flowing water; eight species of mammals (including the peculiar lesser mouse deer); two species of frogs; several species of flies (including one that mimics ants); five groups of ants (one group being the Dracula ants named for devouring their own young); one species of mosquito; and the segmented funnel-web spider Macrothele segmentata not seen since its original discovery and description in Penang in the late 1800s.

“Over the next few months and years, the team will analyze the specimens collected during the expedition and undoubtedly discover more new species along the way,” says Lowman. “Penang’s forest is bursting with undocumented diversity — especially in the treetops, where no one had surveyed before.”

Unlike the traditional expedition model, in which findings are often not published until months or years after the fieldwork has concluded, scientists began sharing their highlights while still in the field. Using the mobile app iNaturalist, scientists rapidly shared their observations with the wider community and engaged regional experts not necessarily in the field to help with species identifications. At the end of the expedition, a full-day symposium in George Town was held to share results and begin compiling data in support of UNESCO nomination.

Toward UNESCO nomination

The island state of Penang sits at the crossroads of culture, history, and cuisine. Its capital city, George Town, is already a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Every year, over one million visitors to the bustling city travel fifteen minutes by train to the tranquil summit of Penang Hill where they take in panoramic views of the landscape’s timeless beauty. The forest has become a beloved icon for many island residents and visitors, emerging as a beacon of sustainability for the country and world at large.

“All of us have a common future in our forests,” said Penang’s Chief Minister, the honorable Lim Guan Eng, during the survey’s closing events. “Forests are critical for our health. If you keep and protect and preserve your rainforests, people will come to enjoy and celebrate them.”

With critical support from The Habitat, efforts are now underway to list Penang Hill as part of a proposed UNESCO biosphere reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme in 2018.

“The comprehensive biodiversity assessment is a vital step towards obtaining the UNESCO biosphere reserve listing which would be fitting recognition for these forested hills that have endured for generations,” says Reza Cockrell, co-founder and director of The Habitat and The Habitat Foundation.

If successful, a UNESCO listing will allow the landscape to continually inspire, awaken curiosity, and cultivate support for rainforest conservation among the thousands of Malaysians and international visitors that make their way to Penang Hill each year.

Highlights by the numbers

130,000,000

The rainforest on the island of Penang encompasses a series of hills overlooking the modern metropolis of George Town and is thought to be 130 million years old. It is considered primary forest since it has never been cut down before.

19,768

The biodiversity survey occurred within The Habitat and the adjacent Bukit Kerajaan Forest Reserve, which was originally established as a Virgin Jungle Reserve in 1911. Contiguous forest reserves, water catchment reserves, and Penang National Park together comprise approximately 19,768 acres (or 8,000 hectares). Regional partners continue to advocate for rainforest conservation in Penang, Malaysia at large, and the world.

5236

Tree-climbing scientists from the Academy, UC Berkeley, The Tree Projects, and other partner organizations climbed 5236 vertical feet during this first-ever canopy survey in Malaysia. Over half of any forest’s biodiversity lives in the canopy, making the treetops a critical and often overlooked area of study. Scientists climbed several rare and endangered tree species on Penang Hill to document the orchids, ferns, and epiphytes (or air plants) thriving at such heights and to press leaf samples for further study. Fifty-nine mammals were also documented through motion sensitive cameras, including lively macaques, dusky-leaf monkeys, tree rats, and flying squirrels (images available upon request).

1424+

Over 1400 species were recorded via iNaturalist, the nature-tracking mobile app that uses a community of online experts to confirm observations. This number will continue to climb as participants process observations in the coming months.

47

A combined forty-seven students from local schools, World Wildlife Fund Hong Kong, and JASON Learning met scientists in the field to experience fieldwork firsthand. Daily video dispatches (courtesy of JASON Learning) earned over 3,000 unique viewers from around the globe on YouTube and 69,000 unique viewers on Facebook.

25

At least twenty-five plants and animals observed during the survey are new records for Penang or peninsular Malaysia, including the Sunda colugo or flying lemur, the red giant flying squirrel, the long-tailed giant rat, the Indomalayan niviventer, the lesser mouse deer, and species of ground squirrels, birds, bacteria, bats, ants, orchids, flies, frogs, mosquitoes, and microscopic water bears.

