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Creative Commons License
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

Wed 22 Nov 2006

Expedition Santo 2006 - Straits Times report

Category : research

"Expedition Santo 2006: Global Biodiversity Survey from sea bottom to ridge crests" - Tan Heok Hui, Tan Swee Hee, Jose Christopher Mendoza and Peter Ng participated in the Santos 2006 expedition in September 2006.

In late October, they were interviewed by the local broadsheet, The Straits Times and an article appeared a couple of weeks later. I inserted photos Swee Hee sent me and Li Ling obligingly sent me her photo of a living robber crab (not from this expedition).

"NUS staff help unearth 10 new crab species."
By Jessica Lim. The Straits Times, 10 Nov 2006.

The four were part of global team which combed Pacific islands in major expedition.

CHILLI crab eaters need not apply. Four National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers did. Crab lovers in the academic sense, they joined a global research team which spent six weeks scouring the seabeds off Vanuatu, a pristine group of islands in the South Pacific. The team braved 6m swells to dredge buckets of debris from depths of up to 300m, eel bites and 12-hour days sifting through debris using tweezers.

The result: About 650 species of crabs were unearthed with at least 10 species new to science waiting to be sorted, named and photographed. The 80-strong research group from 22 countries can lay claim to being the largest marine biodiversity expedition in modern times. New species found included a furry crab with red-tipped claws, and five types of box crabs which have special shell-cutting teeth.

The islands - such as Espiritu Santo, which is the largest in the Vanuatu chain - are home to many unique species not found elsewhere. "The islands are not well explored, and they have a wide variety of pristine habitats," said Professor Peter Ng, director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at NUS, who was on the trip.

Up to 30 million species of organisms remain undiscovered and about 1,800 new species are discovered each year. The crabs found on the recent trip will reach Singapore in the next two months. They will then be identified and catalogued. The results will be presented to the Vanuatu government to help it decide which parts of the islands it wants to conserve.

Marine species are known to be of value to pharmaceutical researchers. For example, copper-based blood from the horseshoe crab is purified and made into test kits to detect small amounts of bacteria. Identifying species also helps point out the poisonous ones. Expedition member Tan Heok Hui, a researcher at Raffles Museum, said: "People catch poisonous crabs and eat them unknowingly. The poison attacks the nervous system and can lead to death within a day."

NUS contributed $30,000 towards the 1.2 million euros (S$2.4 million) project. The team has been on two other similar large-scale expeditions and uncovered more than 2,000 species so far.

Asked if he eats crabs, NUS researcher and team member Tan Swee Hee said he has been allergic to them since 1990. "I have killed too many crabs in my lifetime, and this is payback. I can't eat them!"


Copyright 2006 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Creatures found in South Pacific seabeds

Crabby long legs is cave dweller

Photo by J. C. Mendoza

The Discoplax longipes (long legs in Latin) is a land crab that can grow up to half a metre in leg span. Like most other land crabs, it has sensory hairs on its legs which it uses to 'taste' chemicals in the air, directing it to food. The nocturnal crab is commonly found in caves near the coast, but returns to the water periodically to re-wet its gills and lay eggs.

Hermit's a feisty food thief

Photo by Koh Li Ling, from Christmas Island, September 2006.

For food, this 2.5kg hermit crab scales coconut trees, cuts the fruits down with its claws and pries them open to get to the fleshy bits. The world's largest arthropod, it can grow up to 35cm in width, inclusive of its pincers. Commonly referred to as the robber crab, it is known to creep into villagers' homes to steal food and attack people with its claws. The species is a delicacy in the islands of Vanuatu.

Photo by J. C. Mendoza
Tiny sand lover is easy to miss

Can you spot its pincers? Embedding itself in the soggy sands on the seashore is the sand grain crab.

This species is just 2mm or 3mm larger than a grain of sand.

It survives on organic matter like algae which it picks up using its small pincers.

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Fri 27 Oct 2006

Basics of ecology in two hours!

Category : people

A couple of years ago, our dean at the Faculty of Science realised the Research Officers in the Raffles Museum could teach, so he put us to work.

So we became Research Officers/Instructors and Swee Hee, Heok Hui and I starting teaching undergraduate courses. We now agonise over biodiversity modules that have to compress significant topics into mere morsels!

