Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Freshwater Fishes of Timika Regin New Guinea" by Allen. G. R., K. G. Hortle & S. J. Renyaan (2000)

P. T. Freeport Indonesia and Tropical Reef Research. viii + 175 pp. ISBN 0-646-40480-6.

This is the first book in a series of field guides to the biodiversity of the Timika Region of southern Indonesian New Guinea. The Timika Region lies between the Otakwa and Mamoa river basins, and the Central Dividing Range in the interior. According to the authors, the fish fauna there wewas virtually unknown until Freeport Indonesia's Environmental Laboratory began its quarterly sampling program there in 1995.

The taxonomy is up-to-date as first author Dr. Gerald Allen is an international recognised authority on both freshwater and coral reef fishes of the Australia-New Guinea region. In this comprehensive guide, 93 native species and five feral species of freshwater fish are presented. Two of the native species are new to science. The formal descriptions of the apogonid Glossamia timika and eleotrid Oxyeleotris stagnicola. appended at the rear end of the book do not interfere with the flow of the book's concise format.

Each species is illustrated with their English and scientific names, a diagnosis that highlights the more important characters including succinct descriptions of colour and markings. There are brief comments on the fish's habitat and abundance, followed by notes on their distribution in New Guinea. These notes are illustrated on a map of New Guinea on the top right hand corner of the page. A list of local names is also provided.

Good pictures and accurate illustrations of entire fish are arguably the quickest and most reliable tool to identify the various types of fishes, and this is adequately furnished for each and every species in this guide. Many species are illustrated in life with excellent photographs. Where good photographs are wanting, line drawings and paintings made by Australian artists Jill Ruse and Roger Swainston are effective substitutes.

Apart from illustrations, the user can also refer to keys that highlight important morphologic and meristic characters. There is a key that differentiates the 27 families of indigenous and five families of introduced freshwater fish in the area. If more than one species is present in a family, a key to the different species in that group is provided.

This book certainly lives up to its design as a quick identification guide to the freshwater fishes of the Timika region. It is a good reference for anyone who is generally interested in fishes, and/or the biodiversity of the Australia-New Guinea region.

Kelvin K. P. Lim
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 380-381 on 31 Dec 2001.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"An updated classification of the recent Crustacea" by Martin, J. W. & G. E. Davis. (2001)

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Series 39, 124 pp. ISSN 1-891276-27-1. US $20. Orders to K. Victoria Brown, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007, USA; e-mail:

When Joel W. Martin and George E. Davis decided to newly arrange the crustacean collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Museum, they did not do it the easy way, which would have been to base their arrangement on the most recent published overview of crustacean families from Bowman & Abele (1982). Instead, they undertook a major (and courageous) task: they decided to gather all the available knowledge on higher crustacean systematics and compile it afresh in "an updated classification of the recent Crustacea", For this purpose, they confronted 102 specialists of different crustacean taxa with several drafts of a revised classification, and collected and assimilated their opinions (whenever possible) into a complete document. Not only will the crustacean collection of the Los Angeles Museum benefit from this exhaustive work, but the entire crustacean scientific community should acknowledge this effort. It is no surprise that after 20 years of worldwide taxonomic and systematic research, and with new molecular methods being implemented in systematics, a large number of new insights and systematic changes have been introduced to crustacean classification since Bowman & Abele's (1982) key compilation. However, as already pointed out by the authors, the crustaceans are a very diverse group and most taxonomists working on them are only specialists for small selected groups. Therefore, most of them are not aware of the changes that have occurred in other crustacean groups, and a review of the classification in the form of the present study was much needed. As a result, almost 200 more families appear in this work than in Bowman & Abele's (1982) classification, giving us an overall total of 849 extant crustacean families.

The title of the book is somewhat overstated in that the "updated classification of the recent Crustacea" does not include all taxonomic levels of the Crustacea. The classification does not go below the level of family for any of the taxa included. This, however, is understandable, considering that most previous revisions were also restricted to the suprageneric level and higher. Thus including more detailed taxonomic treatments would have meant starting from scratch for most of the groups. We also have to keep in mind that in all revisions, authors must draw a line somewhere in order to complete the task without getting lost in too much detail and getting mired in ongoing developments. The inclusion of all subfamilies and genera would have increased the necessary amount of work (as well as the controversies among specialists) exponentially and made a publication unrealistic. With 124 pages, this compilation is already much more extensive than Bowman & Abele's (1982), which consisted of only 27 pages. Finally, the acceptance and success of a systematic scheme will always depend on its scientific longevity, and it is evident that all systematic classifications are much less stable at the generic level than at higher taxonomic levels.

After a general introduction, the authors define their methods and dedicate a few paragraphs to some of the methods that have contributed to the new insights used for the updated classification of Crustacea: cladistics, molecular systematics, sperm morphology, larval morphology, and the fossil record. The "Rationale" starts with a discussion of general questions concerning the monophyly of the Crustacea, the total number of classes and their relationships. However, its main purpose is to introduce briefly the higher crustacean taxa, the most important problems concerning their classification, and diverging opinions on their systematics. This is the section wherein the authors justify why they selected the classifications that they present in the following section, and what possible alternative classifications could be considered. Naturally, there are different opinions on the classification of almost all crustacean taxa. Therefore, in many cases the authors had to compromise between different specialists' opinions, having been accused by some of favouring different systematic philosophies and approaches as noted in their concluding remarks (p. 57). We should not forget, however, that higher systematics must still be regarded a theoretical science and is mostly meant as a framework for presenting assumed phylogenetic relationships. As long as we do not have a full understanding of these phylogenetic relationships (i.e., always), everyone has the right to propose and employ different higher classification systems, which after all are little more than subjective "working hypotheses" or "models" based on the available knowledge. Consequently, Martin & Davis also had to review a vast number of systematic theories and findings in order to finally propose "their" classification on the basis of synthesis, consensus, and judgement calls. While no one should begrudge these authors for the decisions they had to make, the nature of these circumstances are such that many specialists will have some major or minor objections to varied aspects of the classification as presented in this study. Martin & Davis at very least do justice to diverging opinions by dedicating a special chapter (Appendix I) of their paper for publication of varied opinions by colleagues, each opinion classified by taxonomic group. This is a very fair and useful strategy that allows one to recognize where some of the disagreements center in the ongoing search for the best systematic system. Unfortunately, these comments refer to only a penultimate draft of the classification, and therefore it is not always immediately clear whether the concerns of the contributors have been met and whether their views have been adopted.

The third appendix is dedicated to a list of other crustacean resources, which includes journals, newsletters, and specialised web sites. This is certainly of great use for everyone who would like to follow new results and insights of crustacean research as well as to keep up with future discussions concerning crustacean systematics and classification. The cited literature of approximately 900 references is very much up to date, often also including unpublished results from recent scientific meetings. In one case, the anticipated taxonomic change even predated the official publication. The description of the Glyptograpsidae Schubart, Felder & Cuesta was published in 2002 and not in 2001 as stated in Martin & Davis. However, since their first official mention of the taxon does not include a description, the name used in the classification is a nomen nudum, and only becomes valid with the original description by Schubart et al. (2002).

Overall, this classification will turn out to be extremely useful to all those working with crustaceans, not only in systematics, but also in all other fields of biological sciences. All researchers and readers of scientific studies should be informed about the current knowledge concerning the systematic placement of the organisms under study. The authors deserve much credit for gathering all this information, and for providing us with such an important tool for future studies. Of course, there will soon be more new evidence and ensuing taxonomic change that will outdate some of the classifications as presented, but for the moment we have a new basis on which to build and add future insights. I hope that not longer than in another 20 years time, a similarly motivated team of researchers will provide us with the next updated classification of the Crustacea.

Bowman, T. E. & L. G. Abele, 1982. Classification of the Recent Crustacea. In: Abele, L. G. (ed.), Systematics, the fossil record, and biogeography, vol. I of Bliss, D. E. (ed.), The Biology of Crustacea. New York, Academic Press. pp. 1-27.

I, Schubart, C. D., J. A. Cuesta & D. L. Felder, 2002. Glyptograpsidae, a new brachyuran family from central America: larval and adult morphology, and a molecular phylogeny of the grapsoidea. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 22(1): 28-44.

Christoph D. Schubart I
Biology 1
University of Regensburg
93040 Regensburg, Germany.

