Søreren Toft, a Danish Spiderman

Søreren Toft visited Li Daiqin’s Spider Lab from 25 April to 22 May 2004 as a DUO-Denmark Fellow under the DUO-Denmark Exchange Programme. Soeren, from Department of Ecology and Genetics in Aarhus University, Denmark, is well-known for his studies on the nutritional ecology of generalist arthropod predators. He is also interested in the ecology, life history and behaviour of spiders.

During his stay, he presented a seminar on “Nutritional Ecology of Generalist Predators”. He made excursions to Bukit Timah Natural Reserve, Nee Soon Forest and Kent Ridge Park. Together with Daiqin, he went to Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China for a one-week spider hunting trip.

Daiqin and Soeren pictured above in Spider Rearing Room with Portia quei, a specialized, spider-eating jumping spider collected back from Yunnan, China. Using this spider, Daiqin and Soeren are examining how this specialist predator balances its nutrients when fed with poor (low protein) and high quality food (high protein), a phenomenon found in generalist predators by Soeren’s group in Denmark*.

*Mayntz, D., Toft, S. & Vollrath, F. 2003. Effects of prey qaulity and availability on the life history of a trap-building predator. Oikos 101: 631-638.


Elasmobranch-gut tapeworm researchers visit wholesale fish markets

Janine Caira (U. Connecticut or U. Conn) & Kirsten Jensen (U. Kansas, formerly U. Conn) are in the region for “A survey of Sharks and Rays of Borneo and the Metazoan Parasites”. Peter Ng and N. Sivasothi met them at a database workshop in Kuala Lumpur recently and invited them down to survey the shark and ray catch at wholesale markets of fishing ports in Singapore.

They arrived on Sat (22 May 2004) evening and made their first trip after midnight, to the market at Jurong Fishing Port. Jurong is the international landing site for boats operating in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Fish are landed here from Indonesia, imported by land from Malaysia and Thailand, and by air from countries like Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Cestodes decompose very quickly in dead fish, especially in tropical waters. To have a good chance of sampling these parasites, the fish should preferably be dead no longer than an hour. However, the host (i.e. the sharks and rays) are also of interest, as there are still new species and morphological variants. Janine and Kirsten decided to try their luck and manage to add some valuable specimens to the museum’s collection.

Janine Caira (standing) and Kirsten Jensen (squatting) examining some rays (Himantura sp.) at the wholesale fish market at Jurong Fishing Port on Sunday morning.

Accompanying them on these midnight-dawn runs were museum staff, students and volunteers, some to experience and help (despite the odd hours!) and others on specific projects requiring seafood sampling.

About half the supply at Senoko Fishing Port originates from local fish trawlers, in-shore vessels, kelongs and fish farms. However, the group was denied access to the market as they were thought to be on a group tour (!) which requires AVA approval. Entry for purchase is actually allowed, just not group tours, so researchers will try again in future. The markets are closed on Monday mornings.

Janine and Kirsten also visited the Raffles Museum’s gallery and collections with great interest. Back at U Conn, their scientific and teaching collections with origins of over a century eventually gave rise to the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at UConn, established in 1985. Scattered in five locations around their campus, Janine Caira headed a team that submitted the grant proposal, planned and executed the consolidation and move to a state of the art 8,000 square foot facility. By 2001, the museum was housed in its own building. In 2004, the museum further announced plans to establish the Connecticut Archaeology Center.

Bryophyte survey by Benito Tan in Sri Lanka

Benito Tan visited Sri Lanka from 16th to 31st May 2004 to conduct surveys of the bryophyte diversity in two nature reserves in Sri Lanka. These reserves were recently established and poorly explored biologically.

