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Author/Editor: N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore.


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05 Jul 2007 - Raffles Museum News has shifted to http://news.rafflesmuseum.net

Thu 24 Jun 2004

Fighting fish research reported in the Straits Times

Category : research

Fighting fish research by Tan Heok Hui, Peter Ng and international colleagues was featured in an article in The Straits Times, "Fighting fish: A model father - Researchers have found that evolutionary history and environmental factors may determine how the male fighting fish takes care of its young." By Chang Ai-Lien, The Straits Times, Fri 18 Jun 2004 [pdf].

"For about 20 years, scientists have argued the fundamental question of which came first: bubble nests or mouth brooding. Overturning conventional wisdom, researchers here have come up with new findings that reveal why male fighting fish care for their young the way they do, which has made the cover of the journal Evolution.

By recreating the fish's evolution through DNA analysis, they found that very similar species of fighting fish could have different childcare habits, depending on their evolutionary history and where they lived."

"We now believe that these extremely adaptable fish have evolved different forms of care, and this is dictated by the niche habitats and conditions where they live." - Peter Ng.

Heok Hui's extensive field work was pointed out - "Regarded as Singapore's 'Indiana Jones' by his colleagues for his treks into the depths of jungles in Thailand, Borneo, Java, Sumatra and Malaysia in his search for new fish, Dr Tan has discovered more than half the existing species through his expeditions in the region."

Reference: Rüber, L., R. Britz, H. H. Tan, P. K. L. Ng & R. Zardoya, 2004. Evolution of mouthbrooding and life-history correlates in the fighting fish genus Betta. Evolution, 58 (4): 799-813. Published in April 2004, see abstract.

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Mohomed Bahir of Sri Lanka's Wildlife Heritage Trust

Category : visitors

Mohomed Bahir, a research associate from the Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka , is currently visiting the Raffles Museum (17 Jun ­ 30 Jun 2004). He is collaborating with research staff on several different projects on Sri Lankan biodiversity and this trip he intends to finish several papers nearing completion.

Bahir will be working variously with Peter Ng, Darren Yeo and Cai Yixiong on systematics and taxonomy of various groups of Sri Lankan freshwater crabs and shrimps. Bahir is also referring to material from Raffles Museum's reptile collection for comparative studies with selected groups of Sri Lankan lizards. you might have caught Bahir on television - he was a lizard wrangler on the National Geographic documentary, "Thunder Dragons".

Bahir with Darren and Peter, discussing a posssible new genus of freshwater crab and (what else?) crab gonopods!

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Jeng Min Shou (Academia Sinica) and the Vent Crab

Category : visitors

Jeng Ming Shiou, a marine biologist from the Research Centre for Biodiversity, Academia Sinica (Taipei) is in Singapore in June 2004. He is discussing the ecology of the hydrothermal vent crab, Xenograpsus testudinatus with Peter Ng and Ng Ngan Kee.

They are also discussing plans for long term collaborations, expeditions, studies of specific groups of crustaceans, phylogenies of reef-associated crabs, examining specimens of Trapeziidae and Alpheidae and sourcing for tissues for DNA phylogeny work.

His work in Singapore stems from a joint paper published last year with Paul Clark (Natural History Museum, UK & Honorary Research Asssociate, RMBR) and Peter Ng on the larvae of this crab. Based on their work, "a new family may need to be established to accommodate Xenograpsus within the Grapsoidea."*

*Jeng, M.-S., P. F. Clark & P. K. L. Ng, 2004. The first zoea, megalopa, and first crab stage of the hydrothermal vent crab, Xenograpsus testudinatus (Decapoda: Brachyura: Grapsoidea) and systematic implications for the Varunidae. Journal of Crustacean Biology, U.S.A., 24(1): 188-212.

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Raffles Museum's Mrs CM Yang retires

Category : people

Staff and students bade Mrs Yang Chang Man a happy retirement during a lunch in her honour on Monday, 14th June 2004 at the Raffles Museum. Museum director Peter Ng was, for once, at a complete loss of words! He is pictured above with museum curator Kelvin Lim, struggling to unwrap the digital camera she was presented with as a gift wile the rest look on in amusement. More photos here.

From her appointment in 1972, Mrs Yang saw the museum's historical zoological collections through the most difficult time in its long history. Without a permanent home, and with continual demands for space, the collections were shifted four times in 16 years, making a tour of campuses in the process: Ayer Rajah in 1972, Bukit Timah in 1977, Jurong in 1980 and finally Kent Ridge in 1987.