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol 50(1): 279-280 on 30 Jun 2002.

"Asia Pacific Reef Guide" by Debelius. H. (2001)

IKAN - Unterwasserarchiv, Frankfurt. 321 pp. Without ISBN number.

'Asia Pacific Reef Guide' concentrates on selected marine fauna of the Western Central Pacific area that includes Malaysia and Indonesia in the south, the Gulf of Thailand, the coastal waters of Vietnam and China in the west; and Japanese coral reefs in the East China Sea southwards of 30 degrees north. To the east, its covers the Philippine Archipelago and the oceanic islands of Ogasawara, Yap and Palau, which are popular diving destinations. This book is intended to replace 'Southeast Asia Tropical Fish Guide' in the same richly illustrated series that ran out of print two years ago.

The author designed this book as a guide not only to fish, but also to other groups of mostly reef-dwelling marine life 'that are more likely to attract the interest of divers and snorkellers'. Even though bony fishes cover about three-quarters of the volume, reptiles, crustaceans, and molluscs are also prominently featured. Considerably less extensive coverage are given to cnidarians, flatworms, polychaete worms, echinoderms, and ascidians. Each species is illustrated with at least a colour photograph, and accompanied by a short text that identifies the animal with its currently used scientific names, and specifies the size, distribution, and depth where the animal is usually encountered. This is followed by general comments such as that of diagnostic characters, similar species, ontogenetic changes, and whether it is harmful to humans, or otherwise heavily exploited by the latter.

Inserted at intervals throughout the book are twenty picture stories from the Asia-Pacific region written by the author and various underwater photographers. Some of these highlight interesting animal behaviour, and how animals interact with other species and their environment. Others show how man has excessively exploited many marine creatures, and cause damage to the marine environment in the process.

This book is recommended as a field guide, but to some it may be too glossy and expensive to be used outdoors. On the bookshelf at home, it makes a handsome addition. It is a pleasure simply to flip through its pages, for it contains an outstanding collection of very attractive and superbly printed pictures, almost all taken in the wild.

On most instances, the location of each picture is indicated. However, the pictures supposedly taken in Singapore on pages 81, 99, 170, and 217 are open to doubt. Not only are the waters of all the shots unusually clear for Singapore's standards, the fishes -Epinephelus flavocaeruleus, Apogon aureus, Cirrhitops fasciatus and Acanthurus olivaceus would otherwise be new records for the country.

Kelvin K. P. Lim
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol 50(1): 278 on 30 Jun 2002.

"Fishes of Laos" by Kottelat, M. (2001)

Fishes of Laos. Kotte1at, M., 2001. WHT Publications (Pte) Ltd, Sri Lanka. 198 pp. ISBN 955-9114-25-5.

The fish fauna of the Lao People's Democratic Republic consists of primary freshwater varieties and euryhaline species that can live for extended periods in freshwater. Most of Laos is drained by the Mekong basin, and none of the country's boundaries is anywhere near the sea. This book reports on 481 species of fish from the country, a dramatic increase from 210 species known in 1975. The author himself recorded more than 100 species for the first time in the past six years while doing fieldwork for this book. It is of interest to note that loaches of the genus Schistura are incredibly diverse there. With 57 species, they make up over 10% of the country's fish fauna. Many of them are also endemic to Laos.

All species of fish recorded to date from Laos are illustrated, and their diagnostic characters are provided in the book. Information on the geographic distribution, habitats, and previous misidentifications is also included for every species. Although English vernacular names are provided for the families, species nomenclature is restricted to scientific names. This is because most of the species have no English or even Laotian names. Most of the local vernacular names are used only in a given region and are unknown elsewhere; or the same name is used for different species in different areas. The scientific name of each species is the latest one known to the author, but older names and synonyms, where present, are listed as well.

The fauna is presented in phylogenetic order, but the level of classification only goes as high as family. Identification keys are included for all families with several genera. The picture and text of each species are correspondingly numbered, and both sets can easily be traced to each other. It would have been more convenient for the user if all pictures and text are on pages facing each other, but this will probably be too troublesome to format.

Even though the book lacks pictures of live fish in their natural habitat, most of thephotographs feature fresh and well-preserved specimens that accurately depict their general appearance and colour markings. They should enable anyone to identify the fishes in the quickest way, even without reading the text. Also useful are the simple line drawings that are distributed throughout the book. By no means works of art, they, nevertheless, clearly and effectively illustrate morphological characters that may not be adequately described in words.

This book is designed as a tool for the education of the Lao people on the fish diversity of their country. It is also a comprehensive reference for anyone interested in the fish fauna of the Indochinese region thanks to its extensive list of literature references. It serves its intended purpose as a practical guide to the fishes of Laos most admirably for it is not bulky or pretty enough to stop many people from using it in the field.

Kelvin K. P. Lim
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 50(1): 277 on 30 Jun 2002.

"Proceedings of the International Conference on In-situ and Ex- situ Biodiversity Conservation in the New Millennium" by Yaacob, Z., et. al. (2001)

Yayasan Sabah/Innoprise Corporation Sdn. Bhd. & Sabah Museum. ix + 447pp. ISBN 983-808-152-3.

This is a compilation of papers and abstracts of posters presented at the International Conference on In-situ and Ex-situ Biodiversity Conservation in the New Millennium that was held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, from 20th to 22nd June 2000.

The bulk of this publication consists of 31 papers and 19 abstracts of poster presentations covering a variety of biodiversity conservation and management topics. These range from broad- based strategic conservation issues to specific research projects, and are grouped into six sections. The first section, "Conservation of Biodiversity In-situ and Ex-situ", features two keynote papers, "Protected Areas In The New Millennium: Challenges And Opportunities" and "Development And Future Direction Of Biodiversity Collections In Southeast Asia". These set the stage for the rest of the proceedings by providing respective overviews of in- situ and ex-situ approaches to biodiversity conservation.

The remaining papers are organised into the five other sections, viz., "The Importance of Conservation Management of Protected Areas in the New Millennium"; "The Uses of Biodiversity Collections in Taxonomic, Ecological and Environmental Research"; "Managing Protected Areas: Priorities, National Planning and Networking"; "Research in Molecular Systematics of Biodiversity and Local Needs in Southeast Asia"; and "Conservation and Public Participation". Below are some examples of the included papers:

-"The Management Of Protected Areas In Sabah": A summary of the major protected areas in Sabah, the various agencies that manage them, and the legal framework and management approaches used as of the year 2000.

-"Botanical Collections In The Malesian Region -What Has Been Found, Where Is It And Where To Collect In The Future" and "The Role Of Sabah' s Zoological Collections In The Conservation Of Protected Areas In Sabah": These papers explain the rationale behind making scientific collections and the value of specimens as permanent records in support of biodiversity conservation research. They also cite several floral and faunal examples in highlighting the paucity of collections in Southeast Asia, and the continuing need for scientific collections.

-"Molecular Collections For Basic Research: Museums, Methods And Morality": Among other things, this paper addresses the often contentious issue of collection, study and exchange of genetic material in ex-situ conservation research and management. It also clarifies the roles of museum-based molecular collections, and discusses practical issues involving methods and management of such collections.

-"Molecular Approaches In Local Biodiversity Studies" and "Small is Beautiful: DNA Evolution and Conservation of Minute Snails from SE Asian Limestone Hills": The first paper lists various molecular techniques used in biodiversity studies, and provides examples of studies in Malaysia where molecular approaches are being applied. The second paper is a good example of how molecular techniques can be employed to complement morphological studies in identifying populations or areas for in-situ conservation.

Contributors to these proceedings include researchers/representatives from international conservation organisations (e.g., IUCN-The World Conservation Union, World Wide Fund for Nature); government agencies (e.g., Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Science and Technology, Sabah, Malaysia, and Sabah Forest Department); intergovernmental organisations (e.g., International Tropical Timber Organization); universities (e.g., Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and University of Aarhus, Denmark); and museums (e.g., Sabah Museum, and Museum of Natural Science, Louisiana State University, USA). Surprisingly, zoos, which often pride themselves on their involvement in ex-situ biodiversity conservation research, are noticeably absent from involvement in these proceedings or in the conference. Nevertheless, this volume still represents an amalgamation of input from several stakeholders, and thus reflects the multilateral approach that is necessary and is now being adopted in biodiversity conservation and management.

