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Expedition to the heart of Borneo

Posted on 23-07-2012 by Redactie

We're going on a new expedition!From10th until 25th September 2012, a large international team will be doing evolutionary researchin the Heart ofBorneo, on Mount Kinabalu and the Crocker Range. 40 scientists, of boththe Malayan nature conservation organisationSabah Parks and of Naturalis Biodiversity Center, will be looking for answers to this mainquestion:how have the many unique species in the mountains of Borneo evolved? Is the Heart of Borneo a hotbed or storehouse of evolution?

The mountain's mystery In 2007, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei pledged to protect the mountainous and inaccessible heartland of Borneo. The literal pinnacle of the Heart of Borneos biodiversity is Mount Kinabalu, with 4,095 m the tallest peak in Southeast Asia. The mountain isgeologically speakingyoung (only 1.5 million years), but its biological wealth is unique: thousands of species occur only there and nowhere else on earth.

Map of Borneo

Map of Borneo

The origins of these "endemic" species have been a mystery: are they young, recent evolutionary offshoots from the species that live in the lowlands? or perhaps relicts from times when Borneo was much cooler? In other words: is the mountain a biodiversity hotbed or rather an evolutions storehouse? To solve this question, the multidisciplinary team of scientists will go onexpedition in September. First, they will sample animals, plants, and fungi on Mount Kinabalu and in the surrounding Crocker Range. Then, the high-throughput DNA analysis lab atNaturalis Biodiversity Center will then be used to try to crack the mountains mystery. The results will provide important information to the conservation agencies in the three countries: finally they will know how evolution shaped that unique biodiversity that lives within the boundaries of the Heart of Borneo. And with that knowledge they will be better equipped to protect that special environment.

Arachnothelphusa kadamiana on Nepenthes

Arachnothelphusa kadamiana on Nepenthes

Weblog Before, during and after the expedition, the researchers will write on this weblog. Here you can follow their preparations, their adventures on Borneo, their discoveriesand their setbacks, and the scientific work to be done after the expedition. Your questions and reactions are most welcome here!

All blogposts on the Borneo expedition can be found here.