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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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


Made with Samizdat,
based on PHPosxom,
based on Blosxom.

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

Thu 21 Jun 2007

Mangrove Dollies! By Patrick Grootaert & Igor Shamsev

Category : research

Long-legged flies (Order Diptera, Family Dolichopodidae) are the passion of Belgian entomologist Patrick Grootaert.

In Feb 2005, we announced his stay with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. Patrick, who is Head of the Department of Entomology at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, was on sabbatical leave here from 1st March 2005 to 28th February 2006. Explaining then that his research interest was the taxonomy, systematics and sexual behaviour of Empidoid flies, we had no idea of the limelight he would cast onto this group!


Photos of dollies Marcus Ng

As a warm up of what lay ahead, his paper with Igor Shamsev was published shortly after in April 2005. There he had described two new species - C. nigripennis was based on a holotype collected from Sungei Buloh and C. singaporensis, from a holotype caught in Chek Jawa.

Almost a year later, we had exciting news. But we saved a "little" titbit for the newspapers and on 6th February 2006, The Straits Times (Singapore) ran a story that screamed "150 new species of flies found."

Two weeks later at his farewell seminar, he revealed that he lay awake at night wondering how he would finish describing all those new species and that within his insect traps there were probably more species in other groups waiting to be discovered! I remember feeling thrilled that even more mangrove insects were being described and dismayed that we could lose many to extinction.

Patrick went from reverence to amusement, cracking the crowd up when he revealed the names he had provided ifor new species - he had named dollies after various members of the research community and some had very interesting etymology!

By now, in the biodiversity community in Singapore at least, the term "dollies" was firmly etched in our minds as dipterans in familiy Dolichopodidae. This was no mean feat, for the flies had to supplant the otherwise popular Dim Sum Dollies!

In late May 2007, the latest in a series of papers was published. It is the "Revision of the genus Elaphropeza Macquart (Diptera: Hybotidae) from the Oriental Region, with a special attention to the fauna of Singapore," by I. V. Shamsev & P. Grootaert. Zootaxa, 1488: 164 pp., 31 May 2007 [pdf]. In this monograph, 59 new species of hybotid flies in the genus Elaphropeza are described - remarkable since only 79 were known of this group before!

'Of the 51 new species only 43 have been given a name.' And amongst the names of new species are names of familar places and people that Patrick had energetically proclaimed, at that seminar in February 2006! They include:

  • Places - E. sime, E. neesoonensis, E. chekjawa, E. bulohensis, E. temasek and E. ubinensis.
  • People - E. yangi, E. yeoi, E. benitotani, E. luanae, E. darrenyeoi, E. murphyi, E. meieri. E. ngi, E. riatanae and E. sivasothii.

Marcus Ng gets lyrical and pens "Names on the fly," The annotated budak, 14 Jun 2007.

"The Belgian entomologist Patrick Grootaert has been busy surveying habitats in Singapore and Southeast Asia in recent years, seeking tiny flies that mostly thrive only in moist, muddy and mangrove-infested swamps. Little is known about them other than their existence and until Grootaert came along, many lacked names. Often, their presence is indicative of habitats that are pristine and consequently most at risk of degradation from human activities.

Fourteen of these new species are found only in mangroves and the bulk of samples were collected right here in Singapore over a year. Grootaert notes that despite the extensive sampling, a third of local species are known only from singletons and doubletons, suggesting that "a large number of species still remain undiscovered."

"The obvious message for conservation from Grootaert's paper is that a vast mountain of unknowns lies within the borders ofÊ this tiny island, which prides itself in biotechnology leadership but seems loathe to protect the unique and irreplaceable genotypic wealth that yet dwell in its diminished ecosystems. "

Links

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Wed 28 Feb 2007

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Vol. 55, No. 1 (28 Feb 2007)

Category : pub

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Vol. 55, No. 1 (28 Feb 2007)

Volume 55 Number 1 of The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology is published today . All the articles are available for free download at the bibliography page, "pdfs of The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 1928 - 2007" - link.

