Sunday, April 29, 2007

Polychaete (Family: Polynoidae)

Prof. Peter Ng gave a good speech at an Earth Day event last weekend. He touched on nature conservation in Singapore. Two main points stuck in my mind: 1) There is much more to discover from Singapore’s natural habitats. 2) We have to conserve and protect because our natural heritage belongs to us and nobody else and is ours to keep.

His speech strengthened my conviction to partake in local nature-related work. We must fight for nature conservation because if we don’t, we’ll not only lose our heritage but also things that maybe new to science.

Small invertebrates are a case in point. Many of them have been largely ignored by science. Some of them are difficult to study, some are hard to find and most are largely disregarded because they lack the ‘cute’ factor. But in actual fact, many invertebrates are fascinating and cute.

When I spotted this little critter, I thought it is some kind of sea slug. On closer examination, it turns out to be a polychaete from the family Polynoidae. It hardly looks like a worm and even has a bug-like motion.

There are 64 polychaete species in Singapore waters with only two species from the Polynoidae family. This is based on the last major polychaete study by Prof. Chou in 1993 where he reported 29 first time records for Singapore. 14 years has passed and Wilson has found several more new records.

Singapore certainly has many more minute fauna waiting to be revealed.

Picture and video taken at: A southern offshore island, March 2007.


Tan, L. T. & L. M. Chou, 1993. ‘Checklist of polychaete species from Singapore waters (Annelida)’, The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, vol. 41 (2), pp. 279-295.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Slender-lined Shrimp-goby

I’ve little knowledge on gobies before I started my current project. A year has passed. Through readings, consultations and trials and errors, I’ve gained much understanding of their ecology. Some of the most colourful gobies are the shrimp-gobies and their symbiotic relationship with the shrimps is most fascinating.

The Slender-lined Shrimp-goby (Cryptocentrus leptocephalus) is usually found on shallow reefs. They share a burrow with alpheid shrimps. The communication between goby and shrimp is ingenious. As the goby sits at the burrow entrance as a ‘guard’, the shrimp will touch the goby with its antennae. At the first sign of danger, the goby will flick its tail and both goby and shrimp will retreat into the burrow for safety. Researchers have shown that in the absence of shrimps, the gobies will not give a warning signal.

Ethology is an aspect in biological science that I find most interesting. Animals have many inventive ways to communicate both intraspecifically as well as interspecifically. Gaining insights into their behaviour and its meaning give me a sense of challenge. And the intimate knowledge gained reinforced my understanding of nature’s intricate connections at all levels. I hope to do some proper animal behaviour research in the future.

Picture taken at: Terumbu Pempang Laut, July 2006.


Larson, H. K. & K. K. P. Lim, 2005. A Guide to Gobies of Singapore, Singapore Science Centre, Singapore.

Preston, J. L., 1978. ‘Communication systems and social interactions in a goby-shrimp symbiosis’, Animal Behaviour, vol. 26 (3), pp. 791-802.