Raffles Museum news

Research and education at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore.


Habitatnews - The Biology Refugia - Blog RSS Feed - Comments RSS

Raffles Museum: Map

This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Linnaeus 300. Make your own badge here.

Raffles Museum News
email subscription

New posts will be delivered in a single email daily by FeedBurner

* BEJC (seminars)
* Education
* Media
* Meetings
* Museums
* News
* People
* Publications
* Research
* Resources
* Southeast Asia
* Talks
* Toddycats
* Visitors
* Archive

* Media Reports
* Articles
* Archive - Apr 2004
* Links

* Announcements
* Coordinators
* Info for hosts



* Toddycats! (webpage)

* Toddycats Blog

* Intl Coastal Cleanup
* Pedal Ubin!
* Pasir Panjang Heritage

* Raffles Bulletin of Zoology

* Raffles Museum Newsletter

Raffles Bulletin 1928-2005
pdf of all papers

Local Resources
* Habitatnews
* Chek Jawa
* Mangroves
* Coral Reefs

Regional Resources
* SEAsian Biodiversity
* Asian Otters

* Museum Roundtable

Museum Blogs.Org

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

Tue 06 Mar 2007

Maurice Kottelat, Doctor es Sciences Honoris Causa

Category : people

08 Nov 2006 - Raffles Museum's Honorary Research Associate, Dr. Maurice Kottelat, is the world's leading authority on the taxonomy of Eurasian freshwater fishes. He is also one of the most experienced field workers in ichthyology and has conducted numerous expeditions particularly in Asia.

Last November, Maurice was awarded a Dr. Sc. Honoris Causa by the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland.

The citation, translated from French, reads,

"The University of Neuchatel, on recommendation of the Faculty of Sciences, hereby confers the degree of Doctor es Sciences Honoris Causa to Mr Maurice Kottelat, expert consultant in ichthyology, representative of a tradition of naturalist biology honored in Neuchatel, for his exceptional contribution to the systematics and ecology of freshwater fish and indispensable initiatives to conserve biodiversity."

Photos by David Houncheringer.

See the programme here: Dies academicus 2006 and pictures here. For earlier reports of Maurice in Raffles Museum News, click this link. Maurice is now in Singapore on one of his regular research visits.

Thanks to Claudine Assad-Fuhrimann for permission to use the photos.

Posted at 8:10AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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 | ,

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!

Posted at 4:18AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Fri 17 Mar 2006

Fishy folk!

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.

L-R: Venbula Slechtova, Jorg Bohlen, Maurice Kottelat and Peter Ng chatting after lunch. (Accent marks missing in first two names).

Maurice and Peter earlier this morning. I heard a familiar voice so burst through the door with the camera. Yes it was Maurice, and he quickly rolled his chair behind the desk to hide his sexy legs (he's wearing bermudas). This is not a Coke advert, but lets just say the museum director is mildly addicted to the stuff and always keeps a bottle handy.

Posted at 8:11AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Sat 04 Feb 2006

So which is the smallest species of fish in the world? (Part II)

Category : pub

Following a suggestion of Maurice Kottelat, Ralf Britz put together a male and female Photocorynus spiniceps (left) and Paedocypris progenetica (right) to drive the point home that the latter is the smallest species.

He suggested, "Have a look. Ask around which one is the smallest!"

Maurice Kottelat opined, "A picture says more than 1000 words," obviously in reference to my verbose post. Sigh!

For all Raffles Museum News posts about the world's smallest fish, click here.

Posted at 1:13AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 02 Feb 2006

So which is the smallest species of fish in the world?

Category : pub

02 Feb 2006 - Updated with comments from Maurice Kottelat and extracts from a news@nature.com post and the original paper. 31 Jan 2006 title of "A parasitic male anglerfish that's even smaller!" is now a subheading.

A parasitic male anglerfish that's even smaller!

Days after the flurry of reports about Paedocypris progenetica, world's smallest species of fish and vertebrate reached the world, a press release by the University of Washington (27 Jan 2006) brought attention to a 2005 paper that describes a 6.2mm sexually mature parasitic male anglerfish, Photocorynus spiniceps, attached to the back of a 46mm female. This claim to the world's smallest fish and vertebrate was listed in a review paper by T. W. Pietsch (see below).

