SOUTH JAVA DEEP SEA EXPEDITION

17 April 2018
More than 12,000 deep-sea marine creatures uncovered by NUS-LIPI scientists during first-ever exploration of West Java seas

 

Over a dozen new species of crabs, prawns and lobsters discovered; over 40 new records for Indonesia

Despite a stormy start thanks to Cyclone Marcus, scientists who participated in the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018 (SJADES 2018) had collected more than 12,000 creatures during their 14-day voyage to survey the unexplored deep seas off the southern coast of West Java, Indonesia.

The expedition team, consisting 31 researchers and support staff, were led by Professor Peter Ng, Head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum of the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Professor Dwi Listyo Rahayu, Senior Research Scientist at the Research Center for Oceanography (RCO) of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). The NUS research team comprises scientists from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the Tropical Marine Science Institute.

Some 800 species from over 200 families of sponges, jellyfish, molluscs, starfish, urchins, worms, crabs, prawns and fish were uncovered during the expedition. Over a dozen new species of hermit crabs, prawns, lobsters and crabs were discovered, and over 40 species of various kinds are new records for Indonesia.

Among the deep-sea creatures new to science is a crab that has fuzzy spines and blood-red eyes; a lobster with long arms and zebra-patterned shell; and a hermit crab with green eyes and orange banded pincers. Please refer to the Annex for more details about these creatures, as well as other rare and interesting sea creatures collected by scientists during the trip.

63 stations sampled within a fortnight

The research team departed Muara Baru, Jakarta in Indonesia on 23 March 2018 on board Indonesian research vessel Baruna Jaya VIII. They sailed anti-clockwise towards Cilacap in southern Java and back, covering a total distance of 2,200 kilometres.

Using trawls, dredges, box corers and multicorers, the team collected samples across 63 stations, at depths averaging 800 metres, with the deepest depth sampled at 2,100 metres.

“14 days of shared challenges at sea has enabled us to forge strong ties with our Indonesian collaborators, and such links are important to the long-term scientific ties between our two countries,” said Prof Ng, chief scientist for the Singapore team. “On the research front, our teams have learnt a lot about how to conduct deep-sea science, handle the various equipment needed for such work, and had the opportunity to sample and examine a multitude of fantastic deep sea animals. We expect to identify more new species among the pickings of the expedition, and we certainly look forward to studying the specimens and data with our Indonesian friends.”

Prof Rahayu, chief scientist for the Indonesia team, said, “The Indonesian scientists benefitted both personally and professionally through this expedition, which was partly a capacity-building exercise for our young scientists. Through interacting with international scientists, they were exposed to new scientific techniques and methodologies in an environment that presents a different set of challenges from their own scientific specialities. Hopefully, such knowledge transfer and collaboration would build stronger and more resilient ties among between our two nations.”

About the expedition

The South Java Deep-Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018 is the first concerted deep-sea biological exploration conducted by Singapore and Indonesia, to study deep-sea marine life in the largely unexplored part of the waters off the southern coast of West Java.

This unprecedented project is a reflection of the bold and collaborative spirit embodied in RISING50 – a celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Indonesia. This joint initiative reaffirms the depth and diversity of the long-standing collaboration between the academic and scientific communities of Singapore and Indonesia.

The samples collected will be studied by scientists from both countries. This is anticipated to take up to two years, and the results will be shared and discussed with the world at a special workshop that will be held in Indonesia in 2020. The outputs will then be collated and published in the museum’s science-citation journal, The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

9 April 2018
6 April 2018
5 April 2018

4 April 2018
3 April 2018

2 April 2018

Update! (2nd April 2018)

The South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition of SJADES 2018 kicked off on 23rd March, sailing off in the BARUNA JAYA 8 on the evening tide. The first four days were spent in the Sunda Straits between the islands of Sumatra and Java, and facing the open Indian Ocean. The time was used to good effect to fine-tune procedures, test the equipment with the crew and team, and ensuring the specimens are well handled when collected.

Mother Nature, however, was not kind to us. The seas were choppy, it was raining and the boat was rocking badly – we were suffering the tailwind effects of a cyclone much further south. It was a testing time as half the team (including both chief scientists!) was sea-sick on the first day. And we had to work a 16-hour shift as we had much to do. But the excitement of trying to catch deep-sea animals was palpable and everyone persevered. We survived the storm – literally and figuratively. But the anticipation of success is a wonderful tonic for seasickness and tiredness.

And we were successful. In the first few days, the dredges, trawls and corers entered depths of almost 1000 metres, collecting many strange animals. Many of the scientists on board have never handled deep-sea animals before, and all were extremely excited each time the catch came up. More so that some animals were still alive! It was amusing to see grown women and men jumping around in excitement like kids in a toy shop! While all the scientists have seen photographs of these animals, it is very different to see them in the flesh – and they have literally, out of this world appearances (see below). They are indeed aliens from the deep!