This is indeed a timely publication, as it provides a useful update or summary of the latest developments in techniques and approaches used for biodiversity research and management. It would therefore be an ideal reference tool for both the uninitiated as well as the seasoned biodiversity worker here in Southeast Asia.

Darren C. J. Yeo
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 50(1): 275-276 on 30 Jun 2002.

"Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist and Bibliography" by Sheldon, F. H. et al. (2001)

Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist and Bibliography. Sheldon, F. H., R. G. Moyle & J. Kennard, 2001. Ornithological Monographs 52, American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. vi + 285 pp. USD 25.00. Without ISBN number.

Occupying the north part of the island of Borneois Malaysian state of Sabah. Due to its unique geographic location, Borneo is one of the nerve centres of biodiversity. However, sadly, biodiversity of Sabah, as of Southeast Asia, is poorly studied. This sad reality remains despite the fact that habitat destruction in Southeast Asia has been unprecedented in recent times. Sound biological knowledge, in my mind, is needed for effective conservation. Any monograph on the birds of Sabah should therefore be good news. However, when I received a copy of this monographs, two thoughts came to my mind. First, I thought -not another book on birds of Southeast Asia! There are numerous books (field guides) on the birds of Southeast Asia -most of them are scientifically useless as they often lack adequate information on the bird biology. Second, I thought that anybody could compile the available information. As I show below, both of my thoughts were wrong.

This monograph is divided into five parts: introduction, history, gazetteer, annotated checklist and bibliography. Included in introduction are physical, geographical and habitat features of Sabah. Also included are critical analyses on evolution, ecology, behaviour and conservation. These four parts make this monograph apart from traditional field guides that I was mentioning earlier. As mentioned, all these chapters are critically written. In addition to succinctly summarizing the current state of knowledge, they point the readers towards the areas that potential researchers can home in. Probably because of lack of information, ecology and behaviour section dwell on Bornean birds than specifically on Sabahan birds.

The authors point out the biological benefits of strategically placing agricultural plantations. Such examples show that both conservation and exploitation can be and should be effectively balanced. All survey sites in Sabah are mapped with geographic coordinates given for most of them. This I admit is a mammoth task in its own particularly because the sites have Malay names and would have been difficult to map. In my mind, the most valuable part of this book is the species descriptions. When available, data on the species' biology are presented. Such information will be particularly useful for future studies such as those comparing guild compositions among sites.

Anybody interested in Southeast Asian birds should own this monograph. With this work, the stage is set for more quantitative ornithological research in Sabah. I have a number of wishes. First, I hope that similar monographs are published for other regions such as Sarawak and Java. Second, I hope that ornithological research in Southeast Asia takes a leap from traditional survey work. Last, governments in the region provide conducive environment for scientific research - unknown biodiversity cannot be protected adequately.

Navjot S. Sodhi
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Blk S2. 14 Science Drive 4
Singapore 117543
Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 50(2): 511 on 31 Dec 2002

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"A Guide to Tropical Freshwater Zooplankton – Identification, Ecology and Impact on Fisheries" by Ed. Fernando, C. H. (2002)

Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands, 291 pages. ISBN 90-5782-117

Fundamental to studying the biology and ecology of organisms, and their use as indicator
organisms in pollution studies is the ability to identify organisms. Although taxonomy is crucial to such studies, this area of research is generally not well supported. However, taxonomic studies are better supported in developed, northern temperate countries compared with tropical regions, which are represented by many developing countries. This book is thus
a welcome addition to the rather scarce information database on identifying tropical freshwater zooplankton. The book covers the major zooplankton groups (Rotifera, Cladocera,
Copepoda, Ostracoda, and Miscellaneous groups representing seven phyla) each written by an expert in the field.

The book comprises seven chapters. Chapter 1 gives a rundown on methods for sampling zooplankton, and their preparation for microscopic examination. Zooplankton ecologists will find the section on determining the secondary production of cladocerans, and notes on the ecology of the main groups useful. Chapter 2 deals with the rotifers, their morphology, collection and preservation, and their biogeography. This is followed by a key to families, genera and species. Chapter 3 introduces cladocerans with short notes on the morphology and distribution of each of the 63 species listed. This is followed by a key to the identification
of species. To assist in the identification, a pictorial key is also provided, which I found very useful, particularly for those being introduced to the world of water fleas. Chapter 4 covers the copepods. Because of the fact that the copepod undergoes metamorphosis from naupliar to copepodid through to adult stages, its identification requires familiarity with morphological features; this is dealt with for the three stages at the order level. Keys to species of calanoids and cyclopoids are provided with notes on their zoogeographical distribution, and general comments on the ecology and productivity of the group. Chapter 5 introduces the ostracods
by familarising the reader with their taxonomic characteristics before presenting a key and accompanying notes to the identification of various genera. Chapter 6 provides ecological and distributional notes on the less dominant groups generally found in zooplankton samples.

These comprise the Protozoa, Coelenterate, Platyhelminthes, Ectoprocta, several orders of Insecta, Arachnida, Mollusca, and parasitic copepods. The last chapter places the zooplankton in the context of tropical freshwater fisheries, with discussions on the role of fish in shaping zooplankton composition and evolution in freshwaters. This chapter also compares trophic relationships of fish and zooplankton between tropical and temperate lakes, and concludes with some insights to the contribution of zooplankton to tropical freshwater fisheries.

The various chapters have copious amounts of illustrations, which will greatly assist the reader in identifying the various taxa. To the tropical zooplankton taxonomist/ecologist this book should contribute to making life easier in identifying the little beasties in your samples. A book worth acquiring for the library or personally.

Richard P. Lim
Department of Environmental Sciences
University of Technology, Sydney
PO Box 123. Broadway
NSW 2007

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 51(1): 177 on 30 Jun 2004.

"The Indo-Pacific scyllarine lobsters (Crustacea, Decapoda, Scyllaridae) by Holthuis, L. B. (2002)

The Indo-Pacific scyllarine lobsters (Crustacea, Decapoda, Scyllaridae). Holthuis, L. B., 2002. Zoosystema, 24(3): 499-683. Publications Scientifiques du Museum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris. ISSN 1280-9551.

The flathead lobsters of the family Scyllaridae are very diverse, and of the four recognised subfamilies, the Scyllarinae has the most species. Until this revision, this subfamily had only one very speciose genus, Scyllarus Fabricius, 1775, its members occurring in all the major oceans. Within the Indo-Pacific, identifying Scyllarus species has always been a major problem, with 41 available names. The present revision solves this headache. The present author is the acknowledged world expert on lobsters, and has worked on them for decades. Already, he has reorganised the subfamilies within the Scyllaridae and has revised the Ibacinae (see Holthuis, L. B., 1985: A revision of the family Scyllaridae (Crustacea: Decapoda: Macrura). I. Subfamily Ibacinae. Zoologische Verhandelingen, Leiden, No. 218: 1-130), but the one group for which a revision was most needed was without doubt the Indo-Pacific Scyllarinae. In fact, the roots of the present revision were planted over 40 years ago, and it has taken that long for it to be finally finished. But the wait has certainly been worth it. The author shows that the genus Scyllarus s. str. is restricted to the Atlantic and Mediterranean; and establishes 13 new genera for the species from the Indo-Pacific. In the process, he also describes eight new species. The largest Indo-Pacific genus is now his new genus, Eduarctus, with seven species. Almost all the species are described and figured in detail, with colour figures provided for 12 taxa. Habitat, depth and larval data is provided and discussed whenever possible. Two monotypic genera, Antarctus and Antipodarctus, however, were only briefly diagnosed, the full treatment of these southern ocean species been left to John Yaldwyn of New Zealand. One regret would be that the author has not revised Scyllarus s. str. as well and sorted out the problems within it. As things stand, this task will almost certainly have to be taken up by his successor (whoever he or she may be).

Noteworthy is also that the journal ZOOSYSTEMA is now taking on large monographs like Holthuis’ present masterpiece on the Scyllarinae. This journal has had a very long history and throughout most of the last few decades, has been better known to its users as the BULLETIN DU MUSEUM NATIONALE D’HISTOIRE NATURELLE, 4th SERIE, SECTION A, ZOOLOGIE, PARIS. In its new format and name, which is now past its fifth year, the journal has had a timely revival and is set to carry on the excellent traditions and roles of its predecessors.