The survey is a joint international project between Sri Lanka’s University of Peradeniya, the University of Helsinki in Finland, and the NUS’ Raffles Museum, and sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

Elliot Dawson of King Crab fame

Elliot W. Dawson and his wife Grace visited the Raffles Museum on 13th May 2004. Dawson, from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) is famous for his work on nemerteans (ribbon worms) and later King Crabs. He authored the famous 1989 monograph, “King crabs of the world.”*

Dawson last visited the collection in 1985 when it was situated on a hillock in what was then Nanyang University. Nanyang had generously housed the collection between 1980 – 1986 before it was allocated its present location in NUS. That building is the present Administration Annexe in what is now Nanyang Technological University.

Peter and Elliot here pictured in the Wet Collection with the Holotype specimen of Chaceon manningi, dredged in 1991 from between 438m – 636m in waters around Tung Sa Islands, South China Sea. This crab is believed to be associated with hydrothermal vents. In the background is a King Crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) collected from the Northern Sea, Hokkaido, Japan, 1992.

*Dawson, EW, 1989. King crabs of the world (Crustacea: Lithodidae) and their fisheries: a comprehensive bibliography. Misc. Publ. 101, New Zealand Oceanographic Institute, Wellington New Zealand. 338 pp

Navjot Sodhi conferred the NUS Outstanding Researcher award

Navjot Sodhi of the Conservation & Behavioural Ecology Lab was conferred the NUS Outstanding Researcher award on 12th May 2004.

The University Award “honours and recognises members of the NUS community who through their consistently high performance and resolute commitment set new benchmarks in the Universityıs core competencies in education, research and service”.

His research interests include effects of forest loss on birds in Southeast Asia, avian extinctions from tropical forests, ecology and management of house crows and mynas, and the management of birds at airfields, resulting in 65 papers in major international scientific journals including Nature and Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.

Nils Møller Andersen, In Memoriam

“Dr.scient. Nils Møller Andersen, curator of exopterygote insects and chair of the Entomology Department, passed away on May 12, 2004, aged only 63. He fell victim to an extraordinarily aggressive cancer, the first symptoms of which were noticed only a short time earlier.”

‘Andersen’s publication record impresses by its sheer magnitude. He focused on the gerromorphans or semiaquatic bugs and addressed a range of problems within the group – revisionary taxonomy, combined analyses of molecular and morphological characters, functional morphology, palaeontology, historical biogeography. “The Semiaquatic Bugs“, the 1982 book for which he earned the Dr.scient. degree, has been said by some to be, by that time, “the best book ever written on a group of insects”.

Read the complete In Memoriam by Niels Peder Kristensen, Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen (ZMUC). See also Halobates in ZMUC.

In March 2004, CSIRO published a handbook by Andersen & Tom Weir entitled, “Australian Water Bugs (Hemiptera-Heteroptera, Gerromorpha and Nepomorpha): Their Biology and Identification”.

Andersen, who had studied aquatic bugs for nearly 40 years was also part of an international group of entomologists including C. M Yang of Raffles Museum and Lanna Cheng of Scripps Institution of Oceanology, who are in the process of publishing the “Guide to aquatic and semiaquatic Heteroptera of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia”.

He last visited the museum in November 1999 and some of his publications with the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology are listed here.

• Nils Moller Andersen, Chang Man Yang & Herbert Zettel, 2002. Notes on the Microveliinae of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia with the description of two new species of Microvelia Westwood (Hemiptera-Heteroptera, Veliidae). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 50: 111-116.

• In 1998, Herbert Zettel & Christine Hecher described A. anderseni, a new species from Borneo (Indonesia: Kalimantan) in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology .

• Herbert Zettel & Christine Hecher, 1998. Notes on the Veliidae (Heteroptera) of Borneo: 1. Three new species of Angilia Stål, 1865, with a key to the Oriental species. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 46(2): 335-344.

Nils departure was sudden, in the midst of active contributions. A monograph on Halobates, co-authored with Lanna Cheng, will be published in June 2004 (Oceanography and Marine Biology, Annual Review, vol. 42).