The 6.2 mm long male Photocorynus spiniceps with the claim to the world's smallest vertebrate,
was fused to the middle of the back of a 46 mm long female. Photo by T.W. Pietsch.

Photocorynus spiniceps, parasitic male, 7.4mm, attached to a 46-mm female,
ZMUC P92133 (after Bertelsen, 1951) - (fig. 9E in Pietsch, 2005).

'Five of the 11 families of anglerfish exhibit sexual parasitism in which the much smaller males fuse for life with their mates by biting onto the sides, backs or bellies of a female. An attached male (2-8 in some species!) essentially turns the female into a hermaphrodite, providing her with the ability to reproduce while derives his nutrition from the female. The 6.2 mm male, for instance, has testes so huge they nearly fill his entire body cavity, crowding his other internal organs.'

This is fascinating reading and you should download and read the review paper. [Pietsch, T.W., 2005. Dimorphism, parastitism, and sex revisited: Modes of reproduction among deep-sea ceratioid anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes). Ichthyological Research, 52(33): 207-236.]

How was this paper overlooked?

The anglerfish paper was published in the September 2005 issue of Ichthyological Research which takes time to reach libraries. Meanwhile, the peat swamp fish paper, originally written in December 2004, was submitted, reviewed and accepted during that period.

Wait a minute, does smallest fish = smallest species?

Can the parasitic male alone claim record for an entire species? The females are much larger, and well above the list of contenders for smallest species. How does one define a small fish anyway? Maurice Kottelat had this to say:

"When we talk about small fish or vertebrate, we talk about species. E.g. In our paper, each time we use 'smallest' it is a relation with a species' name not with a specimen. [Read the discussion there on miniature fishes that begins, "A number of fish species discovered over the past few years have maximal known sizes ranging from 8.0 to 15.0 mm ... ].

Our paper discuss miniature fishes, for which there is a definition set by Weitzman & Vari (1988) Weitzman, S. H. & Vari, R. P. 1988. Miniaturization in South American freshwater fishes; an overview and discussion. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash., 101: 444-465. The definition has to do with species which reproduce below 20 mm, or if reproduction data are not available, species less than 26 mm.

Since Photocorynus spiniceps does not reproduce below the 20 mm threshold, and unless it is demonstrated that the female is mature below that size, it is not a miniature species."

So who's the smallest fish in the world?

Meet Paedocypris progenetica, smallest fish and vertebrate organism in the world. Yes its time to reiterate the announcement from last week. The discussion was convincing enough and the claim holds. Paedocypris progenetica appears to regain its record-holding position.

Some reports that covered the latest discussion appear in: news.telegraph, BBC News and news@nature.com; see also Google Alerts (not as widely covered as the original, but a lot more puns this time!)

Interestingly, when news@nature.com got a third party involved, he provided a alternative viewpoint (more appropriately described as a sucker punch); see: "Fish fight breaks out over tiny catch." By Michael Hopkin. news@Nature.com, 31 Jan 2006.

"Salamanders are the smallest vertebrates - there's not even any question," says David Wake of the University of California, Berkeley.

These amphibians are typically at least several centimetres long. But that is tiny in relation to the size of their genome, Wake points out. Of the 500 different salamander species, many have well over ten times as much genetic material in each cell as humans do. This makes for big, cumbersome cells, which means that adopting a complex body form is more of an achievement given the same body size, Wake argues.

"I'm always surprised that biologists who want to make sophisticated arguments resort to using a metre stick," he says. "It's not just millimetres that count - it's how you use those millimetres.""


Just as well the taxonomists aren't too heated up about the debate; after all there are a lot more fish in the ocean (and streams) and if habitats don't disappear, the enthusiastic work of taxonomists and systematists may reveal further claims to the title of the world's smallest fish.

"Even Ted Pietsch, the the University of Washington fish expert behind the harrumphing, says there's no sense in quibbling over the "smallest" title: "There are always difficulties in talking about the smallest - would that be length, volume or weight - the debate goes round and round." - "Big flap over smallest fish." By Alan Boyle. MSNBC Cosmic Log, 30 Jan 2006.

