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
Sat 18 Nov 2006
"Perak fish" - a new Paedocypris sp.?
Category : southeastasia
"Upbeat over 'Perak fish' find." By Audrey Dermawan.
GEORGE TOWN: Biggest is not always best, sometimes the smallest can be a source of pride, and a big scientific step forward.
Earlier reports of Paedocypris sp.
Mon 29 May 2006
Third species of Paedocypris found in Bukit Bauk, Terengganu, Malaysia
Category : southeastasia
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.
Tue 28 Mar 2006
30 Mar 2006: 12pm - Kottelat on "2400 years of Ichthyology"
Category : bejc
"2400 years of Ichthyology, but an inventory still far from complete."
Host: Tan Heok Hui
Thursday, 30th March 2006
DBS Conference Room
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!
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.
Tue 14 Mar 2006
Semakau badges and Paedocypris t-shirt
Category : education
One day I walked in to the museum to find a new panerl up against the glass window at the office next to the Public Gallery office. The education officers made t-shirts and badges for sale!
The Semakau badges are on sale for $1.50 each, but a set goes for $7. The t-shirts are on sale for $10.50 and come in dark blue and grey. Toddycats and Department of Biological Science staff get a 20% discount.
Pity about the tagline though - its says "one of the world's smallest vertebrate" instead of "smallest vertebrate". Perhaps they were put off by challenges to the title, but Paedocypris progentica is clearly undisputed.
Sat 11 Mar 2006
Of long-legged flies and false gharials
Category : research
"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. ...
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.
'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.
So who's the smallest fish in the world?
Interestingly, when firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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."
host to Paedocypris progenetica.
Here today, gone tomorrow?
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.
Fri 27 Jan 2006
Mr Budak on Paedocypris progenetica
Category : pub