25 December 2008

Singapore scientists find new crabs in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Intrepid scientists from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research find lots of crabs during an expedition to Espiritu Santo, the largest of 82 volcanic islands that make up the republic of Vanuatu, located 1,750km east of Australia.
Photograph by Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore

It was an adventure with a long long journey, lost luggage, lost meals and lost finger tip (to a moray eel). But lots of crabs were found including two new crab species never seen before. One is the Vultocinus anfractus, a fist-size crab that dwells on - and resembles - driftwood. The other is the Liagore pulchella, which resembles a smooth pebble.

10,000 exquisite pictures of the crab species were taken, which will take years, if not decades, to sort out. 'We need to study their features carefully and compare them with similar specimens from around the world. It's a tedious process, because nobody wants to make the mistake of declaring a new species when it isn't,' said Dr Tan Swee Hee.

'We live on this planet and it is shared with all these different species of animals. A basic question we want to know is: How many are there? It's like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle,' said Dr Tan Swee Hee.

'But we also want to know: Is there a new species out there we can exploit to help alleviate hunger? Or for medicine? After all, researchers are already studying the possibility of using crab poison for cancer treatment one day.'

A small selection of their photos of 600 crab species, was published on the National Geographic website last month, in an article titled A World of Crabs from One Tiny Island.

Full article about their adventures on the wildsingapore news blog.

See also an earlier post about the Raffles Museum and these crabs.

1 comment:

  1. Man, you are fast! I just saw the article only. Cheers.



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