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Borneo’s New World

Newly Discovered Species in the Heart of Borneo

New WWF report Borneo’s New World: Newly Discovered Species in the Heart of Borneo details 123 new species discovered since the February 2007 agreement by Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to conserve the Heart of Borneo’s irreplaceable tropical rainforest.

The Heart of Borneo is a global treasure teeming with unique and extraordinary life. Once described by Charles Darwin as “one great luxuriant hothouse made by nature for herself”, this island within an island is home to 10 primate species, more than 350 bird species, and 150 reptiles and amphibian species. In addition, a staggering 10,000 plant species are sheltered by the region’s rainforests. WWF’s work in Borneo

In January 2007, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei signed the Heart of Borneo agreement. This historic treaty marked the official commitment by the island's three governments to safeguard one of the most biologically rich and diverse habitats on earth. Its importance is underlined by the number and diversity of species discovered in the Heart of Borneo since the declaration was made.

Scientists have discovered more than 123 new species in the Heart of Borneo area during the past 3 years – an average of more than 3 new species per month. These finds include the world’s longest known stick insect, a flame-colored snake and a color-changing frog. In total, 67 plants, 29 invertebrates, 17 fish, five frogs, three snakes and two lizards and a brand new species of bird have been discovered. Learn more

A closer look……..

A flame-colored snake
(Dendrelaphis kopsteini)

Dendrelaphis kopsteini or Kopstein’s Bronzeback snake can grow to be 5 feet long. Discovered in 2007, this new species is distinguished from all other Dendrelaphis species by a bright orange, almost flame-like, neck coloration that gradually fuses into an extraordinary iridescent and vivid blue, green and brown pattern, that extends the entire length of the snake. The top of the head is deep bronze, a characteristic of all bronzeback snakes, and a dark stripe extends from the snout, across the eye, to the start of the neck.

When threatened, the Kopstein’s bronzeback has the ability to flare its nape, revealing bright orange colors. Like most Dendrelaphis species, the Kopstein’s bronzeback has an aggressive disposition with a painful bite. In the wild, many inhabit trees and they hunt frogs and lizards.

The scientists who discovered this snake, Gernot Vogel and Johan van Rooijen, named the snake in honor of Felix Kopstein, an Austrian physician and herpetologist. Some weeks after the publication of this species, Gernot received a telephone call from the Netherlands. The person introduced himself as Peter Kopstein, the son of Felix Kopstein. He was 82 and wanted to express his thanks for the late honor of his father, who died when Peter was young.

A long-tailed slug
(Ibycus rachelae)

Perhaps the rarest of the extensive invertebrate species group are slugs which, according to scientists, are infrequently encountered. At great altitudes on Borneo, several rare and highly endemic species appear to exist, including one new colorful green and yellow species, Ibycus rachelae, described from Sabah, Malaysia, in the Heart of Borneo. Discovered on leaves in primary montane forest at high altitudes, the species has a particularly long tail, three times the length of its head, with a body length of approximately 1.5 inches. According to scientists, the slug has the habit of wrapping the long tail around its body when resting.

From the Ariophantidae family, this unusual species makes use of so-called ‘love darts’ in courtship. Made of calcium carbonate, the love dart is harpoon-like which pierces and injects a hormone into a mate, and may play a role in increasing the chances of reproduction. Many more new species of slug and land snail have been collected in the Heart of Borneo recently but await official scientific description.

Experience the Heart of Borneo……..

Watch video of the Kopstein's bronzeback snake eating a lizard. Around the 1:45 minute mark, the snake moves and reveals more of its unique coloration.
© Dr. Gernot Vogel

Listen to a podcast of Adam Tomasek, the Leader of WWF’s Heart of Borneo Initiative, talk about the new species and the future of conservation in the region. Listen now

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