4

Four species found during the survey are likely new to science (a scorpion, fly, bacterium, and water bear). However, confirming species discoveries takes months and oftentimes years as scientists carefully sort, study, compare, describe, and potentially revise their contributions to the tree of life.

1

One thriving rainforest up for UNESCO nomination.

This expedition was generously sponsored by The Habitat Foundation.

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Malaysian seagrass, important for dugongs, fish


This video says aout itself:

Dugongs Eating, Swimming, and Serving as Seagrass “Mascots” | One Minute Dive with Pew

18 February 2015

Perhaps best known for inspiring mermaid folklore in the Pacific, the rotund, graceful dugongs—close relatives of manatees—are stars of Malaysia’s shallow ocean meadows. See dugongs eating and swimming. Plus, learn more facts about the unique relationship between vulnerable coastlines and these loveable, but critically endangered, seagrass “mascots.”

As a developing nation, Malaysia’s coast is undergoing rapid, large-scale development, putting pressure on the region’s sensitive seagrass meadows and the many animals that call them home. Seagrass beds are essential to the survival of a wide variety of species. But no other animals are more directly dependent on these meadows than the dugong, which have developed unique adaptations to seagrass life over the centuries.

This Pacific cousin to the manatee is critically endangered in Malaysia, and it relies solely on seagrass for its food and habitat. Pew marine fellow Louisa Ponnampalam is working off the coast of Johor, Malaysia, to identify habitats that are crucial for one of the country’s last remaining populations of dugongs.

From the University of Malaya in Malaysia:

Seagrass meadows: Critical habitats for juvenile fish and dugongs in the east coast Johor islands

July 21, 2017

Scientists at University of Malaya, Malaysia, have found that the seagrass meadows in Johor harbor three times more juvenile fish than coral reefs. They also found that the dugong herds there prefer certain types of meadows over others.

Seagrass, the world’s oldest living thing, is a marine flowering plant that forms vast underwater meadows throughout all the oceans of the world, except in the Antarctic. These flowering plants first appeared in fossil records 100 million years ago and are the key to the survival of our seas, by providing oxygen, filtering out pollutants and bacteria, and capturing large stores of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate warming. Despite these, seagrasses do not enjoy as high a public profile as coral reefs and mangroves. A team of researchers at the University of Malaya is motivated to raise the profile of seagrass by studying how these plants contribute to something that is naturally compelling to most people — as a rich, productive habitat and a source of food.

The researchers began their project by documenting the types and numbers of fish life in the seagrass meadows around the islands of Johor, and did the same in coral reefs as a way of juxtaposing the two ecosystems. The usual way of doing this kind of study is to drag a trawl net to dredge up all the marine life on the sea-bed. However, the researchers wanted to avoid destructive sampling as they were working in marine parks. As such, GoPro underwater cameras were deployed in a series of 2 x 2 m plots within the seagrass beds and coral reefs to view the types of fishes that visited the ecosystems, and how they utilized the space. The method was painstaking, because it took roughly one day to collect just three samples in the field, and they needed at least sixty! After eighteen months of sampling across different seasons and locations, Nina Ho Ann Jin, MSc student of the project, found three times more juvenile fishes than adult fishes in the seagrass video recordings. She also noted that fishes in the seagrass meadows spent most of their time feeding, while those in the adjacent coral reefs were more occupied by defending their territory. Clearly, the two ecosystems have very different roles from the viewpoint of the average fish: seagrasses are nursery and feeding areas, whereas coral reefs are the home of adult fish. These two ecosystems complement each other in supporting the survival needs of marine organisms at different parts of their life cycle. Thus, seagrasses are no less important than coral reefs in providing us with marine resources, and deserve much more public attention than they have currently received.

