The number of species yet to be formally described by science is truly amazing! In today’s world of ipods and jet travel, it’s hard to imagine this is true, but biodiversity hotspots, especially those in the tropics and around the equator, are loaded with species waiting to be described.
I was lucky enough to experience this first-hand when I visited Borneo earlier this year. While exploring the lowland rainforest in Sarawak, Malaysia, we found a patch of pitcher plants named Nepenthes ampullaria. It’s an unusual species in that it has evolved to trap leaf litter rather than trap insects like other species of Nepenthes. Not only is it terrestrial in habit, its lid is reduced in size and pulled back to allow leaf litter and other random organic debris to fall inside. Its unique growth form, with subsurface runners and offshoots, forms a dense mat of pitchers covering the forest floor. Check it out below:
Even more cool is that when we peered inside there were tadpoles living in the water! Below is a photo of one of them…not the best shot but you’ll see a mosquito larvae on the left and a white tadpole on the right. If you look closely, you can even see some legs and its eyes!
When we saw the tadpoles in March, our local naturalist mentioned the species was yet to be described formally. Exciting! Then last week a friend sent me an article that said they were now officially recorded by science. Scientists Indraneil Das (Universiti Malaysia- Sarawak) and Alexander Haas (University of Hamburg, Germany) named the species Microhyla nepenthicola, in honor of its pitcher plant home. They published their findings in Zootaxa, but you can read about it by clicking here. Science is cool. So is Borneo.