The fourth day (26th March) was a bonanza for the team as the skills got honed. In the waters between the Sunda Strait and Indian Ocean, the team trawled to depths of almost 1600 m and we obtained many strange animals for the first time. This included a new infraclass of sea stars, giant sea cucumbers, bizarre glass sponges, new species of spider crabs, strange new hermit crabs, and arguably the catch of the day was a 30 cm long giant isopod! We will share the details of these discoveries with all very soon!

Surprisingly, the entry into the main Indian Ocean itself on the fifth day was somewhat of an anti-climax as the waters got calmer and the weather got better. That being said, sampling got trickier as the terrain was more rugged and the maps were not always reliable. As such, sampling at depths of 1000 metres got more difficult. Some trawls and cores failed completely. But this we expected – sampling in an area that has never been sampled before for bottom-dwelling animals is not easy. But we did not do too badly – as of 30th March, the team has logged 36 stations. Of these, only three were considered failures.

The Singaporean expedition leader, Prof Ng notes that, “The expedition team has gelled together very well and by the second day, things were already coming along smoothly. The collections so far have uncovered a large number of scientifically important species, including many new records for Indonesia and the region. It has been singularly exciting. I am particularly happy of course with my crabs and my cool “Darth Vader” isopod!”

The Indonesian expedition leader, Prof Rahayu was delighted – she has already found dozens of new and unexpected deep-water hermit crabs (her research speciality) and even hatched out the eggs of one strange species that lives in rotten wood! She comments “The discoveries have been overwhelming and exciting! We have found many things we never imagined were living down there – and they are all Indonesian animals! We must find more – especially hermit crabs of course!”

And we now enter the second half of the expedition with renewed vigour and anticipation! Stay tuned!

 
Ice Cream Cone Worm

This is NOT an ice cream cone you lick. This 6 cm deep-sea tube-dwelling worm (Family Pectinariidae) pastes sediment grains with their tentacles to the pre-existing conical tube as they grow, forming a structure which resembles an ice cream cone. These worms have a characteristic set of golden paleae (spines) surrounding the mouth, which they use for digging into soft sediments. Depth: from 300 m.

 
Swimming Cucumber

Most people see sea cucumbers as sluggish bottom dwelling animals but in the deep-sea, they are not just beautiful – they are also very athletic. This one (Pelagothuria sp., Family Pelagothuridae) actually swims from one place to another using huge papillae on the back of its mouth! This way, it can search for richer feeding grounds! Size 10-15 cm. Depth: from 800 m.

 
Elephants in the Sea?

This is not a pile of confiscated elephant tusks! These are actually Tusk Shells or scaphopods (Family Dentaliidae) and were trawled off deep waters in southern Java where it is common. Scaphopods form a separate group of molluscs distinct from the more familiar snails, clams, and squid, and are open at both ends to allow respiration and feeding. They mostly feed on benthic foraminiferans using long, sticky, thread-like ‘fingers’ known as captaculae. Size: 4-8 cm. Depth: from 300 m.

 
A Most Peculiar Scallop

This deep sea scallop (Propeamussium sp., Family Pectenidae) is way too small to eat at only 2 cm across but as with all deep-sea animals, it has some peculiar habits. Scientists believe it is carnivorous, feeding on very small animals! In addition, it almost has a sea anemone attached to one of its valves – presumably for protection. Size: 2-3 cm. Depth: from 500 m.

 
Dumbo

Nicknamed the Dumbo Octopus (Family Opisthoteuthidae) because of its resemblance to a beloved Disney character, this specimen was trawled from about 900 m off the coast of southwest Java. The entire animal has a jelly-like feel to it and is coloured dark purple when first observed in the trawl net. It swims using two large flaps on its head! Size: 15-20 cm.

 
Cock-Eyed Squid

This peculiar squid (Family Histieuthidae) measuring some 8 cm actually has one eye naturally much larger than the other. It apparently swims with the larger eye looking downwards for food, whilst the smaller eye peers upwards, presumably on the lookout from predators. From 300 m.

 
Darth Vader of the Seas

The famous Giant Sea isopod, Bathynomus (Family Cirolanidae). The expedition found at least two species, one of which is almost 30 cm in length. These are important deep-sea scavengers but the surprise was they have not been officially recorded from Indonesia before! And the giant species feature here seems to be new to science as well! From 800 m.