The collection's value in the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research is now without debate; and is recognised as a national treasure of scientific and cultural heritage. With a permanent home, the museum has been able to contribute to research, education and conservation in Singapore and the region.

The collection as it stands today is the result of of the many passionate individuals who saw the collection grow, communicated it secrets to society and guarded it against loss during the long and difficult exodus. In her role as the collection's principal guardian, Mrs Yang carries with her the grateful thanks of researchers, students and public alike.

Although officially retired, we will not say goodbye as yet, for Mrs Yang will continue her work on aquatic insects. She and Lanna Cheng of Scripps Institution of Oceanology will be publishing the "Guide to aquatic and semiaquatic Heteroptera of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia.

"Naturalists will be naturalists, even in times of war"*. Retirement will obviously not pose a significant obstacle!

*Mrs Yang passed me this article after the luncheon on Monday, in which former museum director Michael Tweedie (who last visited the collection during the 1987 opening, see picture on right) relates how he had a go at rat-catching and rabbit husbandry in addition to his duties! He was taken prisoner in Java during World War II and sent to Naagasaki. In the midst of it all, he reared butterfly larvae and saw Swallowtails emerge. Ref: Sharpe, I., 1989. Naturalists will be naturalists, even in times of war. Malayan Naturalist, 42(4): 6.

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Seashore Workshop at Labrador

Category : education

Staff of the museum conducted a seashore workshop for teachers on Monday, 7th June 2004, at the Labrador rocky shore, followed by classroom sessions to investigate the fauna, conservation issues and field trip management. The course was conducted by Darren Yeo, Tan Swee Hee, Grace Leng, Ng Ngan Kee, Peter Ng and N. Sivasothi. The workshop series for teachers and the public are coordinated by Benito Tan.

Resources from the workshop are available at this webpage and watch this quicktime movie one group made very quickly, featuring the voice of Ng Ngan Kee!

Posted at 9:20AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 24 Jun 2004

Mangrove research - Student presentations

Category : research

Two final-year undergraduate students, Teo Yen Ling and Fiona Hong, conducted mangrove studies between Jan-Apr 2004, as part of the Faculty of Science's Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Science (UROPS) programme.

They established a working map for the Kranji mangrove estuaries and subsequently attempted to identify the specific niche of the mangrove snapping shrimp and the mangrove horseshoe crab.

They present their findings in seminars at the university and at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. More details at the Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club's webpage

Posted at 9:19AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 24 Jun 2004

Study visit for Sembilang-Berbak National Parks project, Sumatra

Category : visitors

A group of 18 government officials and members of NGOs involved in the Sembiland-Berbak national parks project coordinated by Wetlands International Indonesia visited the Raffles Museum on Mon 31 May 2004. Ng Ngan Kee of the Systematics & Ecology Lab conducted a tour of the Public Gallery and the museum's faunal collections, discussing how the exhibits and collections were setup and managed. This was followed by a sesssion by Research Officer N. Sivasothi on the approach towards research, education and conservation adopted by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

Here on a study trip for five days, the group had previously visited Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve (SBWR) and Tanjung Piai Johor National Park in Malaysia. Irwansyah Reza Lubis of Wetlands International gave a talk about the park at SBWR on Saturday, 30 May 2004.

Sembilang National Park was setup in 2003 in south-eastern Sumatra. Over 350,000 hectares of peat swamp, freshwater swamp and mangroves, the park is host to a few critically-endangered Sumatran tigers. Amongst the issues they have to deal with is conflict with man as transmigration projects eat into the tiger's range, resulting in attacks on people. One hope is the acquisition of buffer land between the park and the adjacent and much older Berbak National Park forming a continuous area of protected land. The national park project is funded by GEF and World Bank.

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Navjot Sodhi NUS award featured in The Straits Times

Category : news

Navjot Sodhi of the Conservation Ecology Lab was featured today in an article by Chang Ai-Lien entitled, "Singapore's birdman - Researcher honoured for extinction alarm," The Straits Times, 1st June 2004.

"Ground breaking work which revealed the dire consequences of the disappearing habitats of wildlife here and in the region has helped win a National University of Singapore don kudos from the university. Keeping a close watch, bird expert Navjot Sodhi has travelled the region studying the effects of forest loss on birds and avian extinction."

He was conferred the University Award on 12th May 2004.
See "Catastrophic extinctions follow deforestation in Singapore." Nature 424: 420-423.

