10 July 2009

"The Wonders of Singapore's Mangroves Insect Fauna"

Singapore is the richest! In his talk, Dr Patrick Grootaert today shared exciting findings about our mangroves.
Although the textbooks suggest insects don't thrive in mangroves, his work in Singapore suggests otherwise. And for his specialty, the dance flies (Dolichopodidae), Dr Patrick Grootaert has found in Singapore, the richest fauna actually known in the world!

Dr Grootaert shared how during his earlier study, he found an unexpectedly large number of species in our mangroves! In addition, species found in the Sungei Buloh mangroves were very different from those found in Chek Jawa!
He shared that different dance flies are found in different parts of the mangroves. Near the waters' edge under the bright sunlight were large (for dance flies) ones that were fierce predators.
In shadier spots, different kinds again.
Near pools, yet others.
Some are found on mangrove tree trunks!
And in disturbed sites, yet more species, some of which he has not seen before.
And there are those that are associated with ghost crabs!
We have the richest fauna actually known in the world! Wow!
Based on his earlier year-long study, Dr Grootaert returned to Singapore to do a one-month survey of 11 spots in our mangroves. Called the Singapore Mangrove Insect Project (SMIP), it is a collaboration between NParks and NUS to do a sampling campaign in May 2009. I know many of my friends at NParks Biodiversity Centre worked very hard during this period to regularly monitor these sampling sites.
Dr Grootaert shared some of the great photos taken of the insects collected, by the National University of Singapore, Evolutionary Biology Lab. Dance flies are really tiny so these photos are awesome! (My photos of the photos are not so good, sorry).
Dance flies are actually quite beautiful.
The team also sorted out through thousands of specimens to figure out what they were. Among some of the insects collected from our mangroves were butterflies and skippers.
Lots and lots of moths.
And bees.
Other kinds of flies, with aquatic larvae that are adapted to breathe in oxygen-poor waters found in mangroves.
An odd kind of fly. I've seen these before in the mangroves and I didn't know they were flies!
And of course, mossies!! Even the intrepid Dr Grootaert mentioned the ferocity of the mosquitos on Pulau Semakau. I don't feel like such a wimp anymore. The photos seems to be taken on someone's arm. Ouch.
He also shared some special insects encountered during the short sampling period. Web spinners, really bizarre insects that apparently spin webs!
And he shared how it took a while to figure out these insects. Of which only 3 of the 8 found were previously recorded for Singapore!
And the preliminary findings are most encouraging indeed!
This is but the preliminary stages of the Singapore Mangrove Insect Project which is going to be a massive endeavour to better understand our mangroves and document their insect life. It was a most exciting talk and I'm really looking forward to learning more from the Project! Thanks to Dr Patrick Grootaert for driving this project and giving the talk!

Marcus was at the talk and I'm going to slack off now and just wait for his blog post which no doubt will be far more detailed and informative.


  1. Wow, so many insect species thriving in our mangroves. Pity that I could not attend the talk.
    That open-winged butterfly certainly looks new to me.

  2. Thanks Ria for the update. sigh...I wanted to be there today to listen to Dr. Grootaert, and perhaps discuss something with him further....sigh...down with a flu.......

    Thanks Ria



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