From Wildlife Extra:
New species of colourful river crabs: Already Endangered
Mining project puts recently identified crab species at risk
March 2012. Scientists at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Dresden and De La Salle University in Manila have discovered four new species of the colourful Insulamon freshwater crab as part of their Aqua Palawana research programme. However various mining projects on the island of Palawan pose a huge threat to these creatures.
The Philippine island of Palawan is something special, combining two of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. Its bio-geographical special status is also reflected in its fauna and flora. Around 50 per cent of the species living on Palawan are defined as endemic.
Dr Hendrik Freitag, of the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Dresden, said “The Aqua Palawana research programme has been investigating the biodiversity of Palawan’s inland waters for over 10 years. This included taking a closer look at the Insulamon crabs and we discovered four new species in the process.”
Freshwater crabs unable to survive in the sea
The reddish violet species of the Insulamon crab genus are the only varieties that are endemic to just one or a few islands. The sea means these creatures are unable to spread elsewhere, as they skip the larval stage in seawater and depend on freshwater at all stages of their development. Having been completely separated from their relatives, they have developed their own separate species and genera over tens of thousands of years.
Endemic to Palawan
“We have proved that the only previously known type of Insulamon is restricted to the Calamian group of islands to the north of Palawan. The four newly discovered species live exclusively on the actual island of Palawan and make it a unique habitat”, says Freitag.
Threatened by mining
But this unique biodiversity is under threat. Several mining projects are to be conducted despite massive protests by people from all walks of life and against the resistance of indigenous peoples.
“The smaller the remaining natural habitat the greater is the risk to endemic fauna and flora. Even minor environmental changes can lead to extinctions. It is all the more important to do research in this region and show that the biodiversity of these islands is unique and worth protecting”, says Freitag and adds, “that’s why our next step is to investigate Palawan’s species-rich freshwater prawns“.
As an associate professor at the Ateneo de Manila University Freitag increasingly gets local students involved in bio-systematic research, in order to create awareness of this unique habitat.
Participants cooperating in the Aqua Palawana research include Senckenberg, the Phyllodrom Leipzig, the Ateneo de Manila University, Western Philippines University, De La Salle University Manila and the Philippine National Museum, as well as the Vienna Natural History Museum and the National University of Singapore.
The relevant study was recently published in the scientific journal Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.