Best of our wild blogs: 12-13 May 18

What's happening at Pesta Ubin?
Pesta Ubin 2018

Sexual Dimorphism - Part 2
Butterflies of Singapore

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Deep-sea 'aliens' no one knew existed, unearthed in Singapore-Indonesia expedition

At least 12 species of crabs, prawns and lobsters collected from the deep seas in West Java are new to science. Another 40 are new records for Indonesia. Here are some of these strange and fascinating finds.
Ray Yeh Channel NewsAsia 13 May 18;

SINGAPORE: The expedition lasted two weeks. But it will take two years for the scientists to complete their studies of more than 12,000 specimens - some bizarre and new to science - hauled up from the bottom of the Sunda Strait and Indian Ocean.

These Indonesian waters off West Java had been largely unexplored by marine biologists until now. That changed in March, when a combined team from Singapore and Indonesia set out to sea.

“People have collected data off west of Sumatra, eastern parts of Indonesia and southeastern part of Java,” said Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

“But for whatever reasons, the Sunda Strait in southwestern and southern Java were poorly collected. We had almost no information about the deep-sea animals living there.

So we thought, here’s a nice chance to fill the gap. We cannot conserve what we do not know.

Prof Ng, a well-known crab expert, led the 14-day South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition (SJADES 2018) with Professor Dwi Listyo Rahayu, a world authority on hermit crabs from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The research vessel with 31 scientists and support staff sailed from Jakarta towards Cilacap in southern Java and back, covering a total distance of 2,200km.

Using trawls, dredges, box corers and multicorers, the NUS-LIPI team collected marine animal samples at depths averaging 800m - the deepest was at 2,100m.

The result exceeded Prof Ng's expectations: Over a dozen new species of hermit crabs, prawns, lobsters and crabs were found, and more than 40 species of various kinds are new records for Indonesia.

Here are some of them, in photos.

DECORATOR CRABS (New to science)

Three new species of bizarre-looking spider crabs were found – all in the deep waters of southwestern Java.

They were immediately recognised as unique species by Prof Ng and Dr Bertrand Richer de Forges from France, both of whom have been studying this group of crustaceans for over three decades.

This yet-to-be-named crab was found camouflaged with detritus, small zoanthid anemones and mud. It has a distinctive plate that resembles oversized ears adjacent to its red eyes.

A orange species with many strong spines. Only one specimen of this rare species was obtained.

A decorator crab with a more elongated form. Several specimens were found clinging to stalked sea lilies, a living fossil. Scientists are still not sure if this is their only habitat, but they do believe these crabs have a preference for these sea lilies.

Why do these crabs decorate themselves when there is no light in the depths of the ocean?

That is because “a whole bunch of animals are using sound”, said Prof Ng. “They hit you with sonar. Which means that even if they can’t see you, you don’t want to look like a crab, you want to look like a blob of sponges.

Even in the deep, it pays that you try to pretend to be something you’re not.

HERMIT CRABS (New to science or new for Indonesia)

Hermit crabs live solitary lives protected by shells. They are a major component of the deep-sea fauna and appear in almost every catch.

These animals come in a surprising diversity of form, shape and sizes. During the expedition, Prof Dwi found over 40 hermit crab species, many of which look nothing like the typical hermit crabs found in shallow waters and on land.

Some are very skinny because they live in hollow twigs. Some resemble small lobsters – they burrow into wood. Others live inside swollen sea anemones.

Hermit crabs are mostly found in the shallow waters. There are few species in deeper waters, so the discovery of this new species is noteworthy.

The bright green eyes and distinctly patterned granulated pincers are distinctive for this new species. Professor Dwi immediately recognised it as something she has never seen before.

This slender twig-dwelling hermit crab with a straight body has adapted its body to live inside the narrow cavities of hollow twigs and sticks.


The expedition found a new species of Bathynomus, which is 30cm in length.

Also called giant sea cockroaches, they are important deep-sea scavengers. They feed on dead animals that sink to the ocean bottom, and are an integral part of the ecosystem there.

However, Bathynomus had not been officially recorded in Indonesia before.

There are 18 species globally, 15 of which reside in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Among these, the most famous are eight species which experts have called “supergiants” because they reach sizes of 50cm in length.

The two chief scientists were excited, and their check of the literature indicated that the “supergiant” species collected was quite different from known species - they may well be new.

SHRIMPS & LOBSTERS (New to science)

Also on the expedition was Professor Chan Tin-Yam from the National Taiwan Ocean University, a world expert in deep-water shrimps and lobsters who, with his team, discovered five new species.

A new shrimp species with shiny eyes. These bottom-dwelling shrimps possess unique mechanisms to lock their abdomens to protect against predators.

This was among the 20 species of squat lobsters found by scientists on the expedition. This species has a distinctive zebra pattern on its body.

GOBY FISH (New to science?)

Gobies are mostly found in shallow intertidal waters, but some can be found in much deeper waters of almost 200m, like the specimen in the photograph, which was collected from the Sunda Strait.

This strange goby is flat-headed, and has very enlarged otoliths (ear stones for balance) behind the eyes. There are currently three known species in the world, and scientists are examining whether this specimen is one of them - or new to science.


This 6cm deep-sea tube-dwelling worm pastes sediment grains with their tentacles to the pre-existing conical tube as they grow, forming a structure which resembles an ice-cream cone.

This deep sea scallop has some peculiar habits. Scientists believe it is carnivorous, feeding on very small animals.

In addition, it almost has a sea anemone attached to one of its valves – presumably for protection.

Nicknamed the Dumbo Octopus because of its resemblance to the beloved Disney character, this animal has a jelly-like feel and was dark purple when first observed in the trawl net.

It swims using the two large flaps on its head.

This peculiar squid measuring some 8cm has one eye much larger than the other.

It apparently swims with the larger eye looking downwards for food, whilst the smaller eye peers upwards presumably watching out for predators.

A brightly coloured shrimp that was caught alive. It regurgitates a bioluminescent cloud to confuse predators when disturbed - a habit shared with several other species of deep-sea prawns.

Nicknamed the chain-saw lobster, this is a rare deep-sea blind lobster with scary right claws lined with many sharp teeth.

Scientists, however, suspect that the claw is not a predatory device but acts to sieve bottom substrates for small animals to eat.

These lobsters are rarely collected because they dig deep burrows.

The deep-sea tripod fish has peculiar fins and filaments that help it balance and detect small prey swimming past. It has eyes that have no lenses, so it’s unable to focus on objects.

Last but not least, they are hermaphrodites. These odd features help it survive in perpetual darkness.

The aptly named Fang Tooth has wicked-looking long teeth. No escape for any prey that gets into this mouth.

Source: CNA/ry/yv

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Indonesia: Two decades for broken coral reefs to recover - Ministry

Ivany Atina Arbi The Jakarta Post 11 May 18;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has announced that broken coral reefs covering 1,020 square meters near Pari Island of Thousand Island regency, which were damaged after cargo ship Ghanda Nusantara 15 rammed into them on Saturday night, will take over 20 years to recover.

Iksan, a ministry official who conducted a survey at the site of the incident, told The Jakarta Post recently that the majority of the damaged area consisted of hard coral — also known as stony coral — which takes a long time to grow.

“It takes 20 years or more for such kinds of coral reefs to recover to their normal condition, before the incident took place,” Iksan said, adding that the ministry would study the results over the next several days to determine total losses from the incident.

The ship’s owner, as regulated in Law. No 32/2009 on environmental management and protection, will have to pay for the losses, with the money being used for restoration of the coral reefs.

Article 2 of the law states that every person or institution proven to have damaged environment is obliged to pay a certain amount of compensation.

The Thousand Island Police said separately that the ship, owned by the Transportation Ministry, reportedly rammed into the coral reefs near the island at around 7:15 p.m. on Saturday.

The ship, intended to sail from Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan to Tidung Island of Thousand Islands regency, was stuck near Pari Island due to bad weather. It was swept away by strong waves and finally left stranded atop the pristine coral reefs.

“Six crew members aboard have been evacuated by Pari Island residents, with help from officials from the fire and rescue agency,” said Thousand Islands Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Viktor Siagian. The ship’s crew were then brought to the police to be questioned.

Local residents urged the government to quickly move the vessel from the site to avoid further damage to the coral reefs.

One of the local residents, Ahmad Taufik, 36, said the coral reefs played a significant role in boosting the island’s tourism. Pari Island is among the top tourist destinations in Thousand Islands regency, along with Tidung and Bidadari Islands.

Ahmad added that coral reef damage from ships occasionally occurred in the island’s waters. He, together with other residents concerned with marine protection, would replant the coral reefs using compensation from the owners of the ships that caused the environmental damage.

