UM scientists discover 2 new species endemic to Mindanao

SCIENTISTS from the University of Mindanao are asking local and national government support to establish critical habitat zones following the discovery of two new endemic species.

The Pachyrhynchus miltoni, a new species of weevil endemic to Marilog area, is discovered by Milton Medina, a taxonomist from the University of Mindanao. Photo credit: Analyn Cabras

The Pachyrhynchus miltoni, a new species of weevil endemic to Marilog area, is discovered by Milton Medina, a taxonomist from the University of Mindanao. Photo credit: Analyn Cabras

Scientists from the University of Mindanao discovered two new species — a plant and a beetle — the UM Office of Publication and Research said in a press conference this week.

The plant, Hoya reyesii, which was found in the riverbanks of Malaybalay, Bukidnon, has recently been added to the genus Hoya.

It was named in honor of Ricardo Reyes, who collected the plant material in 2014 in Valencia, Bukidnon.

The Hoya is endangered as residents may not be aware of its endemic nature, and so treat it as a simple shrub.

Milton Medina, a taxonomist from the UM Research and Publication Center, said that the Hoya is a hydroponic plant that relies on moisture from the air.

Pachyrhynchus miltoni belongs to a diverse family of beetles called weevils and the new species was found in Marilog, Davao City. The insect, meanwhile, is being threatened by human activities such as kaingin (slash and burn technique) and real estate expansion.

Analyn Cabras, who named the beetle after Medina, said the species was not only highly endemic, it’s also a highly threatened species.

The beetle, known for its bright colors was poached to be sold to other countries such as Japan. The price ranges from P500 to P5,000.

Asked about the significance of the finds, the scientists said the two new species are part of a larger “web” of significant species.

An extinction of the species could lead to a chain of events in the global biodiversity, as the Philippines is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world.

“This means we are a host to 70% to 80% of the world’s biodiversity despite contributing only 2% of the land area of the world,” Cabras said.

In Davao City, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has funded more explorations for academics working on the cataloguing of species endemic here.

This month, scientists are also embarking on a two-month catalog of the species that can be found here.

The idea is for other institutions, such as the Department of Education, to use the data.

“The problem with basic education is the focus is more on the foreign species,” Cabras said, lamenting a lack of knowledge of local flora and fauna.

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