TAXONOMY AND SYSTEMATICS

  • Records of dacine fruit flies and new species of Dacus (Diptera: Tephritidae) in Bhutan. Richard A. I. Drew, M. C. Romig and C. Dorji. Pp. 1-21.
  • The Phortica sensu stricto (Insecta: Diptera: Drosophilidae) from Malaysia. Hong-Wei Chen, Masanori J. Toda, Maklarin B. Lakim and Maryati B. Mohamed. Pp. 23-41.
  • Three new species of Stegana (Oxyphortica) from Yunnan Province, Southwestern China (Insecta: Diptera: Drosophilidae). Miao-Feng Xu, Jian-Jun Gao and Hong-Wei Chen. Pp. 43-47.
  • Paraclius (Diptera: Dolichopodidae: Dolichopodinae) of Singapore, with new species from mangroves. Lili Zhang, Ding Yang and Patrick Grootaert. Pp. 49-62.
  • First records of the family Ochyroceratidae (Arachnida: Araneae) from China, with descriptions of a new genus and eight new species. Yanfeng Tong and Shuqiang Li. Pp. 63-76.
  • Two new freshwater prawns of the genus Macrobrachium Bate, 1868 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Palaemonidae) from the Kelian River, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. D. Wowor and J. Short. Pp. 77-87.
  • Two new species of Gonodactylellus from the Western Pacific (Gonodactylidae: Stomatopoda). Shane T. Ahyong and Mark V. Erdmann. Pp. 89-95.
  • A new species of the hermit crab genus Pagurixus Melin (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura: Paguridae) from the Indo-west Pacific. Tomoyuki Komai and Masayuki Osawa. Pp. 97-105.
  • Revision of the Indo-west Pacific sponge crabs of the genus Petalomera Stimpson, 1858 (Decapoda: Brachyura: Dromiidae). Colin L. Mclay and Peter K. L. Ng. Pp. 107-120.
  • On a new species of Elamenopsis from Singapore, with notes on Crustaenia palawanensis (Serène, 1971)(Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Hymenosomatidae). Tohru Naruse and Peter K. L. Ng. Pp. 121-125.
  • On a new species of cavernicolous crab of the genus Sesarmoides Serène & Soh, 1970 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Sesarmidae) from Sulawesi, Indonesia. Tohru Naruse and Peter K. L. Ng. Pp. 127-130.
  • The “Celestial Pearl Danio”, a new genus and species of colourful minute cyprinid fish from Myanmar (Pisces: Cypriniformes). Tyson R. Roberts. Pp. 131-140.
  • Cyclocheilichthys schoppeae, a new species of freshwater fish (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) from Northern Palawan, Philippines. Miguelito Cervancia and Maurice Kottelat. Pp. 141-145.
  • A review of the catfish genus Pseudexostoma (Siluriformes: Sisoridae) with description of a new species from the upper Salween (Nujiang) basin of China. Wei Zhou, Ying Yang, Xu Li and Ming-Hui Li. Pp. 147-155.
  • A new treefrog of the genus Rhacophorus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from Hainan Island, China. Wen-hao Chou, Michael Wai-Neng Lau and Bosco P. L. Chan. Pp. 157-165.
  • A new Luperosaurus (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from the Sierra Madre of Luzon Island, Philippines. Rafe M. Brown, Arvin C. Diesmos and Melizar V. Duya. Pp. 167-174.

CONSERVATION AND ECOLOGY

  • Butterfly (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera) distribution along an altitudinal gradient on Mount Tangkuban Parahu, West Java, Indonesia. S. S. Tati-Subahar, Anzilni F. Amasya and Devi N. Choesin. Pp. 175-178.
  • The latitudinal distribution of sphingid species richness in continental Southeast Asia: What causes the biodiversity ‘hot spot’ in Northern Thailand? Jan Beck, Ian J. Kitching and Jean Haxaire. Pp. 179-185.
  • Cooperative breeding in the puff-throated bulbul Alophoixus pallidus in Thailand. Andrew J. Pierce, Kihoko Tokue, Korakoch Pobprasert and Wangworn Sankamethawee. Pp. 187-189.
  • The role of birds in matter and energy flow in the ecosystem. Aeshita Mukherjee, B. Wilske and C. K. Borad. Pp. 191-194.
  • Rediscovering the Dugong (Dugong dugon) in Myanmar and capacity building for research and conservation. A. D. Ilangakoon and Tint Tun. Pp. 195-199.
  • Covarvariation in the great calls of rehabilitant and wild gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis). Susan M. Cheyne, David J. Chivers and Jito Sugardjito. Pp. 201-207.
  • A camera trapping inventory for mammals in a mixed use planted forest in Sarawak. Belden Giman, Robert Stuebing, Nyegang Megum, William J. Mcshea and Chad M. Stewart. Pp. 209-215.
  • The Javan Rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus in Borneo. Earl of Cranbrook and Philip J. Piper. Pp. 217-220.