Records of the world's smallest fish and vertebrates

My curiosity was aroused - which other species of fish were earlier contenders for the title of the smallest vertebrate, where were they from and what ecosystems did they inhabit?

So I did a bit of googling. Deep water parasitic male angler fish, marine and brackish-water gobies and freshwater cyprinids - all smaller than shrimp and many insects! Unmaginable! Aquarists are busy joking about how these fish will choke their filters and more jokes about the fish that got away. Sigh.

For the record, the largest fish in the world is the plankton-eating Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus). Due to a demand for its fins, trade in its parts is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). The species is listed as "vulnerable" in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

  • 1981 - 8mm Trimmatom nanus (Dwarf Goby) female with 'fully developed eggs', from Indo-West Pacific coral reefs. Ref: Winterbottom, R. & Emery, A. R., 1981. A new genus and two new species of gobiid fishes (Perciformes) from the Chagos Archipelago, Central Indian Ocean. Environ. Biol. Fish. 6, 139-149. See page on Australian Museum Fish Site.
  • 1927 - 9mm Pandaka pygmaea (Dwarf Pygmy Goby) from mangrove and brackish waters in The Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. Ref: Herre, A. W. C. T., 1927. Gobies of the Philippines and the China Sea. Monograph of the Bureau of Science, Manila: 1-352. See species summary in FishBase. IUCN Redlist - Critically endangered.
  • 2004 - 8.4mm Schindleria brevipinguis (Stout Infantfish) gravid female from the Lizard Island area, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia; holotype collected in 1982. Ref: Watson, W. & H.J. Walker Jr., 2004. The world's smallest vertebrate, Schindleria brevipinguis, a new paedomorphic species in the family Schindleriidae (Perciformes: Gobioidei). Records of the Australian Museum. 56(2): 139-142. See Australian Museum Fish Site.
  • 2005 - 6.2mm Photocorynus spiniceps male with ripe testes. Specimen was collected in deep waters off The Philippines. Ref: Pietsch, T.W., 2005. Dimorphism, parastitism, and sex revisited: Modes of reproduction among deep-sea ceratioid anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes). Ichthyological Research, 52(33): 207-236. Pdf of paper available for download at University of Washington Fish Collection. A1925 paper by Regan refers to a 7.3mm 'attached male' of the same species (listed in Pietsch's review) but I do not know if this was a sexually mature fish. If it was, it would have set the record that year to be eclipsed only in 2005. Ref: Regan CT (1925). Dwarfed males parasitic on the females in oceanic angler-fishes (Pediculati, Ceratioidea). Proc. R. Soc. Lond., B, 97:386-400.
  • 2006 - 7.9mm Paedocypris progenetica female with ripe eggs, from the peat swamp forests of Jambi, Sumatra; first encountered in 1996. Also, with ripe eggs, the 8.8mm Paedocypris micromegethes. Ref: Kottelat, M., R. Britz, Tan. H. H. & K-E. 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. Paper available for download now.

Note that if you read the original papers, the size ranges provided for the entire material examined may include immatures. You have to look for statements about sexually mature individuals.

It was interesting to note that in many records, the point of actual collection, discovery and publication took between a few years to a couple of decades. A phenomenal diversity awaits the work of scientists, and this time lag highlights a fundamental role that museums serve in preserving, cataloguing, maintaining and holding expedition specimens until they can be described.

I am now wondering, will anything even smaller turn up next? Something even more incredible that we can hardly fathom? Or has it been wiped off the face of the earth already, and their habitats along with it?

Ralf Britz had this to say (Natural History Museum webpage, 01 Feb 2006):

"The whole exchange is quite amusing and in the end, what is really important is that we appreciate that there are still many areas on this globe that are unexplored, containing vast numbers of new species, among them very unusual ones that need to be discovered and their biology and anatomy explored."

"For some habitats we are facing a race against time, because they disappear faster than we can survey them."

One of the peat swamp habitats in Jambi, Sumatra,
host to Paedocypris progenetica.
Here today, gone tomorrow?

