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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: August 26th, 2011, 2:49 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Last Friday night a bunch of local amateur photographers (and one pro) took my son and me through a "backdoor" into Kubah National Park. Many of Sarawak's national parks are gated affairs, only open from 0800 to 1800, no night visits allowed. And for a good reason: the first thing we saw was the stump pf a hardwood tree, the remainder of which had been cut into manageable pieces and removed from the park. The second oddity was a cozy, comfy hide three meters up in a tree, used for ambushing bearded pigs. Two oil palm fruits stuck onto saplings at eye height served as pig bait. Upon my inquiry whether my new friends would take pictures of these park rule violations and confront the local authorities, I was treated to sad smiles and a story about how the head ranger of this park once crippled himself with a shotgun blast to the foot while pig hunting in his own park, not too many years ago. I knew things were bad over here, but I had no idea they were THIS bad. It's not only the much-maligned logging and palm oil companies - as long as folks are poor, they too will rape their surroundings and fall prey to the lures of corruption.

But let's not get into politics - we also saw a bunch of very nice things, to wit:

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These are easily the hugest Nepenthes ampullaria I've ever seen in my life - and frolicking inside them were also the smallest frogs I've ever seen. In fact, they're the smallest frogs most people have ever seen, as Microhyla nepenthicola is the smallest frog species in the Old World.

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They've been known to science for over a hundred years - but only a few years ago Indraneil Das and Alexander Haas realized that those widdle froggies are actually the adult version of a heretofore undescribed species, rather than the juvies of a known one, and subsequently described the species. As the name implies, Microhyla nepenthicola hangs out in Nepenthes:

M. nepenthicola...spends much of its lifecycle in the traps of the pitcher plant Nepenthes ampullaria, after which it is named. It is therefore considered a nepenthebiont. This is not particularly unusual; in fact, it shares this environment with a species of crab spider, Misumenops nepenthicola, which is also commonly found in Nepenthes pitchers, and is similarly named for this reason. M. nepenthicola has less webbing on its feet than most frogs, which may be beneficial when trying to climb the sides of the pitcher plants, which can be slippery.
(Wikipedia)

Also, this frog is only found near Mount Serapi in Kubah National Park....what luck that I live but a half-hour drive away! As my son and I walked away from the Nepenthes patch, I whimsically remarked that there surely must be some species of tiny little snake that eats those tiny little frogs....and at that very moment one of the guys that had stayed at the patch yelled "HANS & HANS! HERE'S A SNAKE FOR YOU!" When we arrived back at the Nepenthes place, the snake was gone, but my friends described it as a tiny banded species that had suddenly come out of one of the pitchers and disappeared into the leaf litter....


Next up: Frank Sinatra's reptilian cousin - Ol' Blue Eyes (Gonocephalus liogaster), snoring sweetly on a twig.

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Another Gonocephalus, this time a bornensis, was sleeping close by:

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Rounding out the night was this pretty mantid. For its tiny size, it had one hell of an attitude. Every time anyone came too close, it would face the intruder and do a little "come and get some" dance, not unlike Mike Tyson in his heyday, swinging his little grabbers in our faces while swaying its body to and fro.



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Tonight we're hitting the Kuching City Park, an old freshwater reservoir downtown known to be home to Reticulated Pythons, Paradise Snakes, and Equatorial Spitting Cobras.

Wish us luck!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: August 26th, 2011, 5:43 am 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 6:05 am
Posts: 223
Awesome stuff, Hans. I'm really enjoying all the SE Asian posts that have been popping up lately.

By the way, Microhyla nepenthicola isn't the valid name for that species: it should be Microhyla borneensis. There's been some crazy confusion regarding that species and another sympatric species that does not breed in the Nepenthes. Basically, back in the early part of the 1900s, some frogs that belonged to a different species (described earlier this year) were called M. borneensis. When Haas & Das described M. nepenthicola, they compared it to this other species, rather than to the holotype of [/i]M. borneensis[/i]. When Matsui compared M. nepenthicola to the holotype of [/i]M. borneensis[/i], it was clear that these were the same species, and the other species, which had been called M. borneensis, was actually the undescribed species (Matsui described it as M. mantheyi). Not sure if that makes any sense or not, but I can send the papers to anyone interested.

Also, its not actually the smallest Old World Frog. That title (at least at the moment...) belongs to the diminutive Paedophryne kathismaphlox, from Papua New Guinea, which is only ~ 10-11 mm in length (compared to up to 13 mm for male M. borneensis, and up to about 19 mm for females).

But anyway, as I said, awesome post. Keep the Borneo pics coming. Track down a Lanthanotus and post some photos of that if you can, haha.

-Eric


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: August 26th, 2011, 6:05 am 
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Joined: April 11th, 2011, 12:03 pm
Posts: 1020
The eyes on that lizard are something else! :shock: Thanks for sharing :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: August 26th, 2011, 9:54 am 
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Joined: October 28th, 2010, 4:34 am
Posts: 135
Location: based in UK
Fantastic post, that Gonocephalus liogaster is a stunner.

Glad you found the microhyla, recent papers are now calling M. nepenthicola a junior synonym of M. borneensis
http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2011/f/z02814p049f.pdf
Regardless its an awesome frog!

Had no idea hunting was such a problem in Kubah, lucky I dint get mistaken for a pig (could well happen)!

Looking forward to your next post


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: August 27th, 2011, 1:25 am 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
Posts: 561
Excellent, Hans. Loved the shot of the little mantid. There are so many interesting inverts in Borneo.

I am enjoying your new series of posts from Sarawak. Those from Taiwan were so good and I think that all of us learned a great deal from your entertaining posts.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: August 31st, 2011, 7:03 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Hi all,

thanks very much for the comments! As to the issues regarding taxonomy and size record of that Nepenthes frog, well, Indraneil Das, the chap who described the animal together with Alex Haas, kept mentioning it as M. nepenthicola during our meeting last Wednesday. Mind you, even if I had known about the alternative name at that time, I would have kept my mouth shut anyway - no need to make an enemy out of a man I've wished to meet for years, who now lives just a five minute drive away from my house, and with whom I hope to go herping quite a bit (He's indeed a rabid field herper, and seemed to be glad about the fact that there's now another snakehead in town with whom to roam the woods, no matter how clueless an amateur the newbie might be). But I'll be sure to ask Neil about this next time we meet.

As to the inverts - you ain't seen nothing yet. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on Megaphasmids from Outer Space, garnished with a few lantern bugs and flying lizards. But first I'll post one about the tarsiers in the neighborhood woods, and later, there'll be a smorgasbord post of tree-dwelling scorpions, snake lizards, pornographic tractor millipedes, floating mouse deer, sliver langurs, and a host of other stuff.

Borneo never disappoints....even if you don't find any snakes.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: August 31st, 2011, 11:28 pm 
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Joined: October 28th, 2010, 4:34 am
Posts: 135
Location: based in UK
would be interesting to hear about the taxonomic status of nepenthicola....

Looking forward to the future posts,
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
pornographic tractor millipedes, floating mouse deer


The mind boggles :D


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #5: First Night Walk
PostPosted: September 1st, 2011, 6:45 am 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 6:38 am
Posts: 201
Location: Canada
What a stunning eyes Gonocephalus liogaster has!!! :shock:


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