BOOK REVIEW

  • Fishes of Mongolia. A check-list of the fishes known to occur in mongolia with comments on Systematics and Nomenclature. Tan Heok Hui. Pp. 221.
  • Colugo. The Flying Lemurs of South-east Asia. Richard Corlett. Pp. 222.

Posted at 9:36AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 15 Feb 2007

Mr Budak ruminates on biodiversity seminars

Category : bejc

If ever our seminar speakers wondered about the impact their information and ideas expressed hads on their seminar audience, they'd have to look no further than blogger and Toddycat (Raffles Museum volunteer) Marcus Ng.

Inspired by speakers at the Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club (BEJC) seminars held in NUS, he has penned some rather "ducky" (read you'll see why) post-seminar articles on his blog, The annotated budak. Some of these posts have appeared shortly after the talk while others, like his take on the talk by Naomi Pierce are apparently still fermenting on his hardisk. Well. we'll look forward to it appearing in his Biodiversity & Conservation posts!

Isn't it nice to the thoughts expressed in a darkened room in the university seeing the light of day in the blogosphere?

I met Marcus Ng through a web article he wrote about the Raffles Museum; originally posted to Aquatic Quotient in 2003, he republished it on his new blog the following year. Marcus has a finger or two in a variety of blogs and forums and helps circulate relevant biodiversity information there.

Posted at 4:25AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

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."

Read more...

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.""

Read more...

Thanks Marcus!

Posted at 4:04PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Mon 06 Mar 2006

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Volume 54, Issue Number 1, 28 February 2006

Category : pub

RBZ 54 (1): Pp. 1-201. 28 February 2006: Table of contents.
All articles are available for free download at the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology bibliography page.

C.-Q. Xu, A.-P. Liang & .-M. Jiang. The genus Euricania Melichar (Homoptera: Ricaniidae) from China. Pp. 1-10.

A. D. Tran & Chang Man Yang. New species of the water strider genera Eotrechus Kirkaldy and Rhyacobates Esaki (Heteroptera: Gerridae) from Vietnam. Pp. 11-20.

L. A. Ballantyne & C. Lambkin. A phylogenetic reassessment of the rare S. E. Asian firefly genus Pygoluciola Wittmer (Coleoptera: Lampyridae: Luciolinae). Pp. 21-48.

P. Grootaert. The genus Paramedetera (Diptera: Dolichopodidae) in Singapore, with a key to the oriental species. Pp. 49-58.

P. Grootaert. The genus Teuchophorus (Diptera: Dolichopodidae) in Singapore. Pp. 59-82.

I. Bartsch. Copidognathines (Acari: Halacaridae) in mangroves of Singapore. I. description of three species. Pp. 83-92.

P. Dankittipakul & R. JocquŽ. Two new species of Cydrela Thorell (Araneae: Zodariidae) from Thailand. Pp. 93-101.

L. Tu & S. Li. Three new and four newly recorded species of Linyphiinae and Micronetinae spiders (Araneae: Linyphiidae) from Northern Vietnam. Pp. 103-117.

M. S. Zhu, J. X. Zhang & F. Zhang. Rare spiders of the genus Cyclocosmia (Arachnida: Araneae: Ctenizidae) from tropical and subtropical China. Pp. 119-124.

R. Clements. Oophana tiomanensis, a new streptaxid (Gastropoda: Pulmonata: Streptaxidae) from Pulau Tioman, Peninsular Malaysia. Pp. 125-127.

B. L. Stuart, K. Sok & T. Neang. A collection of Amphibians and Reptiles from Hilly Eastern Cambodia. Pp. 129-155.

Checklist of the Herpetofauna of the Seribuat Archipelago, West Malaysia with comments on biogeography, natural history and adaptive types. L. L. Grismer, T. M. Youmans, P. L. Wood, Jr. & J. L. Grismer. Pp. 157-180.

R. B. Stuebing, M. R. Bezuijen, M. Auliya & H. K. Voris. The current and historic distribution of Tomistoma schlegelii (The False Gharial) (MŸller, 1838) (Crocodylia, Reptilia). Pp. 181-197.

Book Reviews by Tan Heok Hui, pp. 199-202.