Recently, the researchers turned their attention to studying the feeding ecology of dugongs because they depend almost entirely on seagrass as a food source. These shy ‘sea cows’ have great popular appeal, and by showing the public how closely linked their fates are with that of their seagrass habitats, the profile for seagrass conservation is also raised. There is a thriving dugong population in the researchers’ long-term study area in the Johor islands. The researchers tracked the feeding patterns of dugongs by mapping out their feeding trails across different seasons. Feeding trails are sinuous, bare tracks left behind by dugongs when they graze by ripping the seagrass up from the roots upward. Using the geographical approach, Harris Heng Wei Khang, MPhil student, was able to identify dugong feeding hotspots within the meadows, where dugongs return to feed on preferentially over and over again. Harris Heng is now focusing on finding out why these locations are preferred over others, and has a hypothesis that plant nutrient content may be the key factor. As a result of this work, the researchers’ local NGO collaborator has been able to zone the meadows for different levels of protection, based on whether the dugongs use them consistently as feeding grounds or not. This information has also been used to present a persuasive case for establishing a State-sanctioned dugong sanctuary in the area.

Malaysians demonstrate against Trump’s xenophobia


From Asian Correspondent:

Malaysians add their voice to anti-Trump ‘Muslim Ban’ protests

CITIZENS of Muslim-majority Malaysia are banding together in solidarity with those affected by U.S. President Donald Trump’s seven-country immigration ban, with several groups across different political affiliations staging a protest Friday at the U.S. embassy in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The protest dubbed #NoBanNoWall saw about 150 activists, politicians and student leaders gather at 2.30pm after the Muslim Friday prayers to deliver a memorandum to the embassy.

“It is cruelty on the part of Donald Trump to issue such an executive order,” Saifuddin Abdullah, chief secretary of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance, told the gathering.

“Can you imagine, people who have already boarded the plane, they have been stopped at the airports… even though they have been promised they’d be allowed into the U.S. You’d have to be in their shoes to understand how cruel Donald Trump’s executive order is.

“The order falls into the ISIS trap, falls into the ISIS narrative,” he added, referring to the global terrorist network.

Prior to the event, Saifuddin said in a Twitter post that the Muslim ban spoils all the good work that has been done to promote moderation and religious harmony in the country.

Malaysian anti-Trump poster

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has so far remained silent on the issue, drawing strong criticism from opponents.

Marina Mahathir, daughter of Najib’s staunchest critic and Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, questioned the leader’s silence.

“Just because Malaysia is not on the list doesn’t mean it won’t ever be on the list,” she said.

Local community activists attended the rally to add their voice to the protest. Many saw the issue as not purely being about Trump but about the wider issue of discrimination across the world.

The Socialist Alternative movement saw Trump as a figurehead of a much wider issue.

“Trump is a product of the system, we can see the same character that we see in Trump in many places…he is a figurehead for a wider problem,” a Socialist Alternative representative said.

“The system needs to be changed, and this protest is a start.”

Student group, the Malaysia Progressives In Australia, attended to denounce Trump’s executive order and to express their concern at the Malaysian political environment.

“We see issues of racism, immigration and discrimination here in Malaysia as well and we want Malaysians to know, everyone to know, that we are against that happening wherever we are.”

In one of his first acts as president, Trump made good on one of his campaign promises with an executive order suspending entry of all refugees for 120 days; banning Syrian refugees indefinitely; and blocking entry for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria for 90 days.

After the order was signed last Friday, chaos and confusion immediately gripped U.S. airports as protesters gathered to rail against the policy, and travelers found themselves caught up in an immigration nightmare.

In the memorandum addressed to U.S. Ambassador-Designate to Kuala Lumpur, Kamala Shirin Lakhdir, the group pointed out that the ban was a violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted in 1948.

The group said the act of singling out Muslims and Muslim-majority countries for the crimes of a small majority of extremists is “grossly irresponsible”.

“This is not the case of the West versus Islam. It is a case of violent extremists against the whole world,” the group said.

They also said in the fight against terrorism, Muslims also fell victim as much as Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and the rest of humanity.

“Such violation of human rights will not solve the issue of terrorism and security concerns,”

“For the United States to go against everything it believes in, condones such a blanket discrimination and is shameful,” the group said.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the world’s largest body of Islamic nations, has labelled the ban a “grave concern”, warning in a statement that it would only serve to embolden extremists and provide further fuel to advocates of violence.

