Singapore Biodiversity Records

APS2

Online database captures S’pore’s rich biodiversity

24022015 ST

Dr Ang Yuchen (left), a post-doctoral researcher helming the new site, with Professor Rudolf Meier. — PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Online database captures S’pore’s rich biodiversity

Audrey Tan audreyt@sph.com.sg

A NEW online database has been launched compiling research on how Singapore’s flora and fauna interact with each other.

Called Animals and Plants of Singapore, it is managed by Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and went live on the museum’s website this month.

Users can click on an animal and find links to information on the plants or animals it feeds on – though work on the site is ongoing and not all species have links in place yet.

The database provides a name and a photograph of each species. For further information, users must click on the links to external sources, such as pages created by the National University of Singapore‘s life sciences classes, or the museum’s Singapore Biodiversity Records – an online collection of “flora and fauna in Singapore, including sightings of uncommon or rare species”.

Professor Rudolf Meier, deputy head of the museum, said the goal is to understand how different species interact to sustain Singapore’s green spaces.

“Animals and Plants of Singapore will track these interdependencies by linking species pages of prey and predators, or plants and pollinators,” he said.

“If we had a dedicated person or team doing the research, it would be as time-consuming as writing an academic paper for each species. But by tapping already-published research and observations, the site can be updated more frequently.”

Prof Meier hopes the site will make it easier for people to appreciate Singapore’s diverse ecosystem and give them a reliable source of information.

Data is cross-referenced with the museum’s stable of experts before being uploaded, and the site lists the names of the experts who identified the species.

The database now records more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, but Prof Meier hopes to more than double this figure by the end of the year. He estimates that there could be between 50,000 and 100,000 multicellular plant and animal species here.

Studies are under way to establish this, such as Singapore’s first comprehensive marine biodiversity survey, led by the National Parks Board (NParks). It began five years ago and is expected to be completed by May this year.

Dr Lena Chan, director of NParks’ National Biodiversity Centre, said: “Biodiversity databases are very important as they are historical records of plants and animals. These databases can be set up only if long-term monitoring surveys are carried out.”

She said the museum’s new database will complement NParks’ records, including its online Biodiversity and Environment Database System, which was started in 2011 and records 5,000 species of flora and 750 species of fauna.

“Together, we can generate greater awareness and appreciation of the rich biodiversity that we have,” she said.

Animals and Plants of Singapore, designed for desktop browsing, is at http://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/APS

New record of a snake species in Singapore!

A new record of a snake species in Singapore has been found from the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)!

Two blackwater mudsnakes (Phytolopsis punctata) were found at Nee Soon Swamp Forest in CCNR on 12 Sep 2014. Little is known about the biology of the snake as they are rarely recorded, possibly owing to their secretive habits in highly threatened habitats associated with peat swamps and acid-water in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo.

Blackwater mudsnake 1_Noel Thomas

Blackwater mudsnake (Phytolopsis punctata). Photo by: Noel Thomas.

However, a third snake was found dead on 22 Nov 2014, with a forest walking catfish (Clarias leiacanthus) in her gut. This was possibly the first recorded diet item of the blackwater mudsnake. We now know what the snake eats!

Blackwater mudsnake 2_Tan HH

Partly digested forest walking catfish (Clarias leiacanthus) found in the gut wall of the blackwater mudsnake. Photo by: Tan Heok Hui.

These observations were made as a result of a survey of the aquatic biodiversity of the Nee Soon Swamp Forest by the National Parks Board and the National University of Singapore (Tropical Marine Science Institute, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Geography and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum).

They are published in the latest Singapore Biodiversity Records update 221 and 222, along with other interesting records:

218. New record of the tasselled blenny in Singapore. [pdf]
219. Tree snail Amphidromus atricallosus perakensis on an invasive Acacia tree. [pdf]
220. Another case of human-assisted dispersal of the snail Helicarion perfragilis. [pdf]
221. New record of the blackwater mud snake in Singapore. [pdf]
222. A food item of the blackwater mud snake. [pdf]

Swallowtail moth (Lyssa zampa) in Singapore Biodiversity Records

We seem to be experiencing the largest emergence the swallowtail moth (Lyssa zampa) since 2005. Interest in this phenomenon has appeared in social media, blogs [1,2] and the press[1,2], and even in Malaysia [1,2].

This bumper tranche of Singapore Biodiversity Records features two back-dated natural history documentation of Lyssa zampa in 2005 and 2008.

In 2005, Dr. Leong Tze Ming observed caterpillars feedings on the bulan-bulan tree (Endospermum diadenum) in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and subsequently, the metamorphosis of the moths. Then in 2008, Leong and the museum’s collection manager, Kelvin Lim, found a mating pair at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Lyssa zampa metamorphosis (left; photos by Leong Tze Ming) and copulation (right; photo by Kelvin Lim).

Lyssa zampa metamorphosis (left; photos by Leong Tze Ming) and copulation (right; photo by Kelvin Lim).

Both of these records appear to be the first time that mating and metamorphosis has been documented and published in Singapore.

The seasonal appearance of this distinctive moth has also led to two citizen science and crowdsourcing efforts. Museum research affiliate, N. Sivasothi, is collecting sighting records of Lyssa zampa, while Nature Society (Singapore) butterfly interest group members are encourating members of the public to plot their sightings on a shared map.

If you see Lyssa zampa, report your sightings at http://tinyurl.com/habitatnews-records and https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zagFYImIHI3c.kdqh62BZXPXs.

More Singapore Biodiversity Records from this tranche:

109. A blue button at Sisters Islands. [pdf]
110. Rasbora notura at Lorong Banir stream. [pdf]
111. Siberian thrush at Kent Ridge campus. [pdf]
112. New record of triplebar razorfish in Singapore. [pdf]
113. Redclaw crayfish at Mandai Lake Road. [pdf]
114. Swallowtail moths Lyssa zampa mating. [pdf]
115. Metamorphosis of the swallowtail moth Lyssa zampa. [pdf]