  • A photographic guide to the Inlandwater fishes of Taiwan. Volume I.
  • A guide to Gobies of Singapore.
  • A first look at the fish species of the middle Malinau. Taxonomy, ecology, vulnerability and importance.
  • An atlas of Ichthyotoxic, Medicinal and Dangerous Fishes.
  • Development of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary as a Totally Protected Area Fish Resources Assessment study of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Batang Ai National Park.

Posted at 12:59PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Fri 03 Mar 2006

Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Volume 53, Issue Number 2, 31st December 2005.

Category : pub

RBZ 53 (2): Pp. 183-289. 31 December 2005.
Table of contents

All articles are available for free download at the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology bibliography page

Y. Xiong, R. Xie & W. Yin. First record of the genus Amphientulus Tuxen, 1981 (Protura: Acerentomidae) from China, with description of a new species. Pp. 183-187.

N. Nieser, P-p. Chen & C. M. Yang. A new subgenus and siz new species of Nepomorpha (Insecta: Heteroptera) from Yunnan, China. Pp. 189-209.

C. Daugeron & P. Grootaert. Empidine dance flies from Singapore and Southern Malaysia (Diptera, Empididae, Empidinae). Pp. 211-220.

J. X. Zhang & D. Li. Four new and one newly recorded species of the jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae: Lyssomaninae & Spartaeine) from (Sub) tropical China. Pp. 221-229.

G. R. Allen & J. E. Randall. Exyrias akihito, a new species of coral-reef goby (Gobiidae) from the western pacific. Pp. 231-235.

I-S. Chen & H. H. Tan. A new species of freshwater goby (Teleostei: Gobiidae: Stiphodon) from Pulau Tioman, Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia. Pp. 237-242.

H. H. Ng. Amblyceps carinatum, a new species of hillstream catfish from Myanmar (Teleostei: Amblycipitidae). Pp. 243-249.

H. H. Ng & I. Rachmatika. Glyptothorax exodon, a new species of rheophilic catfish from Borneo (Teleostei: Sisoridae). Pp. 251-255.

I. Das & A. Haas. A new species of Rhacophorus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from Gunung Gading, Sarawak. Pp. 257-263.

I. Das. A new species of Polypedates (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from Gunung Murud, Sarawak (Northwestern Borneo). Pp. 265-270.

J. C. Murphy, H. K. Voris & M. Auliya. A new species of Enhydris (Serpentes: Colubridae: Homalopsinae) from the Kapuas river system, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Pp. 271-275.

E. Meijaard, S. (B.) van Balen & V. Nijman. The former status of the white-shouldered ibis Pseudibis davisoni on the Barito and Teweh rivers, in Indonesia Borneo. 277-279.

K. Wells & R. Bagchi. Eat in or take away - seed predation and removal by rats (Muridae) during a fruiting event in a dipterocarp rainforest. Pp. 281-286.

V. Nijman. Survey on birds of prey and owls (falconiformes and strigiformes) on Java sea islands: correction and additions. 287-288.

H. H. Tan. Book Review: Fishes of Bitung, Northern Tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Pp. 289.

Posted at 9:16AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Wed 15 Feb 2006

Fri 17 Feb 2006: 12pm (SR4) - Patrick celebrates/laments, "1-year flies in Singapore, can have more lah!"

Category : bejc

"1-year flies in Singapore, can have more lah!"

Patrick Grootaert
Head, Department of Entomology
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences &
Visiting Research Associate,
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS.

Friday, 17th February 2006: 12pm (note change in date)
Seminar Room 4
, Blk S2, Level 2, Department of Biological Sciences, The National University of Singapore
Science Drive 4

Visitors may park at Carpark 10
View the map.

Host: Peter Ng

Abstract - Taxonomy is far from outdated as shown by a one-year study of the dolichopodid and empidid fly fauna in Singapore. At least 190 species of dolichopodids were recorded and about 60 species of empidids. Some 150 species are new for science with at least 4 new genera. The acidic swamp forest in Nee Soon was the most diverse site for rain forest fauna. The dolichopodid mangrove fauna of Sungei Buloh and Chek Jawa are actually the richest mangrove faunas known in the world.

One of the explanations might be that draught periods during the glaciations may have forced speciation in humid habitats such as mountains and mangroves.

