California Academy of Sciences team joins Malaysian colleagues to survey region’s rich biodiversity; data to support UNESCO nomination.
his 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.”
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Image via Phil Torres, bioGraphic