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Elasmobranch-gut tapeworm researchers visit wholesale fish markets

Category : visitors

Janine Caira (U. Connecticut or U. Conn) & Kirsten Jensen (U. Kansas, formerly U. Conn) are in the region for "A survey of Sharks and Rays of Borneo and the Metazoan Parasites". Peter Ng and N. Sivasothi met them at a database workshop in Kuala Lumpur recently, and invited them down to survey the shark and ray catch at wholesale markets of fishing ports in Singapore.

They arrived on Sat (22 May 2004) evening and made their first trip after midnight, to the market at Jurong Fishing Port. Jurong is the international landing site for boats operating in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Fish are landed here from Indonesia, imported by land from Malaysia and Thailand, and by air from countries like Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Cestodes decompose very quickly in dead fish, especially in tropical waters. To have a good chance of sampling these parasites, the fish should preferably be dead no longer than an hour. However, the host (i.e. the sharks and rays) are also of interest, as there are still new species and morphological variants. Janine and Kirsten decided to try their luck and manage to add some valuable specimens to the museum's collection.

Janine Caira (standing) and Kirsten Jensen (squatting) examining some rays (Himantura sp.) at the wholesale fish market at Jurong Fishing Port on Sunday morning.

Accompanying them on these midnight-dawn runs were museum staff, students and volunteers, some to experience and help (despite the odd hours!) and others on specific projects requiring seafood sampling.

About half the supply at Senoko Fishing Port originates from local fish trawlers, in-shore vessels, kelongs and fish farms. However, the group was denied access to the market as they were thought to be on a group tour (!) which requires AVA approval. Entry for purchase is actually allowed, just not group tours, so researchers will try again in future. The markets are closed on Monday mornings.

Janine and Kirsten also visited the Raffles Museum's gallery and collections with great interest. Back at U Conn, their scientific and teaching collections with origins of over a century eventually gave rise to Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at UConn, etablished in 1985. Scattered in five locations around their campus, Janine Caira headed a team that submitted the grant proposal, planned and executed the consolidation and move to a state of the art 8,000 square foot facility. By 2001, the museum was housed in its own building. In 2004, the museum further announced plans to establish the Connecticut Archaeology Center.

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Bryophyte survey by Benito Tan in Sri Lanka

Category : research

Benito Tan visited Sri Lanka from 16th to 31st May, 2004 to conduct surveys of the bryophyte diversity in two nature reserves in Sri Lanka. These reserves were recently established and poorly explored bryologically.

The survey is a joint international project between the Sri Lanka's University of Peradeniya, the University of Helsinki in Finland, and NUS' Raffles Museum, and sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

Posted at 9:11AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 24 Jun 2004

Elliot Dawson of King Crab fame

Category : visitors

Elliot W. Dawson and his wife Grace visited the Raffles Museum on 13th May 2004. Dawson, from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) is famous for his work on nemerteans (ribbon worms) and later King Crabs. He authored the famous 1989 monograph, "King crabs of the world."*

Dawson last visited the collection in 1985 when it was situated on a hillock in what was then Nanyang University. Nanyang had generously housed the collection between 1980 - 1986 before it was allocated its present location in NUS. That building is the present Administration Annexe in what is now Nanyang Technological University.

Peter and Elliot here pictured in the Wet Collection with the Holotype specimen of Chaceon manningi, dredged in 1991 from between 438m - 636m in waters around Tung Sa Islands, South China Sea. This crab is believed to be associated with hydrothermal vents. In the background is a King Crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) collected from the Northern Sea, Hokkaido, Japan, 1992.

*Dawson, EW, 1989. King crabs of the world (Crustacea: Lithodidae) and their fisheries: a comprehensive bibliography. Misc. Publ. 101, New Zealand Oceanographic Institute, Wellington New Zealand. 338 pp

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Navjot Sodhi conferred the NUS Outstanding Researcher award

Category : news

Navjot Sodhi of the Conservation & Behavioural Ecology Lab was conferred the NUS Outstanding Researcher award on 12th May 2004.

The University Award "honours and recognises members of the NUS community who through their consistently high performance and resolute commitment set new benchmarks in the University¹s core competencies in education, research and service".

His research interests include effects of forest loss on birds in Southeast Asia, avian extinctions from tropical forests, ecology and management of house crows and mynas, and the management of birds at airfields, resulting in 65 papers in major international scientific journals including Nature and Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.

