Author: marcuschua

Next time you’re at St. John’s or the Sisters’ Islands, check out the plants

The following is a guest post by Dr. Chong Kwek Yan, on a recent series of papers in Nature in Singapore that arose from the work of a student that he supervised. Kwek Yan received the NUS Overseas Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2015 and has since been based at the Centre for Excellence for Environmental Decisions, The University of Queensland. This October, he will be returning to the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS.


Three years ago, early in 2014, Associate Professor Hugh Tan whom I was working for told me an earnest student keen on botany had approached him for a UROPS project, and asked me if I had any ideas. Back then, the plan to establish Singapore’s first marine park around some of the southern islands had just been announced, so I casually suggested that she could map out the natural vegetation on those islands and compile checklists of the islands’ flora, in the same spirit as Teo et al.’s (2011) checklist and map for Pulau Semakau.

Symplocos adenophylla

Symplocos adenophylla, listed as Endangered in the Singapore Red Data Book, found on Big Sister’s Island.

The marine park constitutes the sea around Pulau Subar Darat and Pulau Subar Laut, affectionately called Small Sister’s Island and Big Sister’s Island respectively, as well as the seas off the southwestern coasts of St. John’s Island (also known as Pulau Sakijang Bendera) and Pulau Tekukor. We knew that efforts must have been ongoing to document the marine biodiversity of the islands’ waters and coasts for them to be proposed as part of a marine park, but I thought it might also be useful for the park managers as well as botanically inclined park visitors to know what plants could be found on land. Prof took me seriously and got in contact with Dr. Karenne Tun of the National Biodiversity Centre, whose team was setting up the marine park, and Dr. Tan Koh Siang of the Tropical Marine Science Institute which had a research facility on St. John’s Island. I roped in Alex Yee, who was then a PhD student, to help coach Sherry with making maps.

The rest is (natural) history.

There were working checklists of the flora of these islands from Prof’s earlier expeditions in the 90’s which led to a publication by Koh et al. (2002) in Journal of Biogeography 29: 93–108. These were supplemented by records of collections from each island deposited at the Singapore’s two herbaria. Last and most fun of all, we gathered the young botanists working in Prof’s lab to make several picnic trips to cross-check these lists and map the vegetation and the locations of rare plants on the islands.

Botanists

Trying to look (and stay) cool in the shade along the coast of Small Sister’s Island. From left to right: co-authors Reuben, Wei Wei, Jolyn, Louise, Kwek Yan, Sherry; and Jake Gonzales who was an intern with the Botany Lab. Photograph by Alex Yee.

Sherry got a good grade for her UROPS (I can’t remember exactly what grade but it was a good grade [gosh, that sounds like what a well-known, recently elected official from a certain country would say about his own grades back in school]) and worked hard to turn her report into a series of manuscripts for Nature in Singapore titled “The vascular plant flora and vegetation of the islands associated with Singapore’s first Marine Park”.

There’s not much left to say except to encourage everyone to check these papers out. They contain many nice maps and pictures.

I: The Sisters’ Islands

Hung SMX, Chong KY, Yee ATK, Lim RCJ, Loh JW, Neo L, Seah WW, Tan SY, Teo AXY, Tun K, Tong CHY, Koh KS & Tan HTW (2017) The vascular plant flora and vegetation of the islands associated with Singapore’s first Marine Park (I): The Sisters’ Islands. Nature in Singapore, 10: 7–24. [PDF]

II: Pulau Tekukor

Hung SMX, Chong KY, Yee ATK, Lim RCJ, Loh JW, Neo L, Seah WW, Tan SY & Tan HTW (2017) The vascular plant flora and vegetation of the islands associated with Singapore’s first Marine Park (II): Pulau Tekukor. Nature in Singapore, 10: 25–35. [PDF]

III: St. John’s Island

Hung SMX, Chong KY, Yee ATK, Lim RCJ, Loh JW, Neo L, Seah WW, Tan SY & Tan HTW (2017) The vascular plant flora and vegetation of the islands associated with Singapore’s first Marine Park (III): St. John’s Island. Nature in Singapore, 10: 37–48. [PDF]

Singapore rocks!

Yes, literally. This LKCNHM book, A Field Guide to the Geology of Singapore by Oliver and Gupta published earlier this year aims to introduce readers to the geology of Singapore by means of field visits to relevant sites of interest.

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It gives an overview of the plate tectonic evolution of Singapore, its geology, and a travel guide book-like excursion compendium to interesting locations such as Pulau Sajahat, Western Catchment, Sembawang Hot Spring, and even Orchard Road!

If you have ever wondered how Singapore looked like in the Late Triassic Period (200 Ma), then do not miss the artist’s impression of the view from the vicinity of Sentosa looking north towards Bukit Timah complete with dinosaurs (pg. 10).

Oliver GJH & Gupta A (2017) A Field Guide to the Geology of Singapore. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 71 pp. Uploaded 4 January 2017.

Read it here: http://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/nus/images/pdfs/lkcnhm_ebooks/GeologyGuideSGP.pdf

More about LKCNHM eBooks: http://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/nus/index.php/nhmpublications/lkcnhmebooks

Egg-citing Easter at the museum

Have an egg-citing time with us this Easter with our Easter Eggy Workshop!

Learn how to make your own Easter egg in this series of workshops in conjunction with Earth Day.

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To register, email: alice.goh@nus.edu.sg

Take part in our Egg-dentifying contest and stand a chance to win interesting prizes too! Contest forms are available at the lobby. See you there!

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Best Museums in Singapore by TimeOut Singapore

We are stoked to be listed as among the best museums in Singapore by Time Out Singapore!
lkcnhm
 
Here’s what they said about us, “But good things come to those who wait, and we rejoiced when the doors of South-East Asia’s first-ever natural history museum were finally flung open once again”.
 
So come visit the Singapore sperm whale, our three towering Jurassic dinosaur fossils, and learn about the rich biodiversity in Southeast Asia.
 
After that, share what you think after your visit. Do leave us a review on TripAdvisor or our Facebook page. We appreciate the feedback given by our guests.

Get Crafty This December 2016 at LKCNHM

Get crafty this holiday season with some Art and Craft fun at our museum during Fridays – Sundays in December 2016.

crafty-dec-2016

Email Ms Alice Goh at alice.goh@nus.edu.sg to register for the program with the following template:

  1. Preferred craft (shrinky drink or hana beads)
  2. Date of activity
  3. Time session (11am or 2pm)
  4. No. of people joining the activity

Hurry, as slots are limited on a first come, first served basis!

[Research highlight] Citation of taxonomic publications: the why, when, what and what not

The museum’s deputy head, Prof. Rudolf Meier, published an opinion article about how the current citation practices in biology are unfavourable to taxonomy.

https://i1.wp.com/lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/nus/images/staffphoto/rudolfmeier.jpg

Photo by Tan Heok Hui.

Citations are important in science because it gives credit to the original authors (scientists) who made and reported a particular discovery or idea. However, authors of species are seldom cited in scientific publications. To address this issue, some journals or publishers require full citation of species descriptions.

Meier opined that citing and using original species descriptions may be inappropriate or lead to wrong conclusions. For example, the original description of the commonly eaten flower crab (Portunus pelagicus) by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, actually comprises four species today.

Instead, he argues that “proper citation credits should instead go to the literature that was used for specimen identification and the publications that contain the most accurate information on the currently accepted species limits of the species under study”.

Read more about his thought on this issue in the original paper.

Original paper:
Meier, R. 2016. Citation of taxonomic publications: the why, when, what and what not. Systematic Entomology: 1-4. doi: 10.1111/syen.12215

[Research highlight] New species of pea crab that lives in date mussel from Solomon Island

This new species of pea crab, Serenotheres janus, is named after the Roman two-faced god, Janus, as it has an unusually-shaped carapace that looks like two sides of a tent when seen from above.

serenotheres-janus

Photo by Zachariah Kobrinsky and David Liittschwager.