Peter K. L. Ng
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge, Singapore 119260, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 51(1): 174 on 30 Jun 2003.

"Crustacea: Malacostraca: Phyllocarida, Hoplocarida, Eucarida" and "Crustacea: Malacostraca: Eucarida" by Davie, P. J. F. (2002)

Crustacea: Malacostraca: Phyllocarida, Hoplocarida, Eucarida (Part 1). Davie, P. J. F., 2002. In: Wells, A. & W. W. K. Houston (eds.), Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 19.3A. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, Australia. xii + 551 pp. AU$ 140.00. ISBN 0-643-06791-4.

Crustacea: Malacostraca: Eucarida (Part 2: Decapoda— Anomura, Brachyura). Davie, P. J. F., 2002. In: Wells, A. & W. W. K. Houston (eds.), Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 19.3B. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, Australia. xiv + 641 pp. AU$ 150.00. ISBN 0-643-06792-

These two excellent volumes summarise the systematics and taxonomy of most of the major groups of Australian crustaceans (except Syncarida and Peracarida, which is dealt with in two other volumes) within the largest class of subphylum Crustacea—Malacostraca. The volumes are part of the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) produced Zoological Catalogue of Australia series, which is known for its high quality of taxonomic and nomenclatural

The last such inventory of the Australian crustacean fauna was published more than a hundred years ago by W. A. Haswell in 1882 (Catalogue of the Australian stalk- and sessile-eyed Crustacea. Australian Museum, Sydney. xxiv + 326 pp.), so the present works are certainly welcome and have been highly-anticipated. The impressive combined coverage of these two volumes includes more than 2,400 species (70 families, 343 genera and 1,225 species of
Australian shrimps, prawns and lobsters in Vol. 19.3A; and 55 families, 438 genera and 1,243 species of Australian crabs, and hermit crabs and their kin in Vol. 19.3B).

The large number of taxa to a certain extent reflects the considerable geographic scope that the volumes cover. Australia is defined in the series as including all Australian territories and protectorates such as Norfolk and Lord Howe Island; Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs; Coral Sea Islands Territory; Cartier and Hibernia Reefs; Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands; and Australian Antarctic Territory and Subantarctic islands. And while many groups represented
here, especially the tropical ones, have Indo-Malaysian and Indo-West Pacific affinities, the temperate and freshwater fauna, which display a high degree of endemism, have also contributed to the high species counts.

Both volumes begin with a general introduction to the Malacostraca, followed by a historical overview of the most important contributions to Australian carcinology over the past 200 years. The bulk of the volumes, the summaries of taxonomic and nomenclatural information for all Australian Phyllocarida, Hoplocarida and Eucarida (crabs hermit crabs and allies in Vol. 19.3B; the rest in Vol. 19.3A) down to species group level, are then presented in a concise and
practical format, which is clearly explained in the Editorial Preface to each volume. A brief introduction containing comments on phylogenetic relationships and other recent studies, and a diagnosis, is given for every higher level taxon down to subfamily group level. Genera and species are then listed with relevant information including type data, type locality, distribution and ecology. Primary references are given for all names including junior synonyms, while
references for synonymy often refers to the latest review paper being followed, and not necessarily the original reference responsible for the synonymy.

Although the two volumes were not intended to be sources of new information, a good number of new decisions regarding synonymies, type species designations, higher classification, etc., have also been made, based either on the experience of the author, or in consultation with or based on the unpublished information of other experts, all of whom are acknowledged. This makes the present compilation even more invaluable as it is very “up to date”.

This timely pair of publications helps bring the reader up to date with the state of systematics and taxonomy of Australian malacostracans, many of which are species of economic importance, not just in Australia, but also occur in many other parts of the Indo-West Pacific, making the volumes invaluable outside Australia as well. Gaps in our knowledge of this significant group have also been identified. They are therefore a “must-have” for crustacean taxonomists and marine ecologists, as well as fisheries and aquaculture workers, and sustainable resource managers.

Darren C. J. Yeo
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 51(1): 176 on 30 Jun 2004.

"A photographic guide to snakes and other reptiles of India" by Das, I. (2002)

New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd, London. 144 pp. GBP 7.99. ISBN 1-84330- 125-3.

We are all well aware of how unique and diverse the fauna of the great Indian Sub-continent is,and its amphibian and reptile inhabitants are certainly no exception. Despite sharing a smallfraction of its herpetofauna with Indo- China and the Sundalands, a large majority of Indian species, even genera, are strictly confined to this distinct biogeographical realm. The breath-taking array of available habitats in this country covers a broad spectrum, ranging from the cold and harsh Himalayan mountains in the north to the warm, sun-kissed Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the south. And in between these two extremities of latitude, microclimate and habitats, some 490 species of reptiles have been discovered. With ongoing research interests in India, it is no doubt that this figure would reach 500 in a very short time.

Image adapted from Turtle and Tortise preservation Group on 23rd May 2007.

After almost two centuries of herpetological work in India, a formidable number of publications would have been churned out from such a long history of research. However, the most complete works would undeniably have been by Malcolm A. Smith, who produced three separate volumes over a span of more than twelve years. He systematically covered the crocodiles and turtles in Volume I (Smith, 1931), the lizards in Volume II (Smith, 1935) and the snakes in Volume III (Smith, 1943). These valuable classics have long been regarded as almost indispensable references in the library of any herpetologist interested in the Asian arena. However, details that were previously described in a thousand words have now been painted in a picture, and compiled into a handy sized book that would fit snugly in your waist-pouch or daypack. A whopping 243 different species of reptiles (110 snakes, 98 lizards, 3 crocodilians, 32 turtles) are featured in Indraneil’s most recent book, among other earlier titles by him.

Herpetologists or hobbyists who have merely confined their focus on the Southeast Asian fauna would bump into a number of ‘familiar faces’ while thumbing through this book, but at least two thirds of the cold-blooded creatures would invoke quizzical exclamations such as: “Is that a snake? Looks more like a worm!”, “How do you pronounce Ptyctolaemus?”, “Why does this lizard have a toad’s head?”, “This turtle looks like a ‘Made in Hong Kong’ toy!”. Truly an eye-opener for those uninitiated with Indian reptiles. But for those in the know, this book serves as an update on nomenclatural changes (eg. the Indian Trinket Snake Elaphe helena [featured on cover] has been reassigned to the genus Coelognathus) and recently discovered species (eg. Cnemaspis otai, described by the author and Aaron Bauer in 1998).

By any standards, if the proverbial ‘iceberg’ of Indian reptiles were 490 species deep, the author has clearly far surpassed just ‘the tip’, having plunged to the midpoint at least, and surfacing with 243 species in tow, all for our viewing and learning pleasure. My sincere compliments to his tireless efforts, whose book now complements the earlier New Holland guide (Cox et al., 1998), which highlighted reptiles in Thailand and the Malay peninsula. We look forward to a similar work on the amphibians of India with eager anticipation.

Cox, M. J., P. P. van Dijk, J. Nabhitabhata & K. Thirakupt, 1998. A photographic guide to snakes and other reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd, London. 144 pp.

Smith, M. A., 1931. The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Vol. I. Loricata, Testudines. Taylor & Francis, London. xxvii + 185 pp., 2 pl.

Smith, M. A., 1935. The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Amphibia. Vol. II. Sauria. Taylor & Francis, London. xiii + 440 pp., 1 pl.

Smith, M. A., 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, including the whole of the Indo-Chinese region. Vol. III. Serpentes. Taylor & Francis, London. xii + 583 pp., 1 map.

Tzi Ming Leong
Systematics & Ecology Laboratory
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge
Singapore 119260

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 51(1): 175 on 30th Jun 2003.