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Thu 24 Jun 2004

Nils Møller Andersen, In Memoriam

Category : visitors

"Dr.scient. Nils Møller Andersen, curator of exopterygote insects and chair of the Entomology Department, passed away on May 12, 2004, aged only 63. He fell victim to an extraordinarily aggressive cancer, the first symptoms of which were noticed only a short time earlier."

'Andersen's publication record impresses by its sheer magnitude. He focused on the gerromorphans or semiaquatic bugs and addressed a range of problems within the group - revisionary taxonomy, combined analyses of molecular and morphological characters, functional morphology, palaeontology, historical biogeography. "The Semiaquatic Bugs", the 1982 book for which he earned the Dr.scient. degree, has been said by some to be, by that time, "the best book ever written on a group of insects".

Read the complete In Memoriam by Niels Peder Kristensen, Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen (ZMUC). See also Halobates in ZMUC.

In March 2004, CSIRO published a handbook by Andersen & Tom Weir entitled, "Australian Water Bugs (Hemiptera-Heteroptera, Gerromorpha and Nepomorpha): Their Biology and Identification".

Andersen, who had studied aquatic bugs for nearly 40 years was also part of an international group of entomologists including C. M Yang of Raffles Museum and Lanna Cheng of Scripps Institution of Oceanology, who are in the process of publishing the "Guide to aquatic and semiaquatic Heteroptera of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia".

He last visited the museum in November 1999 and some of his publications with the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology are listed here.

  • Nils Moller Andersen, Chang Man Yang & Herbert Zettel, 2002. Notes on the Microveliinae of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia with the description of two new species of Microvelia Westwood (Hemiptera-Heteroptera, Veliidae). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 50: 111-116.
  • Nils Moller Andersen, Chang Man Yang & Herbert Zettel, 2002. Guide to aquatic and semiaquatic Heteroptera of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. 2. Veliidae. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 50: 231-250.
  • Cheng Lanna, Chang Man Yang & Nils Møller Andersen, 2001. Guide to aquatic and semiaquatic Heteroptera of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. 1. Gerridae and Hermatobatidae. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 49: 129-148.
  • Nils Moller Andersen, 2000. The marine Haloveliinae (Hemiptera: Veliidae) of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, with six new species of Xenobates Esaki. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 48: 273-292.
  • In 1998, Herbert Zettel & Christine Hecher described A. anderseni, a new species from Borneo (Indonesia: Kalimantan) in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology .

    Herbert Zettel & Christine Hecher, 1998. Notes on the Veliidae (Heteroptera) of Borneo: 1. Three new species of Angilia Stål, 1865, with a key to the Oriental species. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 46(2): 335-344.

    Nils departure was sudden, in the midst of active contributions. A monograph on Halobates, co-authored with Lanna Cheng, will be published in June 2004 (Oceanography and Marine Biology, Annual Review, vol. 42).

    He was co-organiser (with Gerry Cassis, Australian Museum, Sydney) of a special symposium "Origins & Diversification of the Heteroptera, with Particular Emphasis on the Australasian Fauna" to be held at the International Entomological Congress in Brisbane, 15-21 August, 2004.

    Graduate student Tran Anh Duc (Systematics & Ecology Lab) who is working on the aquatic Heteroptera of Vietnam, did not have the good fortune to meet Nils before. But they had kept in contact through email and he said, "I received a lot of support and encouragement from him since I started working on this field."

    Niels Peder Kristensen says "With the untimely passing of Nils Møller Andersen the Natural History Museum of Denmark and international systematic entomology have lost an outstanding scientist, and many of us have lost a valued personal friend."

    Posted at 5:29AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

    Thu 24 Jun 2004

    Collections database meeting in Malaysia

    Category : news

    Raffles Museum staff Peter Ng and N Sivasothi were invited to University of Malaya last week (04 - 05 May 2004) by Prof Susan Lim of the Institute of Biological Sciences as resource persons for the Parasitic Invertebrate Collections & Relational Database Management Workshop.

    Peter Ng presented "Biodiversity challenges for Southeast Asia and the role of the Raffles Museum, and Sivasothi, discussed "Managing databases and bibliographies for conservation - the ongoing experience at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS".

    The workshop witnessed lively and even heated debates spilling into lunch and tea as participants, many old friends, evaluated the suggestion of a national museum or depository in Malaysia and the problem faced by the potential loss of invaluable private and institutional collections in the country.

