Saturday, June 1, 2013

Awesome Amphipods

Amphipods are tiny critters that often hide among debris on the high tide line on the sea shore. These small crustaceans are super abundant in world oceans and very diverse (more than 10,000 described species).
Dr Jim Lowry from the Australian Museum studies them. His project during the Southern Expedition is the first major survey of the group in Singapore waters.

So far, during the Southern Expedition, Dr Jim has found 17 families plus one he can’t identify and more than 50 species and counting. The status of these species can’t be determined until they are studied in detail back in the lab. Some families which would be expected haven’t been found yet.

Dr Jim is most interested in beach-hoppers. These amphipods shelter under washed up seaweed and debris at the top of the intertidal zone and come out at night to scavenge on the beach. So far he has found a new species living on white sand beaches and another new species living on dark coarse sand beaches in the mangroves.

The most interesting find has been a beach-hopper that has moved inland away from the sea. This species called Floresorchestia malayensis was first described in 1922 from the Botanical Gardens and has never been seen since. Dr Jim and Paul Ng found it living along the MacRitchie track.

Indeed, amphipods can be found in a wide variety of places near the sea.I bumped into Dr Jim as I was surveying the mangroves.
I also went out looking for hoppers with Dr Jim on a rocky shore. During that trip, I learnt lots of tips and tricks on how to catch jumpy tiny creatures that can hardly be seen!
I learnt some other interesting things about amphipods from Dr Jim during our meals together at the Expedition. It seems amphipod males carry females around before they mate. I found a video clip on this behaviour.

Amphipods are also good moms! They brood their young in special pouches under their chest.

So much more to learn about our marine life! I'm really going to miss all the knowledgeable and friendly experts at the Southern Expedition.

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