01 January 2013

New fish record at Pulau Hantu and other finds

First record of the blue-tailed dartfish Ptereleotris hanae for Singapore at Pulau Hantu by Dr Zeehan Jaafar and Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers!
These and other fascinating articles have been uploaded on Nature in Singapore of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

Although a common species in the Indo-Pacific, the blue-tailed dartfish had never been recorded to occur in Singapore waters. Members of this genus occur within and near rocky reefs and coral reefs. They hover close to the substrate and take refuge in burrows and crevices when threatened.

Read more about it: Jaafar Z. & D. Ng, 2012. New record of the blue-tailed dartfish, Ptereleotris hanae (Teleostei: Ptereleotridae) in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 369–371. [PDF, 214 KB]

Crabby seagrasses!

What kind of crabs can be found in our seagrass meadows? Lee Qi did a study to find out! She found that even though Chek Jawa had the highest number of genera and greatest abundance of crabs, its overall diversity was comparable to that of Changi Beach. Pulau Semakau was the least diverse of the three sites.
Life in seagrass meadows: Baby flower crab (Portunus pelagicus)
Read more about it: Lee, Q., Siti Maryam Yaakub, N. K. Ng, P. L. A. Erftemeije & P. A. Todd, 2012. The crab fauna of three seagrass meadows in Singapore: a pilot study. Nature in Singapore, 5: 363–368. [PDF, 518 KB]
 
Rare giant fig on our shores

Ficus stricta is a fig previously unrecorded in Singapore, and was listed as an exotic by Chong et al. (2010). However, since it was only recently collected in 2004, and with Singapore lying within the general geographic range of the species, the authors believe that the species is native but previously uncollected and overlooked because of its rarity. it is only known from Changi and Pulau Ubin, and they propose it as nationally critically endangered.
a, Tree on an outcrop at Pulau Ubin depicted by
John Turnbull Thomson in 1850,
entitled ―Grooved stones at Pulo Ubin near Singapore‖ (shown in part);
b, tree which bears a striking resemblance to the Ficus stricta
individual designated as a Heritage Tree at Celestial Resort.
Oriental pied hornbills were observed to feed on its ripe syconia, and the authors believe that it is an important food resource of this and other bird species. Therefore, they suggest that existing reproductive individuals should be conserved and more plants should be planted in parks and gardens to support animal biodiversity.

Read more about it: Yeo, C. K., X. Y. Ng, W. Q. Ng, K. Y. Chong, W. F. Ang & Ali bin Ibrahim, 2012. Ficus stricta (Miq.) Miq.: A new record in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 351–358. [PDF, 2.47 MB]

Wildlife at a concerete canal

What kinds of birds can be seen here? Dr Leong Tzi Ming shares lots of interesting observations of birds from egrets, herons to kingfishers and the variety of fishes that they ate. Some like this kingfisher even nest in the canal!
Tzi Ming says: Having observed the intimate dependency of the fish-eating birds on the canal and its fish diversity, the quality of the water immediately comes to mind. Potentially disruptive compounds, such as heavy metals, pesticides, detergents may inadvertently leach into such canals and eventually find their way up the food chain into key predators, including these herons and egrets. Hence, such bird species may actually serve as key bio-indicators of the health of particular channels and even their associated catchment areas.

Read more about it: Leong, T. M., 2012. Observations of piscivorous avifauna along Siglap Canal, Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 291–307. [PDF, 3.23 MB]

Is Singapore a destination for animals fleeing development in Malaysia and Indonesia?

The author notes that a number of bird and mammal species have become more abundant and widespread in Singapore in recent years, including at least three birds (Gallus gallus, Vanellus indicus, Strix seloputo) and one mammal, the wild boar (Sus scrofa), although all were either formerly rare or had highly localised distributions. Current ecological knowledge of these species show that all can exploit newly deforested or cultivated lands and in documented instances, can occur more abundantly in cultivated areas. While empirical evidence is limited, distributional records concentrated along Singapore’s borderlands (e.g., Western Catchment Area and Pulau Ubin) suggest that source populations of these species are in southern Peninsular Malaysia (Johor state) and possibly the Riau Islands (Indonesia), where tropical forests have undergone massive conversion to cultivation, particularly for oil palm and rubber. All four species can easily disperse into Singapore from neighbouring source populations and colonise unoccupied habitats like scrublands and secondary forests. There are however few studies documenting these landscape-level ecological changes and how biodiversity can be affected in the long term, especially in Singapore’s context. Based on a theoretical framework of island biogeography, metapopulations, and source-sink dynamics, the author propose approaches to describe and quantify these ecological changes and their potential impacts.

Read more about this: Yong, D. L., 2012. Massive deforestation in southern Peninsular Malaysia driving ecological change in Singapore? Nature in Singapore, 5: 285–289. [PDF, 333 KB]

This is just a selection of some of the many fascinating paper on the Nature in Singapore website of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, the National  University of Singapore.

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