“The OIC calls upon the United States government to reconsider this blanket decision and maintain its moral obligation to provide leadership and hope at a time of great uncertainty and unrest in the world,” the 57-nation body said, according to Fox News.

As criticism poured in across the globe, Trump vigorously defended the order …

In Southeast Asia, politicians in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia immediately expressed concern as the ban took effect, although the two countries were not named in the ban list.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, two days after the order was inked, said his country deeply regretted Trump’s plan.

Malaysian politicians such as Ong Kian Ming, a parliamentarian from the opposition Democratic Action Party, labelled the move “inhumane”.

Like his Malaysian counterpart Najib, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has also yet to speak out against the ban.

(A. Azim Idris, Emma Richards and Lee Lian Kong contributed to this article)

Malaysian, Chinese travelers caught in Trump’s immigration dragnet – lawyers: here.

Trump’s immigration ban: I witnessed the chaos: here.

Sea turtles in Malaysia


This video says about itself:

28 October 2016

In Malaysia there is an island called Sipadan, famous for beautiful reefs, lots of fish and tons of sea turtles. But there is also a cave where sea turtles die. Jonathan and the team visit the cave in this spooky extra!

JONATHAN BIRD‘S BLUE WORLD is an Emmy Award-winning underwater science/adventure program that airs on public television in the United States.

Malaysian coral reefs need more protection


This 2009 video says about itself:

In a vast, turquoise-blue corner of this Earth, the forces of nature have crafted a truly amazing underwater tapestry of corals. This is the Coral Triangle – ‘nursery of the seas’.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Most species-rich coral reefs are not necessarily protected

Published on 22 November 2016

Coral reefs throughout the world are under threat. After studying the reefs in Malaysia, Zarinah Waheed concluded that there is room for improvement in coral reef conservation. PhD defence 22 November.

One-third of the corals of the Great Barrier Reef are dead. This was the sombre conclusion drawn by Australian scientists six months ago. Pollution, shipping and climate change are destroying the world’s largest continuous reef, and other coral reefs seem to be facing the same fate.

Home country

PhD candidate Zarinah Waheed studied coral reefs in her home country Malaysia over recent years. She looked specifically at the coral diversity of these reefs and also at the connectivity between the reef locations. She found that the areas with the highest numbers of coral species are not necessarily protected.

94 species

During her research, Waheed examined how many species of three coral families – Fungiidae, Agariciidae and Euphylliidae – occur in different reefs spread throughout Malaysia. She made a number of diving trips in the region, together with her co-supervisor and coral expert Dr Bert W. Hoeksema of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. Before the diving trips, she first examined all specimens of the target species in the extensive coral collection held by Naturalis.

Coral Triangle

‘The eastern part of Malaysian Borneo is part of the so-called Coral Triangle,’ Waheed explained. ‘This is a vast area that is home to the highest diversity of corals in the world. Scientists have long suggested that diversity diminishes the further away you get from this Coral Triangle. This hypothesis had never been thoroughly examined as far as Malaysia is concerned. My research shows that this holds true based on the coral species we examined.’

Paradise for divers

Waheed discovered, for example, that Semporma, a paradise for divers in the eastern part of the country, has a total of 89 species of coral of the three families she studied. If you go further west – that is, further away from the Coral Triangle – the number of species drops to only 33 in Payar on the west coast of the Malaysian mainland.

Interconnected

Finally, Waheed investigated how the different Malaysian reefs are connected to one another. She did this by establishing how one species of mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis), the blue starfish (Linckia laevigata) and the boring giant clam that goes by the name of Tridacna crocea are genetically related within each of their populations.

Water circulation pattern

The three model species Waheed studied exhibit different levels of connectivity among the coral reefs. She suspects that this may well be due to the effect of water circulation patterns in the research area. ‘The larvae of the coral, the starfish and the clam can survive for a while before they have to settle on the reef. In the meantime they are carried by the currents and may settle in other coral reefs from where the originate.’

