Project Update 22, Publication Update 20: Project Limestone Press Release

Scientists and Lafarge Malaysia Collaborate to Study Threatened Land Snails

Kuala Lumpur – Scientists and Lafarge Malaysia recently embarked on a joint study to document the diversity of land snails at limestone hills in Peninsular Malaysia.

A quarried limestone hill in Kinta Valley, Perak, Malaysia. Credit: Junn Kitt Foon. License: CC-BY 4.0

Formed from reefs beneath ancient seas, limestone hills are regarded as “arks of biodiversity” because they can harbour plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. A recent study showed that at least 445 limestone hills can be found scattered across Peninsular Malaysia.

Research has also shown that limestone hills provide numerous benefits to humans, by storing groundwater, or providing habitat for cave bats that either pollinate commercially important trees like Durian, or reduce pests in rice fields.

To support the construction industry which plays a vital role in the socio-economic development of the country, however, certain limestone hills are being quarried to make cement. Continue reading

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Publication update 17: Kenyirus sheema – a new land snail species from an old rainforest

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Holotype of the new species Kenyirus sheema. Foon, Tan and Clements, 2015.

The Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex (BTFC) in the State of Perak covers a cross section of Peninsular Malaysia’s terrestrial ecosystems from lowland rainforests at the foothills to tropical montane cloud forests in the highlands. This 300 sq km of wilderness is home to healthy populations of mammalian megafauna including the critically endangered Malayan Tiger, Panthera tigris jacksoni. In fact, the remarkable state of ecosystem preservation in BTFC makes it one of the most critical regions in Peninsular Malaysia for the conservation of almost every group of rainforest flora and fauna. However, it was a cherry-sized snail that particularly caught the attention of Reuben, during one of his routine mammal surveys in BTFC one morning in February 2009. Continue reading

Publication update 13: Another new snail species from Terengganu!

It’s always a treat to find a species new to science.

But finding a new species of snail from Terengganu isn’t surprising.

One reason is that before the second half of the last century,  malacologists (scientists who study snails) mainly looked for snails in the Federated Malay States, which consisted of Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak and Selangor.

Finding a new species in Malaysia also isn’t that surprising. According to a study by Giam, one of Rimba’s researchers, tropical moist forests of the Neotropics, Afrotropics, and Indomalaya (this includes Malaysia!) are likely to harbour the greatest numbers of undescribed species.

Just last year, Reuben and his colleague, Tan Siong Kiat, described a new genus and species of snail in Terengganu. This snail is now known as Kenyirus sodhii. That was the first snail ever described from Terengganu and one of the first few animals to be named after Kenyir.

Now Reuben and another colleague, Mohammad Effendi bin Marzuki, are proud to announce another new species of snail from Terengganu: Pearsonia tembatensis.

Pearsonia tembatensis, new species, from Tembat Forest Reserve, Terengganu. Red circle indicates snorkel.
Pearsonia tembatensis, new species, from Tembat Forest Reserve, Terengganu. Red circle indicates snorkel.

Just for the record, this is the first time scientists have found this genus (Pearsonia) in Malaysia! You can read more information on this discovery here, which was published in the recent issue of the journal Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

If you look closely at the shell of this snail, you will notice a snorkel-like protuberance (circled in red) on the shell. For now, nobody knows yet what the function of this ‘snorkel’ is for.

You might find the name tembatensis familiar, as this snail was named after Tembat Forest Reserve, where Reuben conducted his camera trapping work under the Kenyir Wildlife Corridor Project.

The snail was also named after Tembat to highlight the environmental destruction befalling this forest reserve due to the construction of  new hydroelectric dams. We hope that we’ll still be able to find this snail in drier parts of the forest once the dam begins operating, because in the flooded areas, even its snorkel won’t be able to keep this air breather alive for long…