"Sri Lanka Freshwater Fauna and Fisheries" by Fernando, C. H. & S. R. Weerewardhena (2002)

Sri Lanka Freshwater Fauna and Fisheries. Fernando, C. H. & S. R. Weerewardhena, 2002. A Third Millenium Book, Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Volumes Publishing, Kitchener, Canada. ISBN 955-97697-0-7. Orders to the authors at or

This weighty tome - 634 A4 pages – landed on my desk with a resounding thump. Its heft is due not only to physical bulk. C. Herbert Fernando, the senior author, has half a century of experience in tropical limnology, and is indisputably one of the founding fathers of this research area. The book is subtitled ‘A guide to the freshwater fauna and the genesis of inland fisheries’ and is made up of a number of papers by Fernando and his collaborators published between 1956 and 2002. There is only one item in the book that has not appeared elsewhere, and it the only paper that features the two authors. The original papers do not seem to have been modified in any way. The lack of editing means that there are some redundancies in the text, but the difficulty of obtaining some of Fernando’s original papers means that a reprint of this type is welcome. It is also helpful to have these papers bound collated into a single volume. I stress here that this volume is by no means a full representation of Fernando’s prodigious output.

A particular pleasure is to come across Mendis & Fernando’s seminal guide to the freshwater fauna of Sri Lanka (then, of course, called Ceylon). This 160-page paper is in itself a small book. It covers all major groups, from protozoa to otters, and is illustrated by the many delightful hand drawings of G.D. Kariyawasam. (My particular favourite is a picture of the Stork-billed kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis.) I have my own, now rather dog-eared original of this paper and got a great deal of use out of it when I first started working in Asia. Of course, it is incomplete, and really only fully applicable to Sri Lanka, but it is an example of what is possible when a couple of young scientists decide to develop a tool that will help others make sense of a poorly known fauna. This first attempt was followed, over the years, but five supplements, each written by Fernando, plus papers on rotifers and copepods co-authored with collaborators. The fifth supplement was specially prepared by this volume by Fernando and Weerawardhena, and brings knowledge of the fauna up to date. Nomenclatural changes are taken into account also. As might be expected from Fernando’s own research interests in the group, zooplankton are particularly well covered in this volume. But this group aside, it is
probably true to say that the freshwater fauna of Sri Lanka is as well known, or perhaps better known, than any other tropical country of an equivalent size. There is still plenty to do, however. The Chironomidae (Diptera), for instance, are very poorly known but the family is likely to be highly species rich.

Papers that describe the development of freshwater fisheries in Sri Lanka, primarily reservoir fisheries, take up the rest of the book. These are based mainly upon the exploitation of exotic tilapias (sensu lato), there being no native fishes adapted to lacustrine habitats. This fact has encouraged Fernando to expound on his politically-incorrect view that exotic species can, under certain conditions, be valuable additions to local faunas (especially on pages 621 & 622). He quotes Charles Elton’s classic 1958 monograph on biological invasions (Elton, 1958) in support of this opinion, proposing that conservation should involve enhancing biological variety in as many places as possible, even if that means the addition of exotics. Moreover, Fernando thinks that that exotic species are not always threats to native biodiversity, suggesting that worldwide cultivation of chickens has reduced the pressure to harvest wild birds. There is something to be said for his views. Exotics have been and are being introduced throughout Asia in an unplanned, ad hoc manner. It may be better to accept that some exotics will arrive anyway, and manage or facilitate the introduction species that are least likely to impact native biotas. Many readers may disagree with Fernando’s view, but the evidence that he has assembled deserves careful consideration. Certainly, it should not be dismissed out of hand. I confess that as a native biodiversity chauvinist (i.e. native = good; introduced = bad), this was my initial reaction.

This volume contains a lot of useful information. However, some of it is hard to locate. A frustrating feature, although an understandable one considering its genesis, is the lack of an overall index. There are three partial indexes, which cover pages 162-422 and 445-485, and the contents of the original Mendis & Fernando paper. The third of these is well done, but a test of the first revealed that it was incomplete. From page 507 onwards there is no indexing at all. In order to find entries on a given taxon, the reader has to consult all three indices, but even then cannot be confident that a useful nugget of information hasn’t been missed.

On the back cover, the subtitle is slightly different from that on the frontispiece, and is given as ‘A guide to the freshwater fauna of Sri Lanka and a genesis of the fisheries’. The blurb goes on to say ‘ ... this is the only comprehensive book on the freshwater fauna and fisheries of any county in the world. It was written and updated over a period of nearly 50 years’. Need I say more?

Elton, C. S., 1958. The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. Chapman & Hall, London. 181 pp.

David Dudgeon
Department of Ecology & Biodiversity,
The University of Hong Kong,
Hong Kong SAR,

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 51(1): 173-174 on 30 Jun 2003.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos, Vol. 23" by Marshall, B. A. & B. Richer de Forges (eds.) (2004)

Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos, Vol. 23. Marshall, B. A. & B. Richer de Forges. Memoires du Museum national d’Histoire naturelle 191. 640 pp. Euro 99. ISBN 2-85653-557-7.

(Image taken from,accessed on 21 May 2007)

The world is full of ironies. On one hand, there is an increasing awareness of importance of global biodiversity. On the other, taxonomic funding is scarce, and publishing taxonomic works is becoming increasingly difficult. In large part, whole-animal biology, taxonomy and systematics in particular, seem to have fallen out of vogue in the scientific community in favour of ‘sexier’ molecular biology. Ultimately, however, taxonomy underpins all biology and it is the ignorant who ignore it. Strangely, although ‘biodiversity’ is one of the best-known buzzwords these days; many, including those who promote it, forget that discussion of ‘biodiversity’ is ultimately vacuous without knowledge of species. Therefore, it is reassuring to find publishers who are aware of the value of taxonomy and systematics and are unashamed to be committed to its publication. One example is the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris (MNHN), which for the past two centuries has published original research on whole animal biology. Over the past thirty years, the MNHN has published in its Memoirs series, the taxonomic results of the many deep-sea expeditions conducted in the Indo-Pacific by the Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement (IRD, formerly ORSTOM). These volumes, Resultats des Campagnes MUSORSTOM, rank among the most important works on the taxonomy of Indo-Pacific deep-water fauna ever published. The high quality of these works owes as much to the contributions of international experts as to the meticulous editing by former editor Alain Crosnier. From volume 22 onwards, Resultats des Campagnes MUSORSTOM continued as Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos. The present volume, 23, edited by Bruce Marshall and Bertrand Richer de Forges, ably continues the high standard of previous volumes. Nine contributions are contained in 640 pages, authored by worldwide experts. Of the 226 species reported, 82 are new to science. The contents includes a study on Hexactinellida from the south-west Pacific by Tabachnick & Levi; a survey of the Pycnogonida from New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga by Bamber; a study of New Caledonian pleuronectiform fishes by Mihara; and six papers on decapod Crustacea. The crustacean papers cover hermit crabs of the genus Sympagurus by Lemaitre; hermit crabs of the genus Nematopagurus by McLaughlin; squat lobsters of the genus Munida from Fiji and Tonga by Macpherson; species of the pandalid shrimp Plesionika by Chan; species of pasiphaeid shrimp Pasiphaea by Hayashi; and species of glyphocrangonid shrimp Glyphocrangon by Komai.

A conspicuous feature of the studies published in Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos, and in the previous MUSORSTOM volumes, is the revisionary nature of the papers – most being major works, either revising taxonomic groups or providing regional synopses. The papers in the present volume are no exception, and for this reason many are benchmark studies. The contributions by Lemaitre, McLaughlin, Chan, Hayashi and Komai are major revisionary works. Others deal with regional faunas. Either way, they are major contributions to the knowledge of deep-water Indo-Pacific biodiversity. These papers are fundamentally alpha-taxonomic, but they contribute fundamental data for others such as phylogeneticists and biogeographers. The large size of the book and its individual contributions make for a potentially unwieldy volume. Therefore, a CD containing a PDF of all of the contributions is also included, enabling more convenient dissemination of the work.

Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos is available from: Publications Scientifiques, Museum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, 57 rue Cuvier, F-75231 Paris cedex 05, email:

Shane Ahyong
Department of Marine Invertebrates
Australian Museum
6 College St
Sydney NSW 2010

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 52(1): 283 on 30 June 2004

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment" by Courtenay, W.R.Jr.,& J.D.Williams (2004)

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Circular 1251. 143 pp.
ISBN 0-607- 93720.

Image adapted from USGS - NAS Species FactSheet. Accessed on 23rd May 2007.

