INTRODUCTION

Borneo, the second largest tropical island in the world (after New Guinea), covers an area of approximately 575,000 sq km. Politically, a major part of the island falls in the Indonesian province of Kalimantan (area: 539,460 sq km), the rest within the east Malaysian states of Sarawak (123,985 sq km) and Sabah (73,620 sq km). Inset within Sarawak is the independent Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam (5,765 sq km). This great island stretches approximately between 04° S to 07° N and from 109-119° E.

At 4,101 m, Low’s Peak in Mount Kinabalu, northern Sabah, is the highest peak between the Himalayas on mainland Asia and the Orange Mountains of New Guinea. The highest mountain in Sarawak, at 2,423 m, is Mount Murud. All of Sarawak's rivers drain into the South China Sea. The largest, Rejang, carrying more water into the sea than any other river on earth, on account of very heavy precipitation on the catchment area on the highlands and plains.

Borneo lies within the tropics, and receives high rainfall throughout the year. The relatively wetter periods are observed during the passage of the Northeast Monsoons (October to March), although the Southwest Monsoons (April to August) also bring rainfall to the area. Daytime temperatures in most parts of the low-lying areas are 30-32o C, and humidity is typically high. Annual precipitation is in the range 4,000-5,000 mm. Geologically, Borneo is part of Sundaland, and sits on the eastern margin of the Sunda Shelf. Relatively shallow (< 200 m) seas separate the island from adjacent landmasses of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Java, and the evidence of Pleistocene connections to these areas is now well documented. On the other hand, deep waters (> 2,000 m) separate Borneo from the island of Sulawesi, to its east. 

The rich biodiversity of the island of Borneo has been only partially documented. As many as 11,000 species of flowering plants, about a third of which are endemic, have been recorded. Here, a 16 acre forest may have over 700 species of trees, as opposed to only 50 in northern Europe or 171 in eastern North America. Endemicity is high in the plant life of Borneo. Among the dipterocarps, 267 species have been recorded on Borneo, 155 of which are endemic. The animal life of Borneo too is rich in endemics. These inclide 39 mammals and nine birds. New species of amphibians and reptiles are still being reported virtually every year. 

Herpetological studies on this island subcontinent, which started over a century ago, have been synthesized recently in the works of Inger and Stuebing (1997) for amphibians, Stuebing (1991; 1994) and Stuebing and Inger (1999) for snakes; and Lim and Das (1999) for turtles. There has been till now no modern synthesis of the speciose saurofauna of this great island: the last review of the lizards of Borneo was that of De Rooij (1915).

The present work is prepared as an aid for the identification of the saurofauna of the island of Borneo, as well as smaller associated islands. In all, 105 species of lizards (in 35 genera from nine families) are now known from the region. Species accounts comprise: the current valid name including authority, synonymy (derived from all important regional works, notes on the location of the types when known, type locality, known distribution, derivation of the current scientific name, and remarks on nomenclature and systematics). Dichotomous identification keys to all families and genera are provided. Geographical coordinates are from gazetteers for Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, produced by the Defense Mapping Agency, U.S. Board of Geographic Names, Washington, D.C., also accessible through http://164.214.2.59/gns/html/; one specific for Sabah (Tangah and Wong, 1995), the Rand McNally Atlases, the Global Gazetteer: www.calle.com/world and the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names: siva.pub.getty.edu/tgn_browser/ (version 2.0 web).

Copyright © Dr. Indraneil Das and Ghazally Ismail., 2001. All rights reserved.
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