Posted at 3:30AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Sun 29 Jan 2006

More on Paedocypris progenetica

Category : pub

27 Jan 2006 - Hours after the wire article about Paedocypris progenetica was released on 25 Jan 2006, more than 200 webpages and agencies around the world picked up the story, including the Singapore and Malaysian press [CNA - Straits Times - The Star] and blogs like Tomorrow.sg and Pharyngula.

Since there is a great curiosity about the fish, I asked Tan Heok Hui, one of the co-authors of the Paedocypris paper for the images they released to the press.

Heok Hui is a Research Officer at the Raffles Museum. Amongst other things, he is well known as a fighting fish expert, having discovered more than half the existing species through expeditions.

Our director Peter Ng calls him "Singapore's Indiana Jones" for his enthusiastic work in the depths of jungles in Thailand, Borneo, Java, Sumatra and Malaysia.

Meanwhile a very amused Maurice in Switzerland has been sending us links from coverage there - tsr (tv)

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."

After taking the plunge into numerous swamps on the Malay Peninsula and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, [Peter] Ng's team has found some 80 fish new to science, bringing the estimate of the total number of species in the swamps to 200300. "My students say they have too much to study," he says. A high proportion of the species are exclusive to the peat-swamp environment." - link

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:

  • Peter Ng, J. B. Tay, & K. K. P. Lim, 1994. Diversity and conservation of blackwater fishes in Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in the North Selangor peat swamp forest. Hydrobiologia, 285 (1-3): 203 - 218. DOI: 10.1007/BF00005667 - link.
  • Peter Ng, 1998. "Peat Swamp fishes of Southeast Asia - Diversity Under Threat." - link.
  • Peter Ng & Tan Heok Hui, 1997. "Freshwater Fishes of Southeast Asia - Potential for the Aquarium Fish Trade and Conservation Issues." - article link, journal link.

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.

There is a pattern in these fires, say wetlands experts. Peat swamp infernos have become more common in this region in recent years, according to Faizal Parish, executive director of conservation group Wetlands International Asia Pacific.

"This was not the case up until 10 years ago," he says. The advent of peat swamp fires, he adds, parallels logging and draining of water from peat swamps.

- "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.

Posted at 11:28AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

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.

Maurice Kottelat and Peter Ng getting around the problem of viewing the fish one day in the Systematics & Ecology Lab! They had the lab in stitches but luckily Tan Heok Hui took the photo. Thanks to Joelle Lai for remembering!

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.

The record-busting newcomer to the biodiversity book, Paedocypris progenetica, is a distant cousin of the carp, say the discoverers, who publish their findings on Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal.

Skinny and transparent, the elusive fish lives in highly acid peat swamps on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and in the Malaysian part of Borneo that are threatened by forestry and agriculture.

These so-called "blackwater" swamps are a unique landscape of flooded trees growing in water-logged, soft peaty soil that is often several meters (10 feet) thick.

The water is stained reddish-black, like very dark tea, appearing black at the surface. It is extraordinarily acidic, having a pH value of only three, the same as a sour apple.

The scientists needed a special stereoscopic microscope to accurately measure the fish.

The smallest adult specimen they netted was a mature Paedocypris progenetica female, found in Sumatra, that came to just 7.9mm (0.31 of an inch) from nose to tail, making it not only the world's smallest fish but the smallest vertebrate too.

She nudged out the previous record holder, a marine fish of the Western Pacific called the dwarf goby (Trimmatom nanus), which comes in at 8mm (0.32 of an inch) at sexual maturity.

The team also found a related Paedocypris species, P. micromegethes, in Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo.

At 8.8mm (0.35 of an inch), P. micromegethes is the second smallest freshwater vertebrate ever found.

The fish was discovered by Maurice Kottelat and Tan Heok Hui, who are researchers at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore.

They were assisted by Ralf Britz of Britain's National Museum of Natural History and Kai-Erik Witte at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tuebingen, Germany.

Kottelat said P. progenetica has "a very rudimentary skull" which leaves the brain exposed.