This compact 143 paged circular is not a taxonomical treatment of the Channidae (a family of freshwater fishes commonly known as snakeheads), but does cover all 29 currently known species and provides the most complete coverage of the family at present. It is basically a compilation of available current literature and anecdotal information from various sources. Nonetheless, the authors highlight the state of the taxonomy of certain taxa or species complexes (e.g., Channa gachua, C. striata). This circular comprises of a systematic discourse that covers literature review and background information, the various uses in the trade, highlighting on U.S. importations, U.S. regulations as of July 2002, potential range in U.S., risk
assessment process, and species accounts of all known 29 channid species from Asia and Africa.

The accounts of introduction of feral populations of channids in USA is highlighted and treated in detail. The research was exhaustive and made interesting accounts to read. The authors also highlight the earlier mistaken identity of Channa maculata, which had been introduced to Hawaii in the late 1800s. The potential impact of feral populations is also highlighted and discussed upon. One of the more interesting chapters was on the history of introductions, which highlights the high likelihood of introductions through the live food fish trade. Certain species of channids have the ability to survive out of water up to 72 hours, to traverse over dry land, to breath atmospheric air and to tolerate cooler temperatures.

Nevertheless, there are some flaws. The native range of Channa cyanospilos depicted (p. 68) is misleading, as it includes both Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo; whereas current knowledge is that this species is endemic to Sumatra (unpublished data). The native range of Channa gachua (p. 72) should include Sumatra and Sarawak (in the western part of Borneo)(unpublished data). The range of Channa micropeltes (p. 98) should include central Sumatra and East Kalimantan (in the eastern part of Borneo)(unpublished data). There were a few instances of inconsistencies in the use of cited authors’ names, e.g. p.92 – Inger & Kong, Inger & Chin. Both refer to the same authors, and the correct citation should be Inger & Chin, 1962. Another set of cited authors’ names was quoted wrongly – Martin-Smith & Hui, should be Martin- Smith & Tan, 1998.

If this circular is to be intended as a visual guide for fisheries biologists and government enforcement officers, the diagrams of the channids need to be improved. Original depictions from the 1800s can be misleading and chromatically inaccurate. Live, fresh and preserved specimen depictions would provide better visualizations.

Despite the few drawbacks, however, this circular is a good set of data for every fisheries biologist, ichthyologist, biologist, advanced hobbyist and concerned environmentalist to have on their bookshelf.

Literature Cited
Inger, R. F. & Chin, P. K., 1962. The freshwater fishes of North Borneo. Fieldiana, Zoology, 45: 1-268.

Martin-Smith, K. M. & H. H. Tan, 1998. Diversity of freshwater fishes from Eastern Sabah: Annotated checklist for Danum Valley and a consideration of inter- and intra-catchment variability. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 46(2): 573-604.

Tan Heok Hui
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge, Singapore 119260, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 52(1): 282 on 30 Jun 2004.

"Insect Pest Management and Ecological Research" by Walter, G. H. (2003)

Insect Pest Management and Ecological Research. Walter, G. H., 2003. Cambridge University Press. 387 pp. ISBN 0-521-80062-5.

(Image taken from: Google Book Search on 17/5/07)

This is not the usual book on Pest Management. It is a discussion of how ecological principles and research should be integrated into pest management. There are 10 meaty chapters.

The author begins in Chapter 1 by criticizing pest management literature for insufficient coverage of insect ecology, as well as an understanding of pest physiology, behaviour and ecology in the application of integrated pest management (IPM). He also points out the flaws in IPM related research. It is also highlighted that methodological problems encountered in IPM-oriented research are based on generalisations in biology rather than factual information. Chapter 2 discusses the relationships among facts, theory and application in pest management. Chapter 3 gives an account of the historical trends in pest management, and discusses several reasons for the failure of IPM to fulfil its potential. The rest of the chapters focus on the importance of developing research directions, and practice of IPM based on ecological principles. Many aspects of ecological theory and theoretical basis for IPM research and practice are discussed. Examples given include pest-natural enemy relationships, good taxonomy, sexual species and behaviour of the insects. Efforts to close the gap between theory and practice are also suggested.

Each ecological principle is dealt with in great detail, and there are 93 pages of references (almost a quarter of the book). It is an informative book although it is quite a struggle to read through it. However, to incorporate all the theoretical and ecological components stated in this book into IPM will require a great deal of time and research personnel, not to mention financial resources.

Shuit-Hung Ho
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge, Singapore 119260, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 52(1): 281 on 30 Jun 2004.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Chek Jawa Guidebook" by Tan, R. & A. Yeo (eds.) (2003)

Chek Jawa Guidebook. Tan, R. & A. Yeo (eds.), 2003, (website:, in association with The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, The National University of Singapore. (website: Published by Simply Green, Singapore (website: Photographs by Alan Yeo. Containing more than 400 full-colour photographs with over 100 explanatory diagrams.iv + 219 pages of jargon–free text with worksheet elements. SGD 18.00. ISBN 981-04-8832.

I mentally groaned when Peter Ng slid Chek Jawa guidebook across my bench space at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and asked me to review it for The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. My attitude was simply due to my own inadequacies - just how does an outsider communicate the significance of this pocket-sized book on a single sheet of A4 paper? Let’s start with the question: what exactly is Chek Jawa? Well it is the easternmost coastline of a small island named Pulau Ubin, off the mainland of Singapore, in the Johor Straits, at the mouth of the Johor river (pages 6-7). The biological treasures of the shallow tidal flats off the village of Chek Jawa lay hidden and protected by sandbars. Until as recently as 2001 that is when the Singaporean Government announced advanced plans to reclaim this coastline, which basically means the Urban Redevelopment Authority wanted to bury it in sand, tonnes of sand. Chek Jawa became a focal point, not of extreme protesting greenies, but reasoned ordinary citizens that were not prepared to lose more of its dwindling natural heritage. A transect study conducted on the 22 August 2001 along the Chek Jawa coastline identified seven species of seagrass and 28 species of seaweed. At the same time, staff from the Raffles Museum conducted a number of outings for the public before the area was lost for ever. Lectures were organised to educate the public and articles written for Nature Watch and Asian Geographic. Ria Tan and Alan Yeo, together with many other supporters worked tirelessly to save a small but beautiful stretch of coastline. Christmas came early in December 2001, on the 21st to be precise, a reprieve came just days before the reclamation work was due to start. This was unprecedented considering the amount of time and money already spent on the proposed project. The beach at Chek Jawa will be left in peace for at least ten years.

Chek Jawa may masquerade as a guidebook on the outside, but for the adventurous I suggest you search the tome from cover to cover because there can be found all the jewels of the east. The pages literately ooze collaboration and in a nutshell it is biodiversity of the people, by the people for the people. There is obviously a strong community spirit projected from within. Much thought was given to the format and presentation of the book, so much so that I understand that publication was delayed for over a year to ensure that its was user friendly (jargon–free text!). Ria and Alan have certainly achieved this and in my opinion got it right. The penned illustrations, mostly by Ria, are magnificent combining accurate biological fact and humour with simplicity, while Alan has supported the text with a multitude of excellent natural history photographs. Further contributions have come from the biodiversity graduate students of the NUS Department of Biological Sciences, staff of The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, and various other experts and volunteers, who have all breathed a unique kind of life into the guidebook. For example page 19 is entitled “Preparing for your visit” [to Chek Jawa]. Practical advice is given; wear a hat if it’s a sunny day, bring water, don’t walk barefoot and much more. Further I liked the two pages comprising “What’s that?!!”. A considerable amount of thought has been given to explaining the complex subject of taxonomy. This text here is not the stodgy pudding of school dinners; instead it is well thought out, light enjoyable reading and comprises the real ingredients of further education. The project editors are to be congratulated on their fine achievement. In fact, by the time my review is published, Chek Jawa Guidebook will have received the Environment book award sponsored by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) at the Asian Geographical “Celebrate the Sea” event in Kuala Lumpur, August 2003. It is well deserved.

Chek Jawa is alive at present, but remember it is only under a temporary reprieve.

Paul F. Clark
Department of Zoology
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW7 5BD

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 51(2): 429 on 31 Dec 2003.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"Development of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary as a Totally Protected Area" by Ivy S Abdullah (2004)

Development of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary as a Totally Protected Area - Fish resources assessment study of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Batang Ai National Park. By Ivy S Abdullah, 2004. International Tropical Timber Organization. Forestry Department, Sarawak, Malaysia. ITTO project PD16/99 rev. 2(F), phase III, vii+70 pages.