Lecture preparation is agonsing - how much to leave out? How much time to sacrifice on theatrics in order to embed concepts into students' minds?

It's an interesting challenge and each year we tweak our lectures more and more, and add more and more local content, which is fun! Here Swee Hee is studiously preparing for a lecture that's coming up at 12pm. He has just two hours to impart the basics of ecology to General Biology students. Good luck mate!

Posted at 3:48AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 26 Oct 2006

Santo 2006 expedition participants interviewed

Category : research

26 Oct 2006 - Straits Times reporter, Jessica Lim, dropped by the Raffles Museum to interview Raffles Museum participants of Expedition Santo 2006.

The four, Tan Heok Hui, Tan Swee Hee, Jose Christopher Mendoza and Peter Ng were on the island of Santo in Vanuatu between 8 Sep - 22 Oct 2006.

It was an interesting trip full of pleasant surprises and members only suffered delayed luggage, one sprained ankle, one strained back and one moray eel bite!

We've been too busy to blog about it but promise to catch up in the days ahead...

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Wed 30 Aug 2006

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Vol. 54, No. 2 (31 August 2006)

Category : pub

Volume 54 Number 2 of The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology is published today, 31 Aug 2006. All the articles are immediately available for free download at the bibliography page, pdfs of The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 1928 - 2006. - Link.

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Vol. 54, No. 2 (31 August 2006): Pp. 203-492.



Aquatic Heteroptera (Insecta: Gerromorpha and Nepomorpha) from Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China. Lanna Cheng, Chang Man Yang, Daiqin Li & Hongmao Liu.

Description of a new species of Borolinus Bernhauer (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Osoriinae) from Yunna, China, with two new records from Southern China. Jie Wu & Hong-zhang Zhou.

A case of suspected coral snake (Hemibungarus calligaster) mimicry by lepidopteran larvae (Bracca sp.) from Luzon island, Philippines. Rafe M. Brown

Potential global range expansion of a new invasive species, the Erythrina Gall Wasp, Quadrastichus erythrinae Kim (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Eulophidae). Hong-mei Li, Hui Xiao, Hu Peng, Hong-Xiang Han & Da-yong Xue.

A newly recorded genus and a new species of the spider family Pimoidae from Yunna, China (Arachnida: Araneae). Zi-Zhong Yang, Ming-Sheng Zhu & Da-Xiang Song

A new genus and species of jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae: Spartaeinae) from Malaysia. J. X. Zhang, Jeremy R. W. Woon & Daiqin Li

Report on a collection of freshwater shrimps (Crustacea: Decapoda: Caridea) from the Philippines, with descriptions of four new species. Yixiong Cai & Shigemitsu Shokita

Caridina spongicola, new species, a freshwater shrimp (Crustacea: Decapoda: Atyidae) from the ancient Malili lake system of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Kristina Zitzler & Yixiong Cai.

A new species of troglobitic freshwater prawn of the genus Macrobrachium from Southern China (Crustacea: Decapoda: Palaemonidae). Jingchun Li, Yixiong Cai & Arthur Clarke.

Decapod crustaceans deposited in the zoological museum of Copenhagen by William Stimpson in 1859. Raymond B. Manning & Karen J. Reed.

New records and species of Alpheidae (Crustacea: Decapoda) from Vietnam. Part I. Genus Salmoneus Holthuis, 1955. Arthur Anker & Ivan N. Marin

Description of Crinotonia anastasiae, new genus, new species, a new crinoid associated pontoniine shrimp (Crustacea: Caridea) from Nha Trang Bay, Vietnam, with inclusion of Periclimenes attenuatus, 1971, in the new genus. Ivan Marin.

Acanthanas pusillus, new genus, new species a miniature alpheid shrimp with spiny eyes from the Philippines (Crustacea: Decapoda). Arthur Anker, Denis Poddoubtchenko & Ming-Shiou Jeng.

A new species of Eucalliax Manning & Felder, 1991 (Decapoda: Callianassidae) from the Philippines. Peter C. Dworschak.

Additional pandaloid shrimps from the South China Sea (Crustacea: Decapoda: Caridea), with description of one new species. Xinzheng Li.

