10 July 2012

Secretive squirrel, orchids rediscovered, corals studied and more

We learn more about the elusive shrew-faced squirrel that lives in our forest.
Plus lots more discoveries and studies of Singapore's amazing plants and animals, on land and sea. All in the latest slew of papers on Nature in Singapore of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

A study of the shrew-faced squirrel (Rhinosciurus laticaudatus) compiles past records and recent sightings and reports the status and distribution of this secretive animal in Singapore. Prior to 2011, all recent confirmed records were from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Photographic evidence of its presence in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is presented.
More about this in Lim, N. T-L. & A. W. M. Yeo, 2012. Records of the shrew-faced squirrel, Rhinosciurus laticaudatus (Mammalia: Rodentia: Sciuridae), in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 165–170. [PDF, 1.04 MB]

A diversity of corals can settle on our artificial seawalls

At the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club in Changi, the diversity and distribution of scleractinian corals growing on a seawall were investigated. The 1,762 scleractinian colonies recorded are represented by 37 genera from 14 families. Generic richness, abundance, and evenness were lower in the deeper belts. The majority of the colonies in the marina were juveniles smaller than 10 cm across, indicating that coral recruitment is an active, ongoing process, and that such environments, albeit highly modified, can function to support scleractinian diversity. Highly modified habitats resulting from coastal development could facilitate the re-establishment of biological communities.
More about this in Tan, Y. Z., C. S. L. Ng & L. M. Chou, 2012. Natural colonisation of a marina seawall by scleractinian corals along Singapore's east coast. Nature in Singapore, 5: 177–183. [PDF, 648 KB]

How many different kinds of catfish do we have in Singapore?

A study has verified the presence of nine ariid catfish species from Singapore waters based on museum material. They are Arius cf. gagora, Arius leptonotacanthus, Arius oetik, Hemiarius sona, Hexanematichthys sagor, Netuma bilineata, Osteogeneiosus militaris, Plicofollis argyropleuron, and Plicofollis nella. Arius cf. gagora and Netuma bilineata are new records for Singapore, while Hemiarius sona is recorded for the first time in Singapore in more than a century. The occurrence of Cryptarius truncatus in Singapore waters is considered doubtful.
More about them in Ng, H. H., 2012. The ariid catfishes of Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 211–222. [PDF, 938 KB]

They're not bluffing!

The blue-green facial bands in two species of mangrove crabs, Perisesarma eumolpe and Perisesarma indiarum are known to be important in mate and/or species recognition and are believed to convey the physical ‘quality’ of the individual. For colour to be an effective indicator of quality, there has to be a direct production cost of the colour. Carotenoid-based pigments in animals fulfill these criteria. Being unable to biosynthesize carotenoids de novo, animals rely on dietary supply to achieve carotenoid-based pigmentation; therefore their presence can reflect foraging ability. Facial band tissues of Perisesarma eumolpe and Perisesarma indiarum were extracted and analysed for carotenoids using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The results confirm the presence of carotenoids in the facial bands of both species.
More about this in Wang, W. Y. & P. A. Todd, 2012. Evidence for carotenoid pigments in the facial bands of two mangrove crab species from Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 159–164. [PDF, 358 KB]

Tree-holes and damselflies

Water collecting in tree holes are crucial for some special animals. The large and distinctive damselfly, Pericnemis stictica is scarce in Singapore. It is a forest-dependent species and has been sporadically witnessed in shady understorey in close proximity to phytotelms (small water bodies contained by plants from ancient Greek: ‘phytos’ = plant; ‘telma’ = pond), especially water-filled tree holes. Other forms of phytotelms include water collected in leaf axils, buttress pans or bamboo stumps.
More about it in Ngiam, R. W. J. & T. M. Leong, 2012. Larva of the phytotelm-breeding damselfly, Pericnemis stictica Selys from forests in Singapore (Odonata: Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae). Nature in Singapore, 5: 103–115. [PDF, 2.46 MB]

Rediscovery of 'extinct' orchids

Trichotosia velutina was presumed nationally extinct in Singapore, having no recent sightings or collections since 1892. It was most recently encountered and rediscovered in the Nee Soon Swamp Forest, and assigned the national conservation status of Critically Endangered.
More about it in Ang, W. F., C. K. Yeo, A. F. S. L. Lok, A. Angkasa, P. X. Ng & H. T. W. Tan, 2012. Rediscovery of Trichotosia velutina (Lodd. ex Lindl.) Kraenzl. (Orchidaceae) in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 199–204. [PDF, 1.02 MB]

Callostylis pulchella previously thought to be extinct in Singapore, was recently rediscovered in the Nee Soon Swamp Forest. As such, it has recently been assigned the new national conservation status of critically endangered as it is currently only known from one locality in Singapore.
Lok, A. F. S. L., W. F. Ang & C. K. Yeo, 2012. Rediscovery of Callostylis pulchella (Lindl.) S. C. Chen & Z. H. Tsi (Orchidaceae) in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 205–209. [PDF, 288 KB]

A new Hoya species recorded

Hoya caudata is recently discovered as a new record to the native flora of Singapore in Nee Soon Swamp Forest. The total number of Hoya species now stands at 11. A key to Singapore's Hoya species is also included.
More about it in Rodda, M. & W. F. Ang, 2012. Hoya caudata Hook. f. (Apocynaceae), a new record for Singapore, and keys to the Hoya species of Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 5: 123–128. [PDF, 700 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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