This is a well illustrated medium sized volume covering the freshwater fishes of the catchment area of the Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (Rejang basin) and Batang Ai NationalPark (Lupar basin).

This publication covers mainly the fish diversity, recommendations for conservation and possible applications in aquaculture and aquarium trade. The fish list draws from several earlier unpublished reports and substantiates the findings with more records and lists possible new species.

The maps provided are very detailed contour maps of poor resolution. Simpler line drawing maps would have been sufficient.

Several tables are provided listing the fish obtained from the abovementioned areas. Table 2 provides a fish list from Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, of which several species are of questionable identities; as follows:
Gastromyzon contractus – as from illustrations from plate 25, it is G. fasciatus;
Gastromyzon ridens – from current understanding (and unpublished data), it is restricted to the Kapuas basin;
All three species of Glaniopsis – from current understanding (and unpublished data), they are all restricted to their respective type localities and basins.
However, these cannot be confirmed till the actual specimens are examined.

Table 4 provides a fish list from Batang Ai National Park, of which several species are of questionable identities; as follows:
Akysis baramensis – this is a rather southern distribution from the type locality, more detailed examination required to clarify the identity;
Gastromyzon borneensis - from current understanding (and unpublished data), it is restricted to western Sabah;
Gastromyzon ridens – from current understanding (and unpublished data), it is restricted to the Kapuas basin;
All three species of Glaniopsis – from current understanding (and unpublished data), they are all restricted to their respective type localities and basins.
However, these cannot be confirmed till the actual specimens are examined.

At least one reference is missing, e.g. Roberts, 1980, in which the year could be wrongly quoted. This publication suffers from outdated taxonomical names and identifications, as follows:
Plate 3 – should be Puntius banksi juvenile
Plate 5 – should be Lobocheilos sp.
Plate 6 – should be Osteochilus sarawakensis
Plate 10 – should be Auriglobus nefastus
Plate 13 – should be Rasbora agyrotaenia
Plate 15 – should be Rasbora caudimaculata
Plate 18 – should be Glyptothorax major
Plate 20 – should be Clarias leiacanthus
Plate 21 – should be Barbonymus collingwoodi
Plate 24 – should be Schismatorhynchos holorhynchos
Plate 25 – should be Gastromyzon fasciatus
Plate 33 – should be Homaloptera nebulosa
Plate 35 – should be Nemacheilus saravacensis
Plate 36 – should be Neogastromyzon cf. pauciradiatus
Plate 37 – should be Leiocassis poecilopterus
Plate 38 – should be Pseudomystus rugosus
Plate 45 – should be Macrognathus circumcinctus
Plate 47 – should be Schismatorhynchos holorhynchos

This publication also lists good recommendations for the conservation of the areas mentioned. Also providing avenues for local people’s involvement through aquaculture of local fish species, e.g. Tor spp.

Despite these shortcomings, this is a timely publication to illustrate the real state of knowledge we have of the tropical biodiversity in Southeast Asia. It is a commendable effort for the author to publish this despite restricted access to updated publications and taxonomical help.

Tan Heok Hui
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge 119260
Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 54(1): 201-202 on 28 Feb 2006.

“Freshwater Invertebrates of the Malaysian Region,” by Yule, C, M. & H. S. Yong (eds.) (2004)

Academy of Sciences, Malaysia. vii + 861 pp. RM 180.00. ISBN 983-41936-0-2.

This is the first comprehensive publication dealing with freshwater invertebrates of the Malaysian Region, loosely defined by the editors as comprising Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Indonesia and southern Thailand. It is an international effort that has drawn on the expertise of up to 80 specialists from 20 countries worldwide.

The publication of this book is important, as much of the freshwater invertebrate fauna of the Malaysian region remains “poorly known” or “poorly understood”. This is emphasized by several chapters of the book covering faunal groups that have yet to be recorded from the Malaysian region, but are nevertheless anticipated from its diverse freshwater habitats through further exploration and discovery.

The book is divided into 68 chapters, with the first two touching on freshwater habitats. The opening chapter introduces readers to the many freshwater environments found in the Malaysian region such as lakes and freshwater swamps; peat swamps; rivers and streams; and underground drainages. The second chapter is on phytotelms, ecologically unique but often overlooked stagnant water bodies contained in parts of plants.

The rest of the book is dedicated to the major freshwater invertebrates, starting with a chapter containing a concise introduction and identification key to various groups from the Malaysian region. Groups covered include protozoans, sponges, helminthes, bryozoans, annelids, molluscs and arthropods (with insects–especially dipterans–comprising the vast majority); with the taxonomic coverage of each chapter ranging from Phylum to Family level, depending on the group.

The well-organised and relatively standardised format of the chapters not only makes it easier to navigate and make comparisons between faunal groups in the book, but also allows each chapter to be used as a stand-alone reference. The chapters typically include the following sections: a brief introduction to the group; general biology and life cycles; representative taxa in the Malaysian region; one or more identification keys; taxonomic, ecological or life history notes on specific taxa; and diagnoses or short descriptions of the main taxa. Some chapters also have useful methodology write-ups on collection, preservation, preparation and examination of specimens. The comprehensive listings of relevant references that accompany each chapter further reinforce the book’s value as a starting or focal point for studies on freshwater invertebrates.

The large number of keys in this volume, certainly one of its most useful features (and probably reason enough for workers to obtain a copy of the book), facilitate identification of taxa at different levels based on the current state of knowledge of the group. In addition, some chapters include keys for identification of separate developmental stages and sexes. Due to gaps in current knowledge of regional fauna, some of the keys are necessarily inclusive. In the Preface, the editors have acknowledged these taxonomic gaps, and hope that the book will encourage efforts to improve the keys, and ultimately increase our knowledge, enabling us to fill in the “blanks”. A few chapters do not provide keys, but instead direct the reader to published ones in the appropriate reference(s). However, it might have made this volume that much more comprehensive as a “one-stop” reference if these published keys had been reproduced in modified forms at least (as was done in some other chapters).

Complementing the text and keys are numerous excellent line drawings. However, the print quality does not always do justice to the illustrations. In some cases, the reproduction is poor, with drawings and labels appearing faint or in low resolution. In any case, these are only minor problems, which are likely to be easily rectified in the next edition. On the whole, this volume remains an important contribtion to freshwater studies and biodiversity research in Southeast Asia; and would make an excellent reference and tool for students, workers and manager in the various field of freshwater biology and natural resource management.

Darren C. J. Yeo
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
14 Science Drive 4
Singapore 117543, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 53(1): 181 on 29 Jun 2005.

"An Atlas of Ichthyotoxic, Medicinal and Dangerous Fishes" by Wu, H.-L., D.-H. Chong, Y. Mou, Y.-H. Chen & Y. Ni (2005)

An Atlas of Ichthyotoxic, Medicinal and Dangerous Fishes. By Wu, H.-L., D.-H. Chong, Y. Mou, Y.-H. Chen & Y. Ni, 2005. Chief Editor: Wu, H.-L. Shanghai Scientific & Technical Publishers, Shanghai, v+482 pages. ISBN: 7-5323-7996-5 [in Chinese].

This is a small hardcover volume (15 x 21 cm) dealing with all toxic fishes, but also covering fishes consumed for medicinal purposes.

The colour plates are situated at the start, with 8 pages depicting 31 species. This mini-tome covers 422 species of freshwater and marine fishes. The atlas is divided into 3 main parts – toxic, medicinal and dangerous fishes. The first part deals with ciguatoxic fishes, covering 9 sections – flesh-toxic, tetraodontoxic, ichthyootoxic, gall bladder-toxic, ichthyohemotoxic, ichthyohepatotoxic, pelagic species-toxic, gempylotoxic and carchatoxic species. The second part deals with fishes of medicinal properties. The third part deals with dangerous fishes, covering 4 sections – biting, electrical, saw snouts and parasitic species.

All species come with a one page account, starting with the Chinese vernacular and scientific names, then describing morphology, habit, first aid technique or medicinal benefits. All species accounts are illustrated with line drawings.

This is a very interesting and informative volume for the layperson, hobbyist, scientist and gastronomist.

Tan Heok Hui
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge 119260
Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 54(1): 201 on 28 Feb 2006.

