Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mud Lobster



We were just about to leave the survey site when Weiling and Shufen squealed in delight. They have sighted a Mud Lobster out of its mound!! We followed the bright red lobster as it scrambled over the mud mounds and debris.


We were urging it on and wondering where it was heading when it stopped and started digging into the mud. As it dug with its huge claws, we were expecting it to go right in. But surprisingly, it did a reverse maneuver and went in abdomen first thus completing a perfect camouflage!








It was indeed very fortunate for us to witness this common but rarely seen mangrove keystone species. The tall mud mounds they create are the result of processing huge amount of mud to obtain the organic material the lobsters feed on. The mounds will eventually become a key habitat for several mangrove animals like tree-climbing crabs, other invertebrates and even certain species of mangrove snakes.


I did a search on ScienceDirect and a surprising paper from 1942 turned up. It was written by researchers in Singapore recommending the use of lime and water to kill mud lobsters!! Their aim was to control the proliferation of mud lobster mounds thus eradicating breeding sites of malaria mosquitoes. Boy, am I glad our researchers have moved on from this mindset.

There are two species of Mud Lobster in Singapore. What we saw is most probably a Thalassina anomala. But the taxonomy of Thalassina genus is difficult and needs to be revised.


Pictures and video taken at: Mangrove in western Singapore, January 2007.

References:

Holthuis, L. B., Marine Lobsters of the World.
http://ip30.eti.uva.nl/BIS/lobsters.php?selected=beschrijving&menuentry=soorten&id=12

Ng, P. K. L. & N. Sivasothi, 1999. A Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore II, Singapore Science Centre, Singapore.

Scharff, J. W. & M. W. F. Tweedie, 1942. ‘Malaria and the Mud Lobster’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, vol. 36 (1), pp. 41-44.

29 comments:

YC said...

So far I have only seen the lobster's mound and an old picture used and reused by the group at RMBR-NUS. This is the first time I have seen a mud lobster in action. Fantastic video. Thanks.

matinggeckos said...

Hi YC,

Am glad you enjoy the short clip. I'm very happy to share.

I guess another reason why mud lobsters are rarely is because not many people are keen to partake in mangrove related work. Its tough working on the muddy terrain and the biting insects like mozzies and flies are a real turn-off. I was really lucky to see it during our mangrove survey.

matinggeckos said...

Hi YC,

Am glad you enjoy the short clip. I'm very happy to share.

I guess another reason why mud lobsters are rarely seen is because not many people are keen to partake in mangrove related work. Its tough working on the muddy terrain and the biting insects like mozzies and flies are a real turn-off. I was really lucky to see it during our mangrove survey.

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