He was co-organiser (with Gerry Cassis, Australian Museum, Sydney) of a special symposium “Origins & Diversification of the Heteroptera, with Particular Emphasis on the Australasian Fauna” to be held at the International Entomological Congress in Brisbane, 15-21 August, 2004.

Graduate student Tran Anh Duc (Systematics & Ecology Lab) who is working on the aquatic Heteroptera of Vietnam, did not have the good fortune to meet Nils before. But they had kept in contact through email and he said, “I received a lot of support and encouragement from him since I started working on this field.”

Niels Peder Kristensen says “With the untimely passing of Nils Møller Andersen the Natural History Museum of Denmark and international systematic entomology have lost an outstanding scientist, and many of us have lost a valued personal friend.”

Collections database meeting in Malaysia

Raffles Museum staff Peter Ng and N Sivasothi were invited to University of Malaya last week (04 – 05 May 2004) by Prof Susan Lim of the Institute of Biological Sciences as resource persons for the Parasitic Invertebrate Collections & Relational Database Management Workshop.

Peter Ng presented “Biodiversity challenges for Southeast Asia and the role of the Raffles Museum, and Sivasothi, discussed “Managing databases and bibliographies for conservation – the ongoing experience at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS”.

The workshop witnessed lively and even heated debates spilling into lunch and tea as participants, many old friends, evaluated the suggestion of a national museum or depository in Malaysia and the problem faced by the potential loss of invaluable private and institutional collections in the country.

Visiting Curatorship at the Paris Museum: Tan Swee Hee

Tan Swee Hee in the attic laboratory, pictured between Alain Crosnier and Shane Ahyong.

Tan Swee Hee (Systematics & Ecology Lab) was invited to the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle (Paris museum) as a visiting curator by the former Directeur de recherches de classe exceptionnelle of Institut de Recherche pour le Développment (IRD, formerly ORSTOM) and world-renowned Penaeid expert, M. Alain Crosnier. The Paris Museum programme invites specialists to work on marine organisms in the vast collection, stocked significantly by the MUSORSTOM expeditions.

The expeditions are a collaborative effort between the Paris Museum and IRD. Numerous intensive collections began in the late 1970s and the Paris Museum presently holds specimens from 82 MUSORSTOM expeditions from 10 territories, from a total of 5903 collecting stations! This is probably one of the largest collections of Indo-Pacific marine organisms in the world.

Pictured on the left is a new species of Garthambrus that will be described in an upcoming revision of the genus with Colin McLay of the University of Canterbury.

Species belonging to the genus Garthambrus are mainly deep-sea crabs and this particular male specimen (17.3 x 12.5 mm) was obtained from Vanuatu at a depth of 460-480 m. Photograph courtesy of MUSORSTOM.

Swee Hee worked on the family of crabs known as the Parthenopidae for two months in 1999 and more recently, April of 2004. He identified the MUSORSTOM parthenopids and assisted in the rearrangement and nomenclatural updating of the museum’s collection, possibly the world’s largest. With this data set and others, he was able to complete a worldwide revision of the Parthenopidae.

He worked in Crosnier’s laboratory at the attic of the Département Systématique et Évolution, which he shared with stomatopod (mantis shrimp) specialist Dr. Shane Ahyong from the Australian Museum. Shane is no stranger to the Raffles Museum as he has several ongoing research projects with staff and students and is a former recipient of the Raffles Museum’s Short term visiting research fellowship.

Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement No. 11 – Ex Anambas

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 11: Scientific Results of the Anambas Expedition 2002 (eds. Peter Ng, Daisy Wowor & Darren Yeo) was published on 22 March 2004, 130p.

The titles, abstracts and papers as well as the overview of the scientific expedition can be viewed here. It includes 13 papers describing the expedition and various faunal and floral groups: nonflowering and flowering plants; polychaete worms and selected groups of molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, echinoderms and fishes. Several news species are described and the volume includes checklists and annotated checklists.

The Ex Anambas webpage is maintained by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

Research and education at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS