Have you ever been on a video streaming platform and saw this error message? I’ve always wondered if those who can see the video get a similar message like “This is only available in your region”. Often, we do not appreciate the little things that only we have. What makes Singapore unique? Is it using tissue packets to chope seats, our special chicken rice, or systems like the CPF? Well, some animal species can only be found in Singapore!
In the previous blog post, it was mentioned that invasive species can cause harm to native ones. But what exactly are native species, and how about endemic species?
Native species are organisms that occur in an area without human interference. Endemic species are a subset of native species. However, they can only be found in that area and nowhere else. Endemic species can be generally classified into two categories: paleoendemic or neoendemic. Paleoendemic species are “survivors” of a taxon. While they may have been more widespread in the past, they can only be found in limited areas now because of environmental changes over the centuries. Neoendemic species are those that adapt to geographically isolated environments and evolve into separate species. This means that endemic species (especially paleoendemic ones) are often found in limited environments and more susceptible to climate change and other human activities (Carmona, Ortiz & Musarella 2019).
Species that can be found in Singapore are largely similar to those in Malaysia. Even today, there is evidence that some populations in Singapore originated from Johor or even the Riau islands (Yong 2012). Nonetheless, Singapore does have its own species not found anywhere else in the world. Three such species are the Singapore Freshwater Crab (Johora singaporensis), Hanguana rubinea, and the Brown Peachia Anemone (Synpeachia temasek).
The Singapore Freshwater Crab is just 2-3 cm big and is the most active at night (Tan,2013). They help to eat leaf litter, which aids in the nutrient cycle in its environment. Furthermore, they prey on smaller creatures and are prey to larger organisms and as such an important species in the food web (Ng et al, 2015).
The latest research shows that the Singapore Freshwater Crab can only be found in three isolated areas, of which two are not under any legal protection. Worryingly, the population in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is under threat, probably due to acid rain (Ng et al 2014). Hence, conserving endemic species goes beyond just making sure that their habitats are designated as nature reserves. Legal protection is not a panacea to ensuring a species’ survival. We need to be mindful of our actions as a whole and be constantly on the lookout on the effects of our activities.
Due to our limited land area, there will always be difficulty balancing between material progress and conservation. Hopefully, consideration will be given to areas endemic species call home. It is heartening to see the expansion of our nature park networks, which help to protect our nature reserves and link together the various areas of ecological importance (NParks).
Another endemic species in Singapore is the newly discovered Hanguana rubinea.
H. rubinea was first described in 2015. Before this, they were all misidentified as Hanguana malayana. Other than the ruby-red fruits, they all look rather similar. (Škorničková & Boyce 2015).
H. rubinea can be found in Bukit Timah, Mandai, MacRitchie, and Seletar. They produce red fruits that ooze yellow when damaged. Together with H. triangulata, which produces white fruits, these berries which come in our national colours served as a timely reminder to protect our biodiversity as we celebrated our SG50 Golden Jubilee. (Lee, 2015)
The Brown Peachia Anemone (Synpeachia temasek) can be found in the waters off Changi, Bedok, and Chek Jawa. As they are often buried in the sand, with only their white “mouth” and tentacles showing, they may be mistaken for the Common Peachia Anemone, which is cream coloured and of a separate genus altogether (Yap et al).
Despite being such a small country, there is still room for us to learn and discover. Even today, it is still possible for us to lose species before it is even discovered. Who knows what treasures lie in our forests and coastal areas waiting to be found?
Written by: Ee Kin
Carmona, Eusebio Cano, et al. “Introductory Chapter: Endemism as a Basic Element for the Conservation of Species and Habitats.” IntechOpen, IntechOpen, 4 Mar. 2019, www.intechopen.com/books/endemic-species/introductory-chapter-endemism-as-a-basic-element-for-the-conservation-of-species-and-habitats.
Yong, Ding Li. “Massive Deforestation in Southern Peninsula Malaysia Driving Ecological Change in Singapore?” Nature in Singapore, vol.5, 2012, p 285-289.
Tan, Sze Peng, and Yixiong Cai. “NParks Buzz.” The Endangered Singapore Crab, www.nparks.gov.sg/nparksbuzz/issue-17-vol-2-2013/conservation/the-endangered-singapore-crab.
Ng, Daniel J.j., et al. Conservation Strategy for the Singapore Freshwater Crab Johora Singaporensis , May 2015 Thwportals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/Rep-2015-020.pdf
Ng, Daniel J.j., et al. “Conservation Challenges and Action for the Critically Endangered Singapore Freshwater Crab Johora Singaporensis.” Oryx, vol. 49, no. 2, 2014, pp. 345–351., doi:10.1017/s0030605313000707.
“Nature Park Network.” National Parks Board, 19 Aug. 2020, www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/nature-park-network.
Yap, Nicholas Wei Liang, et al. “Sea Anemones of Singapore:Synpeachia Temaseknew Genus, New Species, and Redescription OfMetapeachia Tropica(Cnidaria: Actiniaria: Haloclavidae).” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, vol. 127, no. 3, 2014, pp. 439–454., doi:10.2988/0006-324x-127.3.439.
Leong-Škorničková, J., and P.c. Boyce. “Hanguana in Singapore Demystified: an Overview with Descriptions of Three New Species and a New Record.” Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore, vol. 67, no. 01, 2015, p. 01., doi:10.3850/s2382581215000010.
Lee, Regina Marie. Two New Plant Species Native to Singapore Found Read More at Https://Www.todayonline.com/Singapore/Two-Species-Plants-New-Science-Discovered-Singapore, 5 June 2015, http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/two-species-plants-new-science-discovered-singapore.