Monday, April 16, 2012

How can we tell if a fish is a new species?

This little goby may be a new species. New not just to Singapore, but to science! This find highlights the importance of our efforts at the Mega Marine Survey!
Photo by Dr Tan Heok Hui
It also shows that even boring, similar-looking animals might be entirely different species! Here's more about how gobies are identified, and why it is important to take the specimen. Photos are not enough to identify many kinds of marine life.

The full story of this exciting find is detailed in Swimming into the Record by Dr Zeehan Jaafar on My Green Space, the NParks quarterly newsletter Apr-Jun 2012.  Here's some highlights from the article:

In mid-April 2011, as part of CMBS, a team comprising researchers and trained volunteers conducted a survey of the Lim Chu Kang mudflats. Using nets and sieves, the team collected a number of specimens for the laboratory, among them a nondescript goby.

With many marine organisms such as worms, crabs and fishes, some of the characteristics which allow scientists to tell one species from another are at times only visible with the aid of a microscope. Some of the smaller gobies are difficult to tell apart. They are mostly brown and are not more than 5 cm in length. Gobies do not possess a lateral line, as do some fishes, to sense the environment. Instead they have raised papillae on their cheeks to help them.

Below is a figure of two different species of gobies, showing how the papillae represented by dotted lines, appears under a microscope.
Diagram by Dr Zeehan Jaafar
By examining under a microscope the location and arrangement of the papillae, together with other characters such as fin rays and scales, one can confirm the species of a goby.

When the goby sampled at Lim Chu Kang was examined, the characteristics did not match those of other species of gobies found in Singapore. After preliminary investigations carried out by comparing the characteristics to those published in books and scientific papers, it appears that this might be a new species of fish.

However, we can only confirm if this is indeed true once we compare it to other specimens which have been caught in Singapore and other countries of the region. We are currently waiting for these comparative specimens and looking forward to identifying our little goby from Lim Chu Kang!

There is also a feature on Bryan Wijaya's experience with the Mega Marine Survey!
Read more about it in A Muddy Wilderness by Erin Wang.

Come join the Mega Marine Survey to help us learn more about our shores!

To join us, register your interest in this form and you'll be invited to join the mailing list to receive updates on the Survey and sign up for Survey activities.

Also check out our FAQs for more about the Survey. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi This site provide the Microscope services for student benfit.


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