Raffles Museum news
Research and education at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore.
05 Jul 2007 - Raffles Museum News has shifted to http://news.rafflesmuseum.net
Fri 17 Mar 2006
Category : visitors
17 Mar 2006 - Venbula Slechtova & Jorg Bohlen from the Laboratory of Fish Genetics, Institute of Animal Physiology, Academy of the Sciebnce, Czech Republic, dropped in for a chat after their field trip to peat swamps in Malaysia. Their new of receeding peat swamps was sad to hear as we had visited these areas in the early 90's when logging was just beginning and they were satoundingly rich sites for fish diversity within an hour or two .
Maurice Kottelat (Honorary Research Assocaite, Raffles Museum) has come for a few weeks of work with Tan Heok Hui and we hope to schedule a seminar on Paedocypris while we have two of the authors on campus.
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.
C.-Q. Xu, A.-P. Liang & .-M. Jiang. The genus Euricania Melichar (Homoptera: Ricaniidae) from China. Pp. 1-10.
Sun 29 Jan 2006
More on Paedocypris progenetica
Category : pub
Down at Heok Hui's lab, I looked at the fish darting about in the tank. I understood why they initially dismissed these as fish fry - the fish fit the part! Eventually it was the females bearing eggs that led to the realisation that this was a really small fish! And it is a 7.9mm female that holds the record. Heok Hui clarified that the reddish-bellies of the live fish were simply a sign they had just been fed and not to mistake that for body pigmentation!
The fish are available in the aquarium trade and there are enthusiasts all over the world who rear such blackwater fish, fully aware that they may become all but extinct in the near future.
The threatened peat swamp forests of Southeast Asia
My early years in Peter's lab, in between looking for some rather elusive otters, was spent in explorations of Malaysia's peat swamps. It was a real eye-opener for me to find a thriving diversity of colurful small fish emerge in the dark-colured but clear acidic waters. And the dawning and distressing realisation that most people were unaware about the existence of this rich ecosystem.
And diverse it was -
"The pH of such swamp waters can be as low as 3 -- about the same as vinegar. "Until recently, peat swamps were assumed to be hostile, acidic places where the biodiversity was low. But that's because no one had actually jumped in."
In the years that followed, however, most of these places simply disappeared. Large tracts of peat swamp forest were loggged, even as new records and species were being discovered. See:
And the logging and draining of peat swamps appear to have escalated the annual forest fires that began to plague the region in the late 80's:
"Some 800,000ha of forest and plantations burned in Indonesia last month. But it wasn't just any forest. It was peat swamp forest, in particular. At the same time, some 160ha of peat forest was also ablaze in Kampung Penadah, Pekan, in Pahang. It took two weeks for the firemen to douse the flames.
- "Vital to save peat swamps." By Tan Cheng Li. The Star, The Star, 11 Nov 1997 - link.
Singapore's loss of biodiversity seems to be a forecast for a similarly catastrophic loss of biodiversity in Southeast Asia. Will any of the lessons learnt translate into solutions?
I can only hope that this brief media interest will help highlight existing efforts of individuals and agencies attempting to promote the conservation of these marvels of biodiversity that ultimately affect the environmental health of this planet.
See also Navjot S. Sodhi & Barry W. Brook, 2005. "Southeast Asian Biodiversity in Crisis." Cambridge Tropical Biology Series, 192 pp.
Updated, 29 Jan 2006 - one irrelevant link removed.
Wed 25 Jan 2006
Paedocypris - the world's smallest fish and vertebrate!
Category : pub
Maurice Kottelat, Ralf Britz, Tan Heok Hui & Kai-Erik Witte, 2006. Paedocypris, a new genus of Southeast Asian cyprinid fish with a remarkable sexual dimorphism, comprises the world's smallest vertebrate. Proc. R. Soc. B. doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3419.
Abstract - Paedocypris is a new genus of paedomorphic cyprinid fish from highly acidic blackwater peat swamps in Southeast Asia.
It includes two new species, one of which (Paedocypris progenetica) appears to be the smallest fish and vertebrate known, with the smallest mature female measuring a mere 7.9 mm.
Paedocypris has many 'larval' features typically associated with paedomorphic fish (e.g. narrow frontals that leave the brain unprotected dorsally by bone and a precaudal larval-fin-fold), but, uniquely among fishes, males also possess highly modified pelvic fins with hypertrophied muscles and a keratinized pad in front of the pelvic girdle, which, we hypothesize, function together as a clasping or holding device, thereby suggesting an unusual reproductive mode.
Unfortunately, habitat destruction jeopardizes the survival of these fishes and thus opportunities for further research.
Meanwhile, lab alumni Alvin Wong spotted this while in Beijing!
"Miniature Asian fish sets a whale of a record." AFP/Yahoo!, 25 Jan 2006.
Scientists from Europe and Singapore say they have discovered the world's tiniest fish -- a species that lives in peat wetlands in Southeast Asia and, when fully grown, is the size of a large mosquito.
Mon 15 Aug 2005
Coastal Ecology Workshop at Changi Beach
Category : education
10 Aug 2005 - Raffles Museum organised its first full-day ecology workshop for a group of 22 students from Raffles Institution's Gifted Program. Led by a goby expert from NUS, Zeehan Jaafar and workshop coordinator, Wang Luan Keng, the group explored the rich diversity of Changi Beach through beach combing and seining from the early morning.
The students overcame their initial hesitation about entering the water, and were soon enjoying the use of seine nets for a quick survey of the marine life in the water column.