Evolutionary pressures have caused the fish to develop highly modified fins to survive in its special environment. Males also have a tough pad on the front of the pelvic girdle that may be used to help them clutch onto females during mating.

"The discovery of such a tiny and bizarre fish highlights how little we know about the diversity of Southeast Asia," said Kottelat.

"This is all the more serious because the habitat of this fish is disappearing very fast, and the fate of the species is now in doubt."

Copyright 2006 Agence France Presse.

Copyright 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Posted at 6:06AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Mon 03 Oct 2005

The Petrus Artedi Tricentennial Symposium on Systematic Ichthyology

Category : meetings

Or of a rare sighting of Maurice Kottelat in a suit.

From the Artedi website:

13 Sep 2005 - "The Artedi Tricentennial Symposium on Ichthyology commemorated the birth of Artedi by providing a forum of excellence for summarizing the present state of systematic ichthyology.

The invited speakers represent today's frontline of research on the inventory and systematic arrangement of the global fish fauna, as well as phylogenetics and biological information systems.

The programme opened with a day of public lectures, held on the 13th of September in the Beijer Hall at the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences.

Amongst the five Artedi Lecturers for 2005 was Maurice Kottelat, Honorary Research Associate, Raffles Museum of Bioddiversity Research, who delivered a lecture "2349 years", 'alluding to the number of years since the first comprehensive scientific fish work was written by Aristotelis'.

Lynne R. Parenti, a frequent collaborator with museum staff, was also an Artedi Lecturer 2005, and presented "The Relationship Between Biogeography and Phylogeny of Fishes", 'which demonstrated the need to include the biogeographic perspective.'


Posted at 7:06PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Thu 14 Jul 2005

Southeast Asian Freshwater Fish Diversity

Category : pub

Hot off the press! - 01 Jul 2005 - The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement No. 13: Southeast Asian Freshwater Fish Diversity. 208 pp. Editors: M. Kottelat & D. C. J. Yeo.

Each copy is S$80, excluding GST and postage, and can be purchased via cash or cheque from:
Ms. Greasi Simon
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
45 Science Drive 2, Block S6, #03-01.
Tel: +65-6874-5082.
Email: greasi@nus.edu.sg

For credit card purchase, please contact Nature's Niche.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword. Maurice Kottelat.
  • Data on the genesis of the Atlas Ichthyologique from a little known French paper by P. Bleeker. Martien J. P. van Oijen.
  • Garra bispinosa, a new species of cyprinid fish (Teleostei: Cypriniformes) from Yunnan, Southwest China. E. Zhang.
  • Schistura disparizona, a new species of loach from Salween drainage in Yunnan (Teleostei: Balitoridae). Wei Zhou and Maurice Kottelat.
  • Balitora nantingensis (Teleostei: Balitoridae), a new hillstream loach from Salween drainage in Yunnan, southwestern China. Xiao-Yong Chen, Gui-Hua Cui and Jun-Xing Yang.
  • Schistura cryptofasciata, a new loach (Cypriniformes: Balitoridae) from Salween drainage in Yunnan, southwestern China. Xiao-Yong Chen, De-Ping Kong and Jun-Xing Yang.
  • Four new species of Akysis (Teleostei: Siluriformes: Akysidae) from mainland Southeast Asia, with comments on A. similis. Heok Hee Ng and Walter J. Rainboth.
  • The fighting fishes (Teleostei: Osphronemidae: genus Betta) of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. Tan Heok Hui and Peter K. L. Ng.
  • Diagnoses of six new species of Parosphromenus (Teleostei: Osphronemidae) from Malay Peninsula and Borneo, with notes on other species. Maurice Kottelat and Peter K. L. Ng.
  • The labyrinth fishes (Teleostei: Anabantoidei, Channoidei) of Sumatra, Indonesia. Tan Heok Hui and Peter K. L. Ng.
  • The fishes of Danau Sentarum National Park and the Kapuas Lakes area, Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia. Maurice Kottelat and Enis Widjanarti.
  • Fishes of the Rajang Basin, Sarawak, Malaysia. Lynne R. Parenti and Kelvin K. P. Lim

Posted at 1:51AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,

Read more ...