Coral reef conservation

Surprisingly enough, reef areas that have the greatest diversity are not necessarily the best protected. For example, only a limited part of the coral reefs in Semporna are protected under a marine park. ‘Reefs outside the park boundary are not protected. During our diving trips we regularly heard dynamite explosions. Blast fishing is an illegal practice and it causes enormous damage to the coral reef but it is nonetheless a way of catching fish.’ Blast fishing occurs not only in Semporna, but also in other coral reef areas of Sabah, Malaysia, and the Coral Triangle.

JAPAN’S LARGEST CORAL REEF IS DYING About 70 percent of the Sekiseishoko reef has died. [HuffPost]

FIRST PHOTOS OF AMAZON CORAL REEF ARE STUNNINGLY BITTERSWEET Oil companies had previously obtained drilling rights to the area before the reef, which may have a signature marine biome, was discovered. [HuffPost]

Tallest tropical tree discovered in Malaysia


This video says about itself:

8 June 2016

A yellow meranti measuring a whopping 89.5 metres has been found in a rainforest in Malaysia, making it the tallest tropical tree on record.

From New Scientist:

8 June 2016

Tallest known tropical tree discovered in Malaysia’s lost world

By Alice Klein

Behold the giant. The world’s tallest known tropical tree has been discovered in a rainforest in Malaysia, measuring a whopping 89.5 metres.

Gaming enthusiasts may be familiar with the species of tree – Yellow Meranti (Shorea faguetiana) – which can be grown in Minecraft.

David Coomes of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues discovered the behemoth in one of Malaysia’s last remaining pristine wildernesses – the Maliau Basin Conservation Area, known as Sabah’s Lost World.

A laser scanner attached to the researchers’ aeroplane detected the tree while capturing 3D images of the rainforest as part of a project to map the region’s biodiversity.

Measuring the height of the tree was a big task. A local tree-climber clambered to the top with a tape measure to check it. While still at the top, he sent a text message to the researchers waiting at the bottom: “I don’t have time to take photos using a good camera because there’s an eagle around that keeps trying to attack me and also lots of bees flying around.”

The tree is almost as tall as London’s Big Ben clock tower and beats the previous record holder in the tropics by 1.2 metres. However, it is not the tallest tree in the world – that title is held by a 115-metre-high coast redwood in Redwood National Park, California. The world’s tallest temperate region trees grow up to 30 metres taller than their tropical counterparts, although no one knows why this is the case.

Heavy logging by the palm oil industry has decimated Yellow Meranti numbers in Malaysia, and the species is now classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species.

“Logging has been a huge problem in Malaysia – the forests have taken a hammering over the last 40 years,” says Coomes.

However, there is hope for the majestic giants. The Sabah government recently announced that it would act to restore a heavily logged area just to the east of the record-breaking tree, as part of an initiative to preserve the region’s biodiversity.

Research shows that degraded forests can bounce back within 50 to 100 years, Coomes says.

“They can restore themselves without too much effort back into impressive, mature forests,” he says. “You could go back to the same spot in 100 years and you wouldn’t know you were in a secondary forest.”

Rare spider named after singer David Bowie


This video is about a Heteropoda davidbowie spider feeding.

From The Star in Malaysia:

Monday, 11 January 2016 | MYT 11:58 PM

Rare Malaysian spider named after late rock star David Bowie

PETALING JAYA: You may not know this, but a rare yellow-coloured spider that is only found in parts of Malaysia was named after the late rock star David Bowie.

The spider, discovered seven years ago by an individual named Peter Jager, is called Heteropoda davidbowie, according to a 2009 report by British newspaper The Telegraph.

The spider is distinguished by its large size and yellow hair.

Bowie was selected for the honour because of his musical contribution to [the ] arachnid world – the 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Jager said that naming spiders after celebrities drew attention to the near extinct species whose habitats are being destroyed due to human activity.

Bowie, who churned out era-defining hits like “Space Oddity“, “Young Americans” and “Let’s Dance”, died at the age of 69 Monday after battling with cancer.

This music video is called David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust, taken from ‘Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)’.