Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sarawak: Borneo Highlands by Night

Borneo Highlands centers on that most non-natural of rural habitats, a golf course. Nonetheless, a nightime stroll around the perimeter of the fairways, armed with a strong flashlight, can reveal all sorts of miniature delights lurking amid the bushes.

Borneo is rich in stick insects (Phasmidae).  More than 10% of the wrld's species are found there.  Many of them are far larger and more garish than the ones I turned up on my highland nightwalk (including, among others, Phobaeticus chani, at over 56 cm. the longest insect in the world -- a 2008 discovery named in honour of our friend Datuk Chan Chew Lun, the driving force behind that invaluable source for all things biological in Sundaland, Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd.).

The insects I came across may not have measured up to that standard, but they were fascinating nonetheless -- especially to a northerner used to the middle-sized, wingless and rather plain walkingsticks I come across in Canada (consider ths one, which looks as though it had escaped from a close encounter with a couple of magic markers). I don't know which these are, but for those curious (or dogged) enough, there is a massive tome available, Phasmids of Borneo by Philip Bragg (published, of course, by Datuk Chan).

Some were quite plain-looking, though still impressive... 

While others were ornamented with a variety of fearsome-looking spikes.

Here is a sampling of stick insect relatives - grasshoppers, crickets and katydids, the last one on the wall of the resort itself.

Also attracted to the lights of the resort was this impressive dobsonfly, apparently of the genus Nevromus (Megaloptera: Corydalidae, Corydalinae).  It appears to be a female; male dobsonflies have extremely elongated mandibles they use in mating displays.  Perhaps ironically, only the females, with their normal-length mandibles, are capable of giving a painful bite.

Back along the golf course, amid the purple-leaved ornamental shrubs lining the fairways, I found an extremely spindly cranefly...

 A handsomely-patterned caterpillar (what it will grow into I cannot tell)...

Neogea nocticolor
Spiders, both attractive and bizarre... the upper photo shows Neogea nocticolor [many thanks to Wong Chun Xing for the identification!]

And, representing the vertebrates,a series of handsome frogs (plus a few tadpoles in the streamlet along the trail that may well be theirs).  I think all three of these photos show the same somewhat variable species, but I could not match them up with the animals on the excellent Frogs of Borneo web site beyond placing the frogs as members of the genus Rhacophorus.  I appealed to my friend (and bird and frog expert) Yeo Siew Teck for help, and he sent me the following: "yes, it's under the Rhacophorus genus, we identified it as R.rufipes all this while but last year September I brought a herpetologist from Japan & he said this species looks superficially like the R.rufipes but could be other species, they have to identify it through DNA." So we may have a bit of a mystery on our hands!


  1. Hi Ronald,

    I very much enjoyed your beautiful pictures and interesting posts about Malaysia's amazing wildlife!

    The snail you've photographed belongs to the genus Macrochylamys, an animal on the crossroads between slugs and snails.

    Although it has a large shell, you might notice that portions of its flesh ("mantle", to be precise) wraps around edges of its shell.

  2. Many thanks for the kind words, and especially for the ID. I'll have to use you as my snail expert from now on!

  3. The species of that spider is Neogea nocticolor.