A guide to Borneo beetles
Published on: Tuesday, February 28, 2017
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Kota Kinabalu: Three beetle aficionados – Dr Steven Bosuang, Dr Arthur Chung and Datuk C.L. Chan – have pooled their resources to fulfil a decade-old dream of producing "A Guide To Beetles Of Borneo".The 244-page educational pictorial guide covers more than 150 beetle species commonly encountered in Borneo as well as rare, interesting and captivating ones in the words of Chan. "More than a third of those featured in this book are endemic to Borneo," he said.

Ninety-nine per cent of the photographs in the book were taken by Dr Bosuang who had over the years visited forest reserves all over Sabah (in Trus Madi, Sandakan, Kalabakan (Tawau) and Sipitang bordering Sarawak, among others) for beetle specimens.

The inaugural guide will be launched on March 7 by the President of Singapore Gardening Society, Tan Jiew Hoe, who is also a Board Member of Gardens by The Bay, Singapore, at Hyatt Regency Kinabalu at 9.45am.

Dr Bosuang has collected some live specimens to be shown during the launch.

The author trio is a perfect combination since Dr Bosuang, Dr Chung and Chan are entomologists.

"We are very proud of this book because we have invested so much time and energy," said Chan, known to be a keen naturalist, illustrator and photographer with an engrossing interest in Bornean insects, particularly stick insects and beetles. "At the age of five, I saw the first beetle in my hometown Sandakan.

There were a lot of rainforests then."

He quipped that the Creator must have been very fond of beetles, given that more than 400,000 species of insects are beetles, a significant two-fifths of all six-legged creatures, versus some 250,000 species of known plants.

"Indeed, we live in the Age of Beetles," he remarked.

On why insect fauna in various tropical habitats are less commonly encountered than moths, butterflies and ants, Chan explained that more than 95pc of beetles are less than a centimetre long and they are often not found in swarms as one species like ants. Moreover, many are only active at night.

Dispelling the misperception that books of this nature are meant for scientists and researchers, he said:

"No, this Guide To Beetles of Borneo is targeted at general readers. For this reason, we have kept the text to a minimum so that readers won't be bored. It is more of a pictorial presentation meant for lay people."

Born in Penampang, Dr Bosuang's field knowledge of forest insects is reportedly unsurpassed, having studied the Bornean entomofauna for over 30 years, specialising in stag beetles, long-horned beetles, flower chafers (or scarab beetles) and lanternflies. He actively collaborates with the Forestry and Wildlife Departments in Sabah, and also co-founded the conservation-based Kipandi Park with his late brother, who was an avid entomologist.

He has discovered numerous new insects, and his collaboration with European and Japanese scientists has resulted in more than 25 scientific papers. "The species endemic to Borneo are found mainly in the highland areas," Dr Bosuang said. In recognition of his long-term research into the taxonomic diversity of beetles and remarkable contributions to biodiversity studies of Borneo, he was awarded an honorary Doctorates Honora Causa from the University of Canterbury (UK) and the Museo Entomologico de Leon (Nicaragua).

Dr Bosuang is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society of London (F.R.E.S), and a member of the Gastrikland Entomological Society, Sweden (M.G.E.S) and Ingolstadt Entomological Society, Germany (M.I.E.S). He first discovered the Cyclommatus chewi (named after him) in 1994, a very rare and unique species that is recognised by its short teeth resembling a deer antler. Endemic to Borneo, it is so far recorded only from the Crocker Range National Park.

He has deposited more than 10,000 beetle specimens at the Forest Research Centre in Sandakan which boasts the largest collection of insects in Sabah.

Dr Chung, who also hails from Sandakan, is armed with a Master of Science degree majoring in Entomology from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and a doctorate conferred by Oxford University, UK, following his research on beetle diversity in different habitat types in Sabah, with funding from the Department of International Affairs, UK.

A senior researcher at the Sabah Forestry Department's Forest Research Centre (Sepilok), he is currently heading the Insect Diversity Programme, Insect Pest & Disease Programme as well as the Consultancy Unit of the Centre.

Through the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Initiative and other forestry projects in Sabah, he has surveyed insects in more than 30 forest reserves within the State.

Among other notable ones are Borneo's Huedepohliama masidimanjuni (Borneo (endemic to Sabah) (2009), which is an extremely rare long-horned beetle, and named in honour of Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun, and Gressittichroma sammannani (endemic to Borneo (Sabah, recorded from Crocker Range and Mount Trus Madi only) (2009), also a rare, slender, metallic green long-horned beetle with long legs, and named in honour of Sabah's Chief Conservator of Forests, Datuk Sam Mannan. Kipandia chani (2015), another rare long-horned beetle, is in honour of Chan who founded Natural History Publications (Borneo) in 1992 to help promote all forms of research and documentation in Sabah. The genus Kipandia refers to Kg Kipandi at Moyog in Penampang.

Dubianella jiewhoei (endemic to Borneo (Sabah only) (2013) is another rare beetle species found in upland mixed dipterocarp forests and lower montane forests from 600 to 1000m above sea-level. It is named after the President of Singapore Gardening Society.

Aegus kinabaluensis (1994) with an entirely black body is endemic to Borneo (Sabah: Crocker Range National Park and Kinabalu Park only). During the day, this species usually hides in decaying trees on the forest floor.

A very rare stag beetle, it is named after Mount Kinabalu.

In the case of Odontolabis vollenhoveni (1864), which is endemic to Borneo, the local people call this species Kepala Merah (which means red-head) by virtue of a light red patch on the head of the male.

Equally unique is Prosopocoilus tigrinus (1928) which belongs to Family Lucanidae (Stag Beetles) and is endemic to Borneo (Sabah: Crocker Range only). It feeds on tree sap during the day.

Odontolabis femoralis waterstradti (1900), the commonest large Stag beetle attracted to light, is found in Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia only. The Bornean subspecies waterstradti (named after John Waterstradt) is endemic to Sabah (Crocker Range and Kinabalu) and has strong red marking on the head (only in the male) while the head of Peninsular Malaysian subspecies is black with shorter mandibles and the body is broader.

Odontolabis dalmanni dalmanni (1845) is common in Southeast Asia, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo but only the Bornean subspecies (found in Danum Valley and Ulu Segama-Malua Forest Reserves in Sabah) is covered with fine golden brown pubescence (short hairs).

While Chalcosoma atlas (Atlas beetle) is the biggest in Peninsular Malaysia, reaching up to 130 mm in length, its counterpart in Sabah is generally smaller (less than 100 mm) and characterised by three horns. - Mary Chin


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