 
Blood Shrimp

A spectacularly coloured shrimp that was caught alive! Oplophorus gracilirostris (Family Oplophoridae) regurgitates a bioluminescent cloud to confuse predators when disturbed! This is a habit shared with several commercial species of deep-sea prawns! From 600 metres.

 
Chain-Saw Lobster

Nick-named the chain-saw lobster, Thaumastocheles massonktenos (Family Thaumastochelidae). This is a rare deep sea blind lobster with scary right claws lined with many sharp teeth. Scientists, however, suspect that scary-looking claw is not a predatory device but acts to sieve bottom substrates for small animals to eat. These lobsters are rarely collected because they dig deep burrows. From 500 metres.

Snow White

The deep sea Munidopsis nitida (Family Galatheidae) is a squat lobster is ghostly white (the team has dubbed it the snow white crab!). It lives on sunken wood, an important deep-sea habitat, and is believed to also feed on the rotting wood! Size: 4 cm. Depth: from 800 metres.

Deep Sea Decorator Crab

A new species of deep-sea decorator crab of the genus Tunepugettia (Family Epialtidae), one of the more than 30 crab species found so far. These crabs place all manner of objects on the rows of hairs on their body to camouflage themselves from predators as they scavenge for food in the ocean bottom. Size: 5 cm long. Depth: from 400-800 m.

 
Tripod Wonder

The deep-sea tripod fish (Bathypterois sp., Family Ignopidae) is strange all round. It has peculiar fins and filaments by which it balances itself on soft bottoms and to help it detect small prey swimming past as it faces the current. It has eyes which have no lenses so its unable to focus on objects. And last but not least, they are hermaphrodites – i.e. individuals are both male and female! An amazing trifecta of odd features to help survive in perpetual darkness. Size 20 cm. Depth: from about 900 m.

Fang Tooth

When you live in the deep sea, food is hard to come by. So if you encounter a tasty shrimp or fish, you must ensure it does not escape your grasp. The aptly named Fang Tooth (Anoplogaster cornuta, Family Anoplogastridae) does this with wicked looking long teeth. No escape for any prey if it happens to get into this mouth! Size: 10 cm. Depth: from 500 m.

Oddball Hermit

A discovery that excited the researchers on board is the second species of hermit crab found living in a solitary coral. The solitary coral (Heteropsommia sp.) was previously only known to have a commensal relationship with a sipunculid worm. Size: 1.5 cm. Depth: 200 m.

City of Glass

The actual glass sponge (Hyalonema sp., Family Hyalonemidae) itself is the blob on top which resembles a tulip (hence its common name of Sea Tulip) and is supported by a twisted tuft of glass fibres which is anchored to the seabed. In life, the “tulip” sways side to side with the current, filtering the seawater for organic matter. Size: 1 metre. Depth: 300-2000 m.

 

 

1 April 2018

31 March 2018

29 March 2018
28 March 2018
27 March 2018

We are off to a good start! #SJADES2018 #NUSresearch

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26 March 2018

25 March 2018

First dredge is up. #SJADES2018 #NUSresearch

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24 March 2018

23 March 2018

Our first sunset onboard the Baruna Jaya VIII #SJADES2018

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19-22 March 2018
Uploading supplies for the expedition

 

Conducting checks on equipment before sailing off

 

First technical meeting with Singaporean and Indonesian scientists
In The News

 

NUS researchers embark on first deep sea expedition in West Java – ChannelNewsAsia, 23rd March 2018

 

Singapore-Indonesia team sets off to explore deep seas off western Java – Straits Times, 23rd March 2018

 

Secrets of the deep: Scientists from NUS, Indonesia set sail to explore marine life in West Java – Todayonline, 23rd March 2018

 

Ekspedisi Laut Jawa tandai 50 tahun hubungan Indonesia-Singapura – Antaranews.com, 23rd March 2018

 

LIPI-Singapura Ekspedisi Laut Dalam Jawa – Investor Daily Indonesia, 23rd March 2018

 

我国与印尼科学家将展开西爪哇南部深海研究 – 早报, 23rd March 2018

 

NUS researchers embark on first deep sea expedition in West Java – Channel 5 News, 23 March 2018

 

新印14天考察团 探索西爪哇深海 海洋生物 – Channel 8 News, 23 March 2018

 

Penyelidik NUS lakukan ekspedisi dasar laut 14 hari di Jawa Barat – Suria News, 23 March 2018

 

NUS researchers embark on first deep sea expedition in West Java – Vasantham News, 23 March 2018

 

Ekpedisi Laut Dalam Ungkap Keragaman Biota Laut di Selatan Jawa – Berita Satu, 23 March 2018

 

Scientists from Singapore and Indonesia set sail to explore marine life in West Java – South China Morning Post, 23 March 2018