The museum’s head, Prof. Peter Ng, and Dr Christopher Meyer from the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History, United States of America described the crab from a large date mussel collected from Solomon Island.

crab-in-situ

Photo by Zachariah Kobrinsky and David Liittschwager.

The crab lives inside (and are parasites of) the date mussel, Leiosolenus obesus, which resemble date seeds. These mussels burrow into coral rock for protection. Thus, the crabs live a doubly protected lifestyle inside a mussel that lives inside a rock.

Currently, only one specimen of Serenotheres janus is known, and it certainly shows that it pays to look into every nook and cranny (and every shell) for undiscovered life!

Original paper:
Ng PKL, Meyer C (2016) A new species of pea crab of the genus Serenotheres Ahyong & Ng, 2005 (Crustacea, Brachyura, Pinnotheridae) from the date mussel Leiosolenus Carpenter, 1857 (Mollusca, Bivalvia, Mytilidae, Lithophaginae) from the Solomon Islands. ZooKeys 623: 31-41. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.623.10272

[Research highlight] Molluscs for Sale: Assessment of Freshwater Gastropods and Bivalves in the Ornamental Pet Trade

Did you know that a large number of snails and clams come into Singapore via the ornamental pet trade?

NUS Phd student, Ng Ting Hui, and researchers from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore found a total of 59 species of snails and bivalves had been brought into Singapore via the pet and ornamental animal and plant trade from 2008 to 2014.

093-20161107-st-mollusc-aliens-by-nth-csy-b-f-t

Shells of the 59 species of molluscs found from the ornamental pet trade in Singapore. Photos by Ng Ting Hui and Chan Sow-Yan.

Some of these are known or potentially invasive species which may cause harm to species that are native to Singapore, or to the environment. This study provides an important baseline and reference for future monitoring, and points the direction towards a more sustainable ornamental pet trade.

The findings of the research was featured on the Straits Times by Carolyn Khew on 4 Nov 2016.

Original paper:
Ng, T. H., Tan, S. K., Wong, W. H., Meier, R., Chan, S-Y., Tan, H. H., Yeo, D. C. J. 2016. Molluscs for Sale: Assessment of Freshwater Gastropods and Bivalves in the Ornamental Pet Trade. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0161130. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161130

[Research Highlight] Freshwater fishes, terrestrial herpetofauna and mammals of Pulau Tekong, Singapore

While Pulau Tekong is an island familiar to many in Singapore as home to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), what is less known is the island’s importance for wildlife.

Realising this, researchers from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the National Institute of Education compiled a checklist with notes on the freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of Singapore’s largest natural offshore island.

tekong-1

Freshwater fish and herpetofauna of Pulau Tekong. Photos by contributors (see paper).

In all, 18 species of freshwater fishes, 15 amphibians species, 45 species of terrestrial reptiles, and 31 species of terrestrial mammals were recorded. Some species such as the Kuhl’s gliding gecko (Ptychozoon kuhli), and brown tube-nosed bat (Murina suilla) are known from Singapore only from Pulau Tekong.

Additionally, several nationally rare and threatened species such as the Jasper’s cat snake (Boiga jaspidea), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) and Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) are also present, or are thriving on the island.

tekong-2

Snakes and mammals of Pulau Tekong. Photos by contributors (see paper).

Pulau Tekong’s use as a restricted military area appears to have also served to conserve wildlife on the island well. It is hoped that substantial areas of natural vegetation is maintained, and that its rich biodiversity is taken into consideration for any development planning. This will help insure the survival of the island’s interesting and nationally threatened fauna.

 

Original paper:
Lim, K. K. P., M. A. H. Chua & N. T-L. Lim, 2016. Freshwater fishes, terrestrial herpetofauna and mammals of Pulau Tekong, Singapore. Nature in Singapore9: 165–198.