Phenology (periods of activity) of insects is still poorly known and understood in Southeast Asia. In mangroves, the peak activity is in May with a dip in July and August followed by a second, but lower peak from September onward. Not a single larva of this mangrove fauna is known.

Genetic distances of morphologically closely related species are big, indicating that speciation is old. The many ancestral groups found in SEA will help in the reconstruction of the phylogenetic tree of the family Dolichopodidae.

About the speaker - Patrick is a charismatic speaker who has excited audiences in Singapore on and off for many years. Each time he came, he explored the biodiversity here and in the region and finally decided to write a book about the dolichopodids of Southeast Asia.

The explosion of new species so astounded him and a realistically manageable title now became the dolichopodids of Singapore. But still this is proving to be too much and and he decided in order to retain his sanity, to first publish about the mangrove fauna.

Besides dolichopodids, other groups in his traps were carefully curated and could be worked on by other scientists. In the process, Patrick has become an evangelist for the fact that modern Singapore can still serve as an open laboratory. An astounding insect diversity still awaits discovery by scientists and naturalists, nestled in the many ecosystems and niches that pepper the island.

Now he's wondering just how he will publish it all, how there is more out there, and how he will miss the food here!

See: "150 new species of flies found." By Chang Ai-Lien. The Straits Times, 06 Feb 2006. Belgian expert discovers them in one year of research here.

ALL ARE WELCOME!

Posted at 3:54AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Mon 06 Feb 2006

"150 new species of flies found" - in Singapore

Category : news

Patrick Grootaert, the Head of the Department of Entomology of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, has spent a year with us at the Raffles Museum.

Originally intending to publish a book on dolilchopodids off Southeast Asia, the explosion of diversity he uncovered in Singapore alone has provided plenty of material and hardly enough time to describe it all. In fact he is now restricting the book to the species foundd in mangroves of Singapore.

He is a passionate and exciting speaker and will discuss his findings and thoughts about tropical diversity and his Singapore sabbatical experience at a seminar on 23 Feb 2006: 2pm at the National University of Singapore. The seminar notice will be announced here.


"150 new species of flies found." By Chang Ai-Lien. The Straits Times, 06 Feb 2006. Belgian expert discovers them in one year of research here. [pdf]

CALL him lord of the flies.

In a single year here, Dr Patrick Grootaert has uncovered an unprecedented 150 new species of long-legged flies - to add to the 44 already known to exist.

'This is really a large number, especially for such a small country,' said Dr Grootaert, curator of flies at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences who has spent the past year in Singapore. 'For a biologist, it's a dream come true.'

Dr Grootaert, 53, is a specialist in long-legged flies, which with their large greenish eyes are some of the more attractive members of the fly kingdom. They are also its assassins, and have developed large mouth parts to crush insects and pierce them to suck out their juices.

Some of the richest repositories of his six-legged treasures were the Central Catchment Area, Sungei Buloh and Chek Jawa. The mangroves here are home to perhaps the world's richest collection of long-legged flies, he said.

'I was so surprised to find so many species here, with different communities living in microhabitats just 500m apart. We are just scratching the surface and the information is already overwhelming.'

He said the vast spectrum of creatures still undiscovered in tiny pockets of biodiversity here makes it even more critical to save what is left.

'Singapore is like an open laboratory. All you need is a short drive and you get to see insects in their natural habitats, displaying and feeding,' he said.

This is not the first time flies have been under the microscope here. In 2003, a group of researchers was given $250,000 by the United States National Science Foundation to study flies. The five-year project, which started in 2004, is part of a massive international effort, called Tree Of Life, to document the world's biodiversity.

Surprisingly little is known about flies, even thought they have been a key part of the earth's fauna for at least 250 million years.

About 120,000 species of flies and mosquitoes - which belong to the same group as they have only one pair of functional wings (other insects have two) - have been discovered.

However, scientists estimate that millions of species remain unknown, particularly in this region.

Many will never be known. Singapore has lost about half its animal species in the past 200 years.

A National University of Singapore (NUS) study in 2003 estimated that at least 881 of 3,196 recorded species have vanished forever. Taking into account the probable number of animals here before detailed records were made in the late 1800s, the study predicted that the actual figure is even higher.

Singapore's nature reserves, which make up 0.25 4 - 5* [Ed.] per cent of the island's land area, are home to many of the native plants and animals here. Because of its tropical location, the variety of species that have survived is still rich enough to draw scientists from all over the world hoping to unearth new flora and fauna.