New species of Ilyoplax (Brachyura: Ocypodidae: Dotillinae) from the Philippines and Indonesia: behavioral, molecular, and morphological evidence. Jun Kitaura & Keiji Wada.

The freshwater crabs of Sulawesi, with descriptions of two new genera and four new species (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Parathelphusidae). Oliver K. S. Chia & Peter K. L. Ng.

The invasive caribbean bivalve Mytilopsis sallei (Dreissenidae) introduced to Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia. K. S. Tan & Brian Morton.

Brachidontes striatulus (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) introduced into Singapore. Brian Morton & K. S. Tan.

A new sea-star species (Asteroidea: Luidiidae) from the South China Sea. Wei Liu, Yulin Liao & Xinzheng Li.

Garra rotundinasus, a new species of cyprinid fish (Pisces: Teleostei) from the Upper Irrawaddy river basin, China. E. Zhang

Identification of sailfin catfishes (Teleostei: Loricariidae) in Southeastern Asia. Lawrence M. Page & Robert H. Robins.

New species of the threadfin genus Polynemus (Teleostei: Polynemidae) from the Mekong river basin, Vietnam, with comments on the Mekong species of Polynemus. Hiroyuki Motomura & Shinji Tsukawaki.

The tadpole of Rana glandulosa Boulenger (Anura: Ranidae). Robert F. Inger, Robert B. Stuebing & Bryan L. Stuart.

Camera trapping and conservation in Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak. Mohd. Azlan J. & Engkamat Lading.

Effects of shore height and visitor pressure on the diversity and distribution of four intertidal taxa at Labrador beach, Singapore. Danwei Huang, Peter A. Todd, Loke Ming Chou, Kheng Hui Ang, Pei Ya Boon, Liyan Cheng, Han Ling & Wan-Jean Lee

Existence of intra-colonial paralogues of the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) impedes studies of intra-colonial genetic variation in the sclearactinian coral Diploastrea heliopora (Lamark 1816). Kevin K. Y. Lam, Adrian H. B. Loo, Peter A. Todd, Fook Tim Chew & Loke Ming Chou.

Book Reviews

  • A field guide to the fishes of Kuching Rivers, Sarawak, Malaysia Borneo. By Tan Heok Hui.
  • The Borneo Suckers. Revision of the Torrent Loaches of Borneo (Balitoridae: Gastronmyzon, Neogastromyzon). By Peter K. L. Ng

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Tue 11 Jul 2006

Borneo Suckers launched on 7th July 2006

Category : pub

Kota Kinabalu, Fri 07 Jul 2006 - Heok Hui went up to Sabah for the launch of his book, "The Borneo Suckers. Revision of the Torrent Loaches of Borneo (Balitoridae: Gastromyzon, Neogastromyzon)" by C. L. Chan's Natural History Publications (Borneo). More photos on the flickr album.

A seminar about the Borneo Suckers by Heok Hui has been arranged for this Friday 14 Jul 2006: 10am, at the DBS Conference Room (Blk S3, Level 5), Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Science Drive 4. Visitors may park at Carpark 10 (see map). A few copies of the book will be available for sale then at a cost of S$90 (hardcover).

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Wed 21 Jun 2006

The most acccurate rendition of that most unfortunate bird (species), the Dodo

Category : dinosaurs

The Dinosaurs! exhibition might be filed with towering and fearsome dinosaurs from the Cretaceous, but one recent bird captured the imagination of all involved in setting up the exhibition - the Dodo.

Finally, there exists an accurate rendition of this unfortunate species; in fact the model specially prepared for the exhibition by Phil Fraley Productions is the most accurate model of the species in the world to date. That's little comfort of course, since "Extinction is Forever!"

Phil Fraley, by the way, has "25 years of experience producing natural history museum exhibits" and led the team that mounted the actual fossil T. rex Sue at The Field Museum in Chicago. That weighed more than 1,500kg

I was away during the highly anticipated unveiling but Heok Hui's photos captured an excitement that threatened to surpass the assembly of the well-known dinosaurs in the Singapore Science Centre's Annex on 17th May 2006. Meanwhile, Tan ("Dino-boy") Swee Hee emailed me the document that Peter had enthusiasticallly drummed up for the exhibit.