“Fishes of Bitung, Northen Tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia,” edited by Seishi Kimura and Keiichi Matsuura (2003)

Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, iv + 244 pages.

Fishes of Bitung.
This is a richly illustrated medium sized volume covering 78 families and 584 species. It provides a good coverage of the shallow coastal water marine fish, obtained by field collection and market purchases in 2000. This is the second bilingual book in English and Bahasa Indonesian edited by the second author (the first being “Field Guide to Lombok Island” – Matsuura et al., 2000).

This guide does not cover all the fishes known from Bitung. The emphasis of this guide is on the less colourful non coral reef fishes. This is to promote a better understanding of the true diversity of tropical fishes. The intention of the authors is for this guide to be used for study, research and education by not only ichthyologists and fisheries scientists but also by university students and local government administrators.

Each family of fish has a short introduction, followed by a section on similar families occurring in the area (ala FAO species identification guide for fishery purpose style). Each species is listed alphabetically and followed by the common English and Indonesian names. A diagnosis of the species providing fin ray counts and lateral scale count is provided, with a short write-up. This is accompanied with a well taken picture of a freshly preserved specimen.

Although this guide illustrates mainly freshly preserved fish, it would also provide a good guide for recreational divers to the region, especially at Lembeh Straits, which is a world class muck diving site.

All in all, this publication is a good guide for every local and foreign fisheries biologist, ichthyologist and diver to have on their book shelf.

Matsuura, K., O. K. Sumadhiharga & K. Tsukamoto (eds.) 2000. Field guide to Lombok Island. Identification guide to marine organisms in seagrass beds of Lombok Island, Indonesia. Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, viii + 449.

Tan Heok Hui
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge 119260, Republic of Singapore

First Published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 53(2): 289 on 31 Dec 2005.

Monday, May 7, 2007

"A First Look at the Fish Species of the Middle Malinau" by Rachmatika, I. et al. (2005)

A First Look at the Fish Species of the Middle Malinau - Taxonomy, ecology, vulnerability and importance. By Rachmatika, I., R. Nasi, D. Sheil & M. Wan, 2005. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia. vi+34 pages. ISBN: 979-3361-67-0.

This is an A4-sized volume covering the freshwater fishes of the middle Malinau (tributary of the Sesayap River), East Kalimantan, Indonesia. This is basically a technical report based on field collections conducted in 1999 and 2000. The site was chosen because it was adjacent to the Kayan Mentarang National Park.

Surveys were conducted in both pristine and logged habitats of the Seturan catchment for comparisons. The local Punan, Merap and Kenyah communities were also interviewed and socio-economic data gathered.

Over the course of the surveys, a total of 47 fish species was obtained. Fishes from the Cyprinidae family consist the bulk of catch (68%). There were also possible new species obtained (e.g. Puntius and Gastromyzon). Species potentially vulnerable to logging activities were highlighted. Impacts of logging on the fish fauna were also discussed. Logged habitats yield lower diversity and abundance of fish species.

Two appendices were included. Appendix 1 listing the collection stations. Appendix 2 provided an annotated list of fish species obtained. The systematics used is not updated, e.g. Belontiidae had been synonymised with Osphronemidae, Barbonymus is a senior synonym to Barbodes. The species list is listed alphabetically by family name and not in the taxonomic order.

Despite the few shortcomings, this is a timely publication to illustrate the real state of knowledge we have of the tropical biodiversity in Southeast Asia. It is a commendable effort for the authors to publish this despite restricted access to updated publications and taxonomical help.

Tan Heok Hui
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge 119260
Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 54(1): 200 on 28 Feb 2006.

"The Borneo Suckers," by Tan Heok Hui (2006)

Natural History Publications (Borneo), Kota Kinabalu, 245 pp., 18 colour plates, 130 monochrome figures, 15 maps. ISBN 983-812-105-3.


Beautiful and charismatic fish always have had an attraction for taxonomists. And to the public as well. However, many non-ichthyologists do not realize that the taxonomy of many of the most colorful fishes aquarists and biologists fancy is often very difficult. The resolution of the numerous systematic problems associated with such fish requires a keen eye, a good appreciation of their taxonomic history, extensive field work, the need to acquire numerous specimens, a necessity to work with fresh and live material, and a good understanding of their biology and habits. When these “ideals” can come together, we can expect a work of great significance. The present book by H. H. Tan is one such “masterpiece”.

Sucker loaches or gastromyzontine loaches are strange animals to say the least. They neither look nor behave like fish – they are more likes tadpoles in many respects. Their flattened body form is superbly adapted to life in pristine water torrents, and they feed on the algae and riparian insects associated with these habitats. And they are a Bornean phenomenon – the three genera of these loaches occur only on the great island of Borneo. Despite their stringent water requirements and fussy food requirements, they are quite popular in the aquarium trade – they are strange fish with unusual habits and colorful patterns.

In the eight years it has taken to finish this study and get it to print, Tan has visited numerous museums where the old material is held, worked with many colleagues in Sarawak, Sabah, Kalimantan and Brunei to get fresh material, and benefited from the help provided by many professionals. In the process, he has cleared up most of the “sticky” problems long associated with these fishes. The colour patterns, so valuable in their taxonomy, are identified using fresh material, and correlated with new morphological characters. The identities of several supposedly wide ranging species (e.g. G. borneensis) is clarified and restricted, and in the process, a good number of new species are described. Tan recognizes three genera, Gastromyzon, Neogastromyzon and Hypergastromyzon, with a total of 41 species. Of these, 19 are described as new by Tan in this book. However, Tan had already described nine species in preceding years – so in total, almost 70% of the known taxa were described through his research activities over the years.

The book is organized into seven main chapters: Introduction, Biogeographical Observations, Ecological Observations, Economic Value, Bornean Endemic Genera and Species, Material and Methods, and Taxonomy. Many of the biogeographical and ecological observations are new from his study – stemming from the extensive field work done and analysis of datasets. The many species are treated systematically in 11 species groups, and all are described and figured in detail. One of the most striking aspects of the book must surely be the large number of color plates provided – 18 – and 29 species are illustrated in full colour – many for the first time. Worthy of further study is their conservation – Tan notes that of the 41 species known, 19 have very restricted distributions, being confined to single river basins or the like. This makes them highly vulnerable to human activities – and as their presence is closely associated with the water quality, this is surely a concern.

This is a book all ichthyologists, aquarists and lovers of Southeast Asian animals will love to have on their shelves. As much as H. H. Tan must be congratulated on getting this book out, kudos must also go to the chief editor of the Natural History Publications series - Chan Chew Lun – who has published many excellent books on Bornean biodiversity and culture, and in the process, opened the eyes of the world to the wonders of the region.

Peter K. L. Ng
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge, Singapore 119260, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 53(2): 289 on 31 Dec 2005

"A Guide to Gobies of Singapore" by Larson, H. K. & K. K. P. Lim (2005)

A Guide to Gobies of Singapore. By Larson, H. K. & K. K.P. Lim, 2005. Singapore Science Centre, 164 pages. ISBN: 981-05-3407-8.

This is a small pocketsized volume richly filled with colour plates, covering the freshwater, brackish water and marine gobies of Singapore. This is the 40th book in the series of guides to Singapore sponsored by BP.

This book covers the 3 families from the sub-order Gobioidei found in Singapore – Eleotridae, Gobiidae and Microdesmidae. The family Gobiidae is the largest in the sub-order and most gobies are typified by having two dorsal fins and fused pelvic fins. The authors had provided a comprehensive taxonomic key to the 60 genera located from Singapore. This book is a cumulative effort of 10 years between the two authors, one based in Darwin, Australia, and the other in Singapore.

The habitats of the gobies in general and a fold-out map of Singapore are provided, giving readers an idea of the diversity of habitats gobies are found in. Another fold-out of the general morphology of gobies is included to give readers an idea of the variable body forms of gobies.

A total of 106 species is covered with one species per page, most with life coloration or preserved specimens depicted, along with numerous line drawings. Each species is listed with both vernacular and scientific names; followed by a brief diagnosis, description and distribution.

This is a most compact and comprehensive volume to peruse for the layperson, hobbyist and gobiologist.

Tan Heok Hui
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge 119260
Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol 54(1): 200 on 28 Feb 2006.