Specimens of the flies discovered by Dr Grootaert are housed at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at NUS.

Museum director Peter Ng is one of many scientists who believe less than 10 per cent of the animals of South-east Asia are known to science. Dr Grootaert's work was yet more evidence of the multitude of creatures just waiting to be discovered, he said.

'We must go all out to save what we have left.'

ailien@sph.com.sg

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

*Brook et al (2003) estimated that more than 50% of Singapore's native biodiversity is found in 0.25% of Singapore's land area (within forest reserves), and not that Singapore only has 0.25% of nature reserves.


"Repulsive? No, fascinating" By Chang Ai-Lien. The Straits Times, 06 Feb 2006. Belgian expert discovers them in one year of research here. [pdf]

Repulsive? No, fascinating

FAR from being dirty and repulsive, flies are fascinating, reckons Belgian fly expert Patrick Grootaert, who has uncovered a wealth of new species here.

'It is really surprising how beautiful and complex these little creatures are,' said the curator of flies at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

The males of one species, for example, are armed with barbed legs to wrestle each other during heated mating matches, while the female waits on the sidelines for the winner to claim her.

Other males have special bristles on their forelegs which they wave at potential mates.

There is much to learn about the humble fly and the field is starting to get more attention these days, said Dr Grootaert.

'People weren't interested before, but now more are turning to it because it is one of the unexplored frontiers of science.'

Since different species live under precise conditions in forests and swamps, they can also be a good litmus test of whether a certain environment or ecosystem is healthy.

Dr Grootaert's speciality - long-legged flies - even has potential benefits. Well-known for their predatory behaviour, they could be used in pest control, he said.

Photos:

Thinophilus
A very diverse group of flies found on the mudflats in mangroves, which feeds on larvae of other insects in the mud. Dr Grootaert found 18 such species here, mostly in Sungei Buloh and Chek Jawa.

Neurigona squamifera
Its forelegs (below) are adorned with black flattened bristles, which the male waves to invite the female to mate.

ÊPromedetera
A new group of flies first found on the National University of Singapore campus, they live on tree trunks.

Posted at 9:44AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 21 Apr 2005

Two new species of dipterans from mangroves in Singapore

Category : pub

Raffles Museum's sabbatical visitor Patrick Grootaert has, with Igor Shamsev, described two new species of dipterans of the genus Chersodromia Walker from mangroves of Singapore - C. nigripennis and C. singaporensis.

Shamsev, I & P. Grootaert, 2005. Two new species of the genus Chersodromia Walker (Diptera: Hybotidae) from Southeast Asia. Zootaxa, 942: 1-10. [pdf].

The tachydromiine fly genus Chersodromia Walker belongs to the unique complex of the empidoids species inhabiting the intertidal and supralittoral zones of sea shores. Representatives of this group are often very small flies (from less than 1.0 to 2.0 mm long) usually occupying very specialised niches, e.g. reef-flats, sandy beaches, crab holes, wet rocks, the mangrove directly exposed to the sea and only rarely penetrate inland.

Chersodromia includes currently about 48 species and is undoubtedly distributed worldwide. However, it has been studied most extensively from the Palaearctic only, and these the first two species described form the Oriental region.'

Based on fresh field collections between 2000-2005, C. nigripennis, named after its dark wings, was found in mangroves of Sungei Buloh, Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris and Chek Jawa. The holotype is from Sungei Buloh, 2003. A second species, C. singaporensis, has been named after Singapore and was found in Noordin beach, Chek Jawa and Sedili Kechil, Johor. The holotype is from Chek Jawa, 2002.

Posted at 4:47AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Fri 11 Feb 2005

Patrick Grootaert, 1st March 2005 - 28th February 2006

Category : visitors

Patrick Grootaert, the Head of the Department of Entomology of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, will be hosted by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research from 1st March 2005 to 28th February 2006 during his sabbatical leave.

Patrick's research is on taxonomy, systematics and sexual behaviour of Empidoid flies. He will be studying local and regional fauna during his visit.

Currently he has several papers in press on Singapore species, and during his sabbatical, he will survey the dolichopodid fly fauna of Singapore in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, Pulau Ubin and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Patrick intends to finish a book on Dolichopodid flies of Singapore; of which there are estimated to be about 120 species.

He will be hosted by Tan Heok Hui and Peter Ng

Posted at 5:51AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,