17th May 2006, L-R: Phil Fraley (Phil Fraley Productions), Clarence Sirisena (Asst. Chief Executive, Singapore Science Centre) and Peter Ng (Director, Raffles Museum) and the freshly unwrapped model that arrived safe and sound.

The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) model by Phil Fraley Productions.
By Peter Ng

The dodo is the most iconic extinct bird of the modern era. Discovered by Dutch sailors in 1598, it took less than a century before the bird was exterminated by Man. By 1690, the bird was extinct. It is a bird that has been immortalized in many stories, most notably in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and more recently in the movie Ice Age.

The dodo is a large flightless pigeon, growing to the size of a small turkey and lived only on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Scientists puzzled over what kind of bird it was after its discovery. Its scientific name reflects its confused history - some thought it was a relative of the raptorial vulture (hence "Raphus"); others believed it was related to cuckoos (hence "cucullatus"). We now know it is a large ground pigeon.

For a herbivorous bird to grow large and lose the ability to fly is no surprise - the island never had large predators anyway! Its size, inability to fly and general lack of fear of man proved fatal when the dodo encountered hungry sailors, and the host of non-native or alien animals that were introduced to the island like dogs, cats and rats. The human and alien animal pressure was to prove fatal to the species.

The present model of the dodo by Phil Fraley Productions is currently the MOST accurate rendition of this famous extinct bird. Many older models and drawings depict the dodo as a short, stout and clumsy bird. But the fact is this: even though we caused its extinction in relatively modern times there is NO complete specimen of the dodo anywhere on the planet. Not even one proper taxidermised specimen. Not even one complete skeleton!

Other than paintings and sketches dating back to the 1600s, we have no real idea what real dodos look like. Many of the paintings were based on second- or even third-hand information and so their accuracy is in doubt and many stories about dodos are difficult to believe.

Phil Fraley Productions had looked at all the evidence available about the bird, analyzed what is believed to be the most accurate data and paintings available, studied skulls and bones in museums, talked with ornithologists and biologists (including staff from the Raffles Museum) and consulted with dodo experts extensively to arrive at this version.

It looks quite different from all earlier versions and models in other museums. They have given this bird a "life" and character well beyond the folklore associated with it - that it was a silly looking, ill-adapted bird, doomed to extinction anyway.

The Dodo model acquired by the Singapore Science Centre and NUS' Faculty of Science will survive beyond the Dinosaurs! exhibition, for further use in education. It is too critical and grim a reminder of the short-sightedness of man to let this bird get away.

Photos by Tan Heok Hui, 17th May 2006.

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Tue 20 Jun 2006

Akan Datang (Coming Soon) - Borneo Suckers, a new book by Tan Heok Hui

Category : pub

20 Jun 2006 - Heok Hui quietly put this on the museum office table today. I realised congratulations are in order for the publication of his first book, to be launched next month; well done young man!

Tan, H. H., 2006. The Borneo Suckers. Revision of the Torrent Loaches of Borneo (Balitoridae: Gastromyzon, Neogastromyzon). Natural History Publications (Borneo). 245pp.

36 species of Gastromyzon are described; 15 are new and 21 are re-descriptions of the type material of existing species. Neogastromyzon is also revised, with re-descriptions of the two known species and the description of four new species.

The chapters include:

  • Introduction
  • Biogeographical observations
  • Ecological observations
  • Economic value
  • Bornean endemic fish genera and species
  • Taxonomy

See Heok Hui's profile in the Raffles Museum Newsletter No. 2 (2002).

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Tue 30 May 2006

Cranbrook and Pangolins

Category : people

The Earl of Cranbrook was conferred a Sarawakian honour last September (2005) - "Gathorne Earl of Cranbrook was the sole recipient of the Panglima Negara Bintang Sarawak (Honorary) (PNBS(H)" (Bernama).

He dropped by the Raffles Museum on a brief visit on a stopover on the way to Sarawak once again. He did mention that he's a Datuk twice over - congratulations on the new grandkid, GC!

He spent some time at the Dinosaurs! exhibition at Peter Ng's urging and got his hand stamped with that special Dino imprint! Wheen he came back late after lunch, he bumped into me at the office. This time round it was not swiftlets he was after but pangolins so Norman Lim dragged out some of his recent specimens.

I accompanied them downstairs to the lab andd watched as he extracted the meta tarsal of a roadkill from Singapore as Norman watched.

Norman says pangolin road kills are still relatively common on the Bukit Timah Expressway, something that seeems to have been happening continuously since th BJE was first laid down

Looking on is Heok Hui who named a species of Gastromyzon after GC. He passed him copies of the paper he publshed the names in. Gastromyzon cranbrooki is found just 20 metres upstream of the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre!

Posted at 4:30PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Mon 29 May 2006

Third species of Paedocypris found in Bukit Bauk, Terengganu, Malaysia

Category : southeastasia

"Yet another rare fish species find." By Rosli Zakaria. New Straits Times, 27 May 2006. [pdf]

DUNGUN: A third species of the world's smallest fish from the genus Paedocypris has been found in a peat swamp in the foothills of Bukit Bauk urban recreational forest.

Biology lecturer Amirrudin Ahmad of Kolej Universiti Sains [& Teknologi] Malaysia discovered the fish during a three-day scientific expedition in the reserve.

The first freshwater specimen, Paedocypris megamegenthes, was found in Kuching and Bukit Merah, Perak, in 2001. The second, identified as Paedocypris progenitica, was found in Sumatra in 2004.

"This discovery was the highlight of the Bukit Bauk expedition," said Professor Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Mohammad, who led the team. "We are confident this will attract biologists from around the world to do more research on the bio-diversity of Bukit Bauk," he added.

Amirrudin said the new discovery was significant because it was the only undisturbed habitat of this species. "There are still thousands of the fish in that peat swamp. My worry is that this habitat will end up like the one in Bukit Merah, disturbed by the construction of a road that killed all the specimens," he said.

The Bukit Bauk expedition also uncovered many rare herbaceous and plant species, as well as insects, bats and birds. Abdul Latiff said Bukit Bauk was an important gene bank for a variety of herbs and rare plants, including palms and ginger. The expedition ended yesterday.

See also guangming.com.my.

And "Gigantic green lung for Dungun." By K. Suthakar with photos by Victor K.K. Ng. The Star, 22 July 2005.

Thanks to Charles Leh, Sarawak Museum, for the news article, via Tan Heok Hui.

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Tue 28 Mar 2006

30 Mar 2006: 12pm - Kottelat on "2400 years of Ichthyology"

Category : bejc

Meetings of the Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club, Department of Biological Sciences, NUS

"2400 years of Ichthyology, but an inventory still far from complete."

Maurice Kottelat
Honorary Research Associate,
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research,
National University of Singapore

Host: Tan Heok Hui

Thursday, 30th March 2006
12pm - 2 pm

DBS Conference Room
Blk S3, Level 5,
Dept. Biological Sciences,
National University of Singapore,
Science Drive 4
Visitors may park at Carpark 10; see map

About the talk - '2400 years' alludes to the number of years since the first comprehensive scientific fish work was published by Aristotelis. Very little of similar influence was published until the mid-16th Century. Maurice discusses recent estimates on the total number of fishes, known and unknown, and the basis for these numbers, and discusses why a higher increase of newly discovered species will be revealed in fresh waters rather than marine environments. However, many newly discovered taxa remain undescribed due to a shortage of trained taxonomists and that the publication pace needs to increase for a chance to provide data for management, conservation and research.

About the speaker - Maurice is the world leading authority on the taxonomy of Eurasian freshwater fishes, with a focus on species diversity and classification. He is one of the most experienced field workers in ichthyology and has conducted numerous expeditions particularly in Asia. He ranks as the most influential fish systematist in Europe and is consulted for his expertise on aquatic life in environmental assessments by international funding bodies, including the World Bank.

Maurice is founder and the editor of the quarterly scientific periodical Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwaters and president of the European Ichthyological Society. He has produced over 220 scientific publications, including eight books some of which cover entire national freshwater fish faunas. His field research resulted in the discovery and/or description of about 440 fish species new to science including the world's smallest vertebrate, Paedocypris progentica.

Synopses derived from The Petrus Artedi Tricentennial Symposium on Systematic Ichthyology where Maurice was honoured as Artedi Lecturer 2005. He is presently on a field trip with Heok Hui!

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