“At least one similar incident happens in the island’s waters every year, but the ships that caused the damage have never been as big as the [Ghanda Nusantara] ship,” Ahmad told the Post via phone. The Ghanda Nusantara has a weight of around 92 gross tons.

Environmental group Greenpeace urged the government to finish the valuation soon to figure out how much the ship’s owners had to pay.

It could be a great loss, said Greenpeace Southeast Asia oceans campaigner Arifsyah Nasution, reflecting on a similar incident that had occurred last year in Raja Ampat waters in Papua.

“Seeing the case at Raja Ampat, each square meter of damage had to be compensated with up to US$1,200,” he said.

On March 4, British cruise ship Caledonian Sky ran aground in Raja Ampat waters, West Papua, destroying nearly 13,000 sqm of coral reef.

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Indonesia: Melon-headed whale stranded in Kupang

Antara 13 May 18;

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - A melon-headed whale was found stranded on the Oesapa coast of Oesapa Sub-district, Kelapa Lima Sub-district, Kupang City, East Nusa Tenggara Province.

Some fishermen and Coastal and Marine Resources Agency (BPDSL) officers on the coast of Oesapa tried to guide the whale back to the sea on Saturday (May 12) afternoon.

"This whale had been stranded since 11:30 a.m. local time. We tried to push it back to the sea, but it kept returning to the coast," an officer, Marlen Mesak Nale, stated.

Nale noted that the whale was first found by a local fisherman who was on the beach.

The fisherman then sought help from other fishermen to push the whale back into the sea. The effort, which lasted for about four hours, was in vain as the whale did not want to go back to the sea.

Even until 04:00 p.m. local time, the whale was still on the coast. Visitors crowded on the beach to watch the whale.

The body of the mammal had an incision. The whale, which had a spear near its tail, had allegedly been injured by irresponsible whale hunters.

Meanwhile, Staff of Coastal and Marine Resources Center (BSDPL) of East Java-Bali-West Nusa Tenggara-East Nusa Tenggara, Yuniarti, remarked that the whale had allegedly been separated from its flock.

"It was difficult to return it to the sea. It might have been terrified by the crowd, with some even climbing on top of it, making it difficult for it to swim," she explained.

Reported by Kornelis Kaha
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Vietnam: Red-shanked doucs protected by locals in Quang Nam forest

VietNamNet Bridge 11 May 18;

In 2017, the news about the discovery of red-shanked doucs in Hon Do of Nui Thanh district in Quang Nam province stirred the scientific community. The provincial authorities immediately joined forces with Nuoc Viet Xanh Biodiversity Conservation Center to conduct a tally.

They found two groups of red shanked doucs with a total of 16-20. However, the precious primates, which are seen only in Vietnam, now live in an isolated natural forest covering an area of 5 hectares.

This prompted some scientists to think of moving herds to ensure habitat and food for the langurs.

Surprisingly, the idea faced strong opposition from both local authorities and people.

“The scientists have recently heard about the doucs, but we have been familiar with them for many years. We consider them as children,” said Danh, a local man who works as a volunteer in the team of douc protectors.

“They are our treasure. They are even more valuable than gold,” he said.

Pham Minh Huan, a forest ranger in Nui Thanh district, reassured reporters that they would be able to see the doucs.

“They always ‘sun bathe’ on trees every morning. They leave at 8 am to avoid the sunlight and return in the afternoon,” he explained.

Huan introduced every member of the team of douc protectors to reporters. They earn their living with different jobs, from fowl farming to honey bee collectors, but they all want to protect the doucs like their children.

“We go to the forest regularly to see if there is any trap or illegal poacher, and to be sure that the doucs are safe,” Danh, a member of the team, said.

The reporters had the chance to see the doucs and take pictures of them.

The reporters got up very early at dawn and depart from the Hon Do forest rangers’ station.

“Look over there,” Danh said, pointing his hands to some trees. The doucs appeared at dawn. Some of them sat still on the trees, while others passed from one branch to another.

Danh said the doucs there like eating sprouts. They eat leaves more than fruits and move on trees faster than on the ground.

“They are so nice. They are vegetarians,” he said.

There are still no official statistics about the number of doucs in Hon Do. Some people say there are three groups of 70.

Tran Huu Vy, director of Nuoc Viet Xanh Biodiversity Conservation Center, affirmed that the locals are capable of protecting doucs in Nui Thanh.

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