Later they combed the beach, observing the special adaptations for living in specific zones, and some specimens were brought back by the students to the university for preservation and identification.
Amongst the specimens lay a surprise - Stalix sp., a new record of jawfish from Singapore.
And a rare porcelain crab turned out to be a new record for Changi! Raphidopus ciliatus Stimpson, 1858 (Family Porcellanidae) was previously only known from the deeper waters of Kallang basin. The student who had collected the specimen was asked to donate the crab to the research collection, and proudly presented it to A/Prof Peter Ng, international crustacean expert and Director of the Raffles Museum. That prompteda freenzied search by each and every student in the hope of a new and exciting find!
After learning about preservation methods and the curation of intertidal specimens, Peter Ng also gave an interesting presentation on the biodiversity of seashores of Singapore. Later Zeehan brought the students on a guided tour of the museum's Public Gallery, and engaged in a fiery Q&A sesssion.
At the end of the workshop, the tired students were pleasantly surprised when awarded each with a certificate of attendance.
See the photo album for more photos.
Workshop assistant Eunice Tan kindly compiled feedback. This is what they said:
Seining: 14 students said they enjoyed seining the most because:
Workshop: 20 students said the workshop has increased their knowledge and interest in nature and science because:
Thanks to Wang Luan Keng for this report, Eunice Tan for the workshop photos and Tan Heok Hui for the photo of Stalix sp.
Thu 14 Jul 2005
Southeast Asian Freshwater Fish Diversity
Category : pub
Table of Contents
Wed 20 Apr 2005
New Malayan species of torrent loach
Category : pub
Tan, Heok Hui & Peter K. L. Ng, 2005. Homaloptera parclitella, a new species of torrent loach from the Malay Peninsula, with redescription of H. orthogoniata (Teleostei: Balitoridae). Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwaters, 16 (1): 1-12. [pdf, 4.6MB low res scan].
Homaloptera parclitella, new species, from the Malay Peninsula, differs from H. orthogoniata, from Borneo, in having two dark brown saddle blotches on dorsum (vs. three) as well as possessing more lateral, predorsal and caudal peduncle scales. Homaloptera orthogoniata is redescribed from type and fresh material; and a lectotype is designated.
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
Mon 24 Jan 2005
Category : education
E-mail claims odd creatures washed up in Phuket after tsunami.
"One has huge black eyes and a gaping mouth with deadly serrated teeth. Another is a crimson-red crustacean with spidery limbs and potent claws. These and other alien-looking creatures were washed up on the shores of Phuket in the wake of the Dec 26 tsunami - or so an e-mail that has been circulating on the Internet claims.
Titled 'Deep Sea Creatures 1 - Found At Phuket Seaside After Tsunami', it comes attached with pictures and names of these subterranean lifeforms.
Dr Bertrand Richer de Forges, 56, a French marine biologist who specialises in deep-sea crabs, was piqued when he heard from colleagues about the e-mail recently. He got hold of it, saw the pictures and was shocked. 'It's a joke. These are the pictures from my expedition,' he tells LifeStyle.
Based on the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, Dr Richer de Forges is currently involved in a research project at the invitation of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore.
When LifeStyle checked with Associate Professor Peter Ng from the Raffles Museum about the e-mail, he said that the scientist who actually found the fish - Dr Richer de Forges - was working with him.
The latter says the creatures in the e-mail were not from Phuket but were, in fact, caught in a Tasman Sea expedition he undertook with international scientists in the South Pacific in May and June 2003.
The pictures must have been lifted from a website posted at www.oceans.gov.au, he adds. ["Creature Features" by Mark Norman, Museum Victoria, Norfanz Voyage, 10 May - 8 Jun 2003]
The site details the deep-sea habitats and biodiversity found in the Australian-New Zealand research voyage.
He is certain about the origins of the e-mailed pictures for various reasons. For one thing, the identification labels shown in them were the same ones used by his team. He also recognised the deck of the cruise ship shown in the photographs. Plus, it is extremely unlikely that these deep-sea creatures could be washed up, he says. Only fishes that live around 50m below the water surface will be caught up in a tsunami as the waves reach 'greater height and speed at shallower sea depths'.
In contrast, the deep-sea creatures shown in the pictures can only be found 500m to 2,000m below the water surface, and hence are unlikely to have been affected by a tidal wave. In a big underwater earthquake - such as the one that took place off Aceh, Sumatra - such creatures are likely to get buried by the displaced sediments in the seabed, he says.
There are rare exceptions: Some deep-sea creatures like the giant squid may be washed ashore after a storm. 'The squid floats when it is dead, which is not true for other deep-sea fishes.'
As to how the pictures from the website ended up in the spam e-mail on the tsunami, the mystery remains.
'It's all a fraud,' he says with a laugh."
[On 29th December 2004, museum volunteeer Anand Sundaram Balan forwarded us the pictures he received in an email but the subject line at the time just said "deep sea creatures." A label on one of the pictures revealed a pre-printed specimen label with the words norfanz, and a google search revealed the link. ]
Thanks to Tan Heok Hui for the alert.
Mon 20 Dec 2004
Fran Sabrido Rey from the Institute of Marine Research, Spain
Category : visitors
Friday, 17 Dec 2004 - Fran Sabrido Rey of the Institute of Marine Research, Department of Marine Ecology and Resources, Spain, visited the Raffles Museum, and was hosted by Tan Heok Hui.
Previously working on fish ecology in the North Atlantic, he is turning his attention to the tropics and will be working in the Caribbean.
Read more ...
Photo by Tan Heok Hui