“Tiny, Beautiful, and Completely Unknown Animals” Discovered in the Ulu Temburong Forest

Clavicornaltica mataikanensis

Citizen scientists and researchers, collaborating through Taxon Expeditions, have discovered and documented a new beetle species, Clavicornaltica mataikanensis, in Borneo’s rainforests, showcasing the significant, yet largely uncharted, biodiversity of tropical forests. Credit: Taxon Expeditions – Holm Friedrich

The undiscovered small beetles in the tropical rainforest are probably endless. But that did not discourage citizen scientists on expeditions to the Ulu Temburong forest in Borneo to keep adding them to scientific records, one at a time. Together with a team of researchers, they published a new species, Clavicornaltica mataikanensis in the open-access peer-reviewed Biodiversity Data Journal.

The minute, two-mm-long leaf beetle that lives on the forest floor is the latest discovery of Taxon Expeditions, which organizes scientific field trips for teams consisting of both scientists and laypeople. Unlike other science/adventure trips, Taxon Expeditions organizes real scientific expeditions for lay people, guiding them in the discovery of new species of animals, by focusing on the thousands of ‘little things that run the world’.

Citizen Scientists, Students, and Researchers in the Rainforest

Citizen scientists, students, and researchers working together in the rainforest. Credit: Taxon Expeditions – Sotiris Kountouras

Clavicornaltica mataikanensis, named for the stream Mata Ikan (“fish eye”) that runs in the valley where it was found, is one of a plethora of tiny beetle species that live in the leaf litter of tropical forests—and most of them have not yet been scientifically described and named. At 2 mm long, the flea beetle is actually one of the largest among its relatives – which might explain why so little is known about their ecology and diversity.

The field trip, in which local students and researchers also took part, gave untrained lay people the opportunity to participate in the study of this hidden world of biodiversity and in the process of naming and publishing new species. Participant Lehman Ellis, from the US, says it was “exciting and beautiful” to be part of the discovery.

Eleonora Nigro

Citizen scientist Eleonora Nigro in the field lab working on the publication. Credit: Taxon Expeditions – Iva Njunjić

Entomologist and founder of Taxon Expeditions, Dr. Iva Njunjić, says: “We introduce the general public to all these tiny, beautiful, and completely unknown animals, and show them that there is a whole world still to be discovered.”

Reference: “A new, unusually large, Clavicornaltica Scherer, 1974 flea beetle from Borneo, described and sequenced in the field by citizen scientists (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae)” by Sean Otani, Luca Bertoli, Filippo Lucchini, Tom P. G. van den Beuken, Desanne Boin, Lehman Ellis, Holm Friedrich, Brittany Jacquot, Sotiris Kountouras, Sarah Yu Rou Lim, Eleonora Nigro, Syafi’ie Su’eif, Wei Harn Tan, Ulmar Grafe, Daniele Cicuzza, Massimo Delledonne, Iva Njunjić and Menno Schilthuizen, 15 March 2024, Biodiversity Data Journal.
DOI: 10.3897/BDJ.12.e119481

1 Comment on "“Tiny, Beautiful, and Completely Unknown Animals” Discovered in the Ulu Temburong Forest"

  1. Eric M. Jones | March 22, 2024 at 7:26 am | Reply

    God sure loved beetle species.

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