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Sat 11 Mar 2006
Of long-legged flies and false gharials
Category : research
Mr Budak (a.k.a. Marcus Ng) reflects on a paper and a seminar. He penned "A tale of two-pteras" based on Patrick Grotaert's celebratory seminar:
"Dr. Grootaert is no maverick flyboy but he certainly buzzes with enthusiasm when he speaks about his favourite little animals with unreasonably long names. The highlight of his talk, in which he presents an overview of a productive annus mirabilis far from Belgium's gloomy dunes, was dolichopodid or long-legged (dolicho being Greek for long) flies. ...
Grootaert's fascination with Singapore's dolichopodid flies stems not only from his discovery of some 150 new species (including 4 new genera) over his year-long exploration of the island's habitats. There are also many findings that shed new light as well as cast wider shadows on the phylogeny and biogeography of dolichopodids and allied fly families in relation to the geological history of Southeast Asia.
Grootaert's fascination with Singapore's dolichopodid flies stems not only from his discovery of some 150 new species (including 4 new genera) over his year-long exploration of the island's habitats. There are also many findings that shed new light as well as cast wider shadows on the phylogeny and biogeography of dolichopodids and allied fly families in relation to the geological history of Southeast Asia. ...
Malaise traps were set up through the year at the
following [several] locales. ... The traps yielded the following results:
Bukit Timah: Taban Valley - 16 species
Sime Forest - 42 species
Nee Soon - 84 species
Sungei Buloh - 1 species
Chek Jawa - 59 species
A rather surprisingly low species count was obtained from Taban Valley. Grootaert offers the probably reasons of habitat disturbance, regular fogging at nearby residential areas and degraded streams. The valley has changed significantly in the 10 years since he first visited it. "In the beginning there were a lot of huge trees and not much ground vegetation," he recalled. But now it has become a secondary forest and some streams have dried up."
And then he writes about "The fate of the false gharial" based on the paper, R. B. Stuebing, M. R. Bezuijen, M. Auliya & H. K. Voris, 2006. The current and historic distribution of Tomistoma schlegelii (The False Gharial) (Môller, 1838) (Crocodylia, Reptilia). The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 54(1): 181-197:
"The salties' cousin, the false gharial (Tomistoma schlegelii), faces a rather less certain future. This crocodilian ranks as another true giant, attaining a length of about 5 metres. ... Its relatively slender jaws (which resembles those of the true gharial, Gavialis gangeticus) from India) are built for capturing fish and other aquatic creatures whole, rather than ripping into the flesh of terrestrial vertebrates.
Studies on the ecology and distribution of false gharials are as scarce as the animals themselves, so a newly-published paper by Robert B. Stuebing et al. in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology offers a valuable status report on this little-known giant. ...
In present day Southeast Asia, the species' populations are fragmented and appear to be largely confined to a region about 5 degrees north and south of the equator. The authors write that populations in Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia are under heavy pressure from burgeoning human populations and land development, leaving Sarawak and Kalimantan as the species' last stronghold. ... Echoing the discoverers of Paedocypris progenetica, the paper highlights the sad plight of the region's peat swamps. Less than 50% of Borneo's peatlands, for instance, remain intact, as a result of logging, swamp reclamation and forest fires.""