Wed 15 Jun 2005
Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin carcass on Labrador Beach
Category : marine
Wednesday morning (15 Jun 2005) - NEA and NPArks contractors cleaning the park and floatsam at Labrador Park found the decomposed carcass of a Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin (Sousa chinensis) on the beach.
They checked with the National Park Board who tried calling me at the Raffles Museum - they know that we had previously retrieved or received dugongs, pangolins, leopard cats and blue-winged pittas - all important testimony to the secret fauna that still inhabits our seas, coastlines and forests. [See "The Bodysnatchers," by N. Sivasothi. Raffles Museum Newsletter No. 2 (2002) - pdf]
Unfortunately I was uncontactable (away and handphone on silent mode) so museum staff said they could dispose of the carcass! (*Insert sound of me screaming here.*) With flies descending on a badly smelling carcass, and a gathering crowd of curious park visitors already turing up their noses at the smell, NEA didn't hesitate and efficiently disposed of it, after taking the photos you see here.
When I found out at 2pm, I called NParks and NEA and they helpfully made the necessary phone calls. Within minutes, new got back to me that the NEA contractor had already disposed of the carcass; we were too late this time. Well at least everyone tried.
This was a real pity since a carcass can provide tissue, bones and organs for study. In fact, a decomposed specimen allows for easy extraction of skull and bones - in 2001, Zeehan Jaafar and I were able to extract a Dugong (sea cow) skull in just one hour because it had been dead for five days! I must add it was extremely smelly work. It now greets you when you enter the Raffles Museum's Public Gallery.
We also use the skull and bones for measurements, for public education programmes and for display. Quite a lot of uses, huh? Call me (Sivasothi a.k.a Otterman) at the Raffles Museum at 6874-5082 if you encounter a dead marine mammal or bird in future; I'm interested!
Wed 15 Jun 2005
15 June 2005: "History, ecology and the state of the world's oceans"
Category : talks
"Studies of marine biology in the past few years have focused on historical trajectories of change, using information from fossils (before there were any people), archeological middens, historical records, and modern fisheries and ecological data.
This longer-term perspective illustrates that our exploitation of the sea has been very different from the land. On land, people have replaced wild species like buffalo with domestic ones like cattle and sheep, and rebuilt the structure of ecosystems. In the sea, we have made important species virtually extinct, and we have not replaced them.
Knowledge of history changes our perspective in several ways: It tells us that losses of large animals are huge relative to the size of current stocks, and that recent symptoms of ecological decline may have deep historical roots. History also tells us what marine environments could be like again, and can guide the restoration of damaged ecosystems."
Professor Terry Hughes is the Federation Fellow (2002-2007) and Scientific Director of the Centre for Coral Reef Biodiversity at James Cook University in Australia. He is the world's most prominent coral reef biologist, and is ranked number one globally by Science Citation Index in coral reef science.
He will be at the National University of Singapore on 15th June 2005 to give a public talk organised by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS & James Cook University.
Related reading: "Global Coral Reefs in Crisis.".