So, what else is lurking beneath the waters around Singapore? There’s a Goby fish nicknamed “Zee” and a sea anemone affectionately called “Bill”. They are just two of at least six species new to science that have been discovered so far during Singapore’s largest marine biodiversity expedition in the Johor Straits organised by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and National Parks Board. The Expedition is part of Singapore’s first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, which has received widespread support from corporate sponsors such as Shell Companies, which made a generous gift to NUS for a visiting biodiversity scientist programme.
Five species, which were not originally thought to be found in Singapore waters, were discovered during the Expedition. Two rediscoveries were also made — the Digger Crab, which was last seen in this area 50 years ago and the Nipah Crab, which NUS Professor Peter Ng, Director, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) and Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), predicted over 20 years ago would be found in these waters, but had never been sighted until this expedition.
Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore said, “This marine biodiversity survey is a milestone for Singapore. Protecting biodiversity is an important factor when we consider any major project, whether it is new or an expansion of existing operations. This protection of biodiversity makes business sense for Shell.”
Professor Ng says, “The funding from Shell Singapore has been vital. With this gift, we are now able to invite dozens of scientists from around the world — the best in the business — to help us identify what important species are here. Together with local experts on various animals and plants, they will help us fully realise just how diverse our waters are. Despite popular belief, our highly-impacted and developed coastal waters remain very rich in marine species!”
The expedition involved 150 local scientists, conservation officers and volunteers. A team of 20 renowned scientists from 10 countries helped collect and study specimens from Singapore’s estuarine and seabed habitats. Specimens collected will be preserved, identified and curated at the RMBR, which will become Singapore’s first natural history museum in 2014.
The next expedition will focus on the marine species on Singapore’s southern shores in May 2013 and will be based on St John’s Island. The Expedition will remain centred on less studied groups of animals, which will help determine how many species there are in Singapore as well as which areas are biologically rich. More importantly, it will also help identify which species and areas need special attention for conservation.