    Posted at 5:29AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

    Thu 24 Jun 2004

    Mouthbrooding and life-history correlates in Betta fighting fish

    Category : pub

    Rüber, L., R. Britz, H. H. Tan, P. K. L. Ng & R. Zardoya, 2004. Evolution of mouthbrooding and life-history correlates in the fighting fish genus Betta. Evolution, 58 (4): 799-813. Abstract. (April 2004).

    Posted at 5:25AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

    Thu 24 Jun 2004

    Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement No. 11 - Ex Anambas

    Category : pub

    The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 11: Scientific Results of the Anambas Expedition 2002 (eds. Peter Ng, Daisy Wowor & Darren Yeo) was published on 22 March 2004, 130p.

    The titles, abstract and papers as well as the overview of the scientific expedition can be viewed here. It includes 13 papers describing the expedition and various faunal and floral groups: nonflowering and flowering plants; polychaete worms and selected groups of molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, echinoderms and fishes. Several news species are described and the volume includes checklists and annotated checklists.

    The Ex Anambas webpage is maintained by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

    Posted at 5:25AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

    Thu 24 Jun 2004

    Søreren Toft, a Danish Spiderman

    Category : visitors

    Søreren Toft visited Li Daiqin's Spider Lab from 25 April to 22 May 2004 as a DUO-Denmark Fellow under the DUO-Denmark Exchange Programme. Soeren, from Department of Ecology and Genetics in Aarhus University, Denmark, is well-known for his studies on the nutritional ecology of generalist arthropod predators. He is also interested in the ecology, life history and behaviour of spiders.

    During his stay, he presented a seminar on "Nutritional Ecology of Generalist Predators". He made excursions to Bukit Timah Natural Reserve, Nee Soon Forest and Kent Ridge Park. Together with Daiqin, he went to Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China for a one-week spider hunting trip.

    Daiqin and Soeren here pictured in Spider Rearing Room with Portia quei, a specialized, spider-eating jumping spider collected back from Yunnan, China. Using this spider, Daiqin and Soeren are examining how this specialist predator balances its nutrients when fed with poor (low protein) and high quality food (high protein), a phenomenon found in generalist predators by Soeren's group in Denmark*.

    *Mayntz, D., Toft, S. & Vollrath, F. 2003. Effects of prey qaulity and availability on the life history of a trap-building predator. Oikos 101: 631-638.

    Posted at 5:25AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

    Thu 24 Jun 2004

    Visiting Curatorship at the Paris Museum: Tan Swee Hee

    Category : research


    Tan Swee Hee in the attic laboratory, pictured between Alain Crosnier and Shane Ahyong.

    Tan Swee Hee (Systematics & Ecology Lab) was invited to the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle (Paris museum) as a visiting curator by the former Directeur de recherches de classe exceptionnelle of Institut de Recherche pour le Développment (IRD, formerly ORSTOM) and world-renowned Penaeid expert, M. Alain Crosnier. The Paris Museum programme invites specialists to work on marine organisms in the vast collection, stocked significantly by the MUSORSTOM expeditions.

    The expeditions are a collaborative effort between the Paris Museum and IRD. Numerous intensive collections began in the late 1970s and the Paris Museum presently holds specimens from 82 MUSORSTOM expeditions from 10 territories, from a total of 5903 collecting stations! This is probably one of the largest collections of Indo-Pacific marine organisms in the world.

    Pictured on the left is a new species of Garthambrus that will be described in an upcoming revision of the genus with Colin McLay of the University of Canterbury.

    Species belonging in the genus Garthambrus are mainly deep-sea crabs and this particular male specimen (17.3 x 12.5 mm) was obtained from Vanuatu at a depth of 460-480 m. Photograph courtesy of MUSORSTOM.

    Swee Hee worked on the the family of crabs known as the Parthenopidae for two months in 1999 and more recently, April of 2004. He identified the MUSORSTOM parthenopids and assisted in the rearrangement and nomenclatural updating of the museum's collection, possibly the world's largest. With this data set and others, he was able to complete a worldwide revision of the Parthenopidae.

    He worked in Crosnier's laboratory at the attic of the Département Systématique et Évolution, which he shared with stomatopod (mantis shrimp) specialist Dr. Shane Ahyong from the Australian Museum. Shane is no stranger to the Raffles Museum as he has several ongoing research projects with staff and students and is a former recipient of the Raffles Museum's Short term visiting research fellowship.

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