 

31 Peneliti Indonesia-Singapura Kerjasama Riset dan Eksplorasi Biologis Laut Jawa – Indopos, 23 March 2018

 

Indonesia-Singapura Lakukan Ekspedisi Laut Dalam – Kastara, 23 March 2018

 

Peneliti Indonesia Singapura Join Riset Eksplorasi Laut Jawa – Republika, 23 March 2018

 

Exploring deep-sea biodiversity in Java – NUS News, 23 March 2018

 

LIPI – Singapura Lakukan Ekspedisi di Laut Jawa – Indonews.id, 23 March 2018

 

Indonesia, Singapore lead deep-sea expedition to West Java – Straits Times 24th March 2018

 

Ekspedisi Laut Jawa akan Ungkap Keragaman Biota Laut Dalam – Media Indonesia, 24 March 2018

 

Kali Pertama, Indonesia-Singapura Eksplorasi Laut Dalam di Jawa – Kompas, 24 March 2018

 

Tindaklajuti Komitmen Presiden, Kemlu Dukung South Java Deep Sea Expedition 2018 – Detak, 24 March 2018

 

NUS Twitter, 25 March 2018

 

NUS Instagram, 25 March 2018

 

NUS Facebook, 23 March 2018

 

Cock-eyed squid, athletic sea cucumbers uncovered by S’pore and Indonesian researchers off Java – Todayonline, 3 April 2018

 

狮城有约: 网开眼界:神秘深海生物真面貌 – Channel 8, 9 April 2018

 

BBC Newsday, 9 April 2018




First joint Singaporean-Indonesian deep-sea expedition discovers 12 new species – Southeast Asia Globe, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – Agence France Presse, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – ChannelNewsAsia Online, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – New Straits Times, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – The Nation, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – The Daily Star, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – The Citizen, 19 April 2018

 

Java expedition team discovers over a dozen new species – The Hindu, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – Mail Online, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – Arab News, 19 April 2018

 

Fuzzy crab, shiny-eyed shrimp discovered on Java expedition – Yahoo Australia, 19 April 2018

 

New species of sea creatures found in Java deep-sea expedition – Pakistan Today, 19 April 2018

 

Bukti Kekayaan Nusantara, Ekspedisi Selat Sunda Ungkap 12 Spesies Baru – Kompas, 19 April 2018

 

Indonesia-Singapura Temukan 12 Spesies Baru Bawah Laut – CNN Indonesia, 19 April 2018

 

Expedition To The Indonesian Deep Sea Finds 12,000 Marine Creatures And Over A Dozen New Species – IFLScience, 18 April 2018

 

More than 12,000 deep-sea marine creatures uncovered during first-ever exploration of West Java seas – Lab Manager, 18 April 2018

 

Found: Over 12 new crustacean species – The Straits Times, 18 April 2018

 

Crab with ‘ears’ among rare finds by S’pore-Indonesia team – The New Paper, 18 April 2018

 

NUS-LIPI team discovers 12 new marine species – Lianhe Zaobao, 18 April 2018

 

Singapore and Indonesia researchers uncover at least 12 new deep sea species off Java – South China Morning Post, 18 April 2018
S’pore and Indonesia researchers uncover at least 12 new species off Java, TODAY, 17 April 2018

 

More than 12,000 marine creatures uncovered during west Java deep-sea exploration – R&D Mag, 17 April 2018

 

Channel NewsAsia, 17 April 2018

 

Capital 95.8FM, 17 April 2018

 

Oli 96.8FM, 17 April 2018

 

Riches in the deep sea – NUS News, 18 April 2018
NUS Facebook, 18 April 2018

 

NUS Twitter, 19 April 2018

 

NUS Linkedin, 19 April 2018

 

NUS Instagram, 19 April 2018
Press Release
NUS and RCO-LIPI scientists embark on first-ever expedition to explore biodiversity in the deep seas of West Java

Singapore, 23 March 2018:  A team of 30 researchers and support staff led by scientists from Singapore and Indonesia will embark on a 14-day scientific expedition to study deep-sea marine life in the area off the southern coast of West Java. Through the “South Java Deep-Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018”, this is the first time that a concerted deep-sea biological exploration will be conducted in this largely unexplored part of Indonesian seas.

This unprecedented project is a reflection of the bold and collaborative spirit embodied in RISING50 – a celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Indonesia. This joint initiative reaffirms the depth and diversity of the long-standing collaboration between the academic and scientific communities of Singapore and Indonesia.

 

Baruna Jaya VIII

 

The research team will depart Muara Baru, Jakarta in Indonesia, on 23 March 2018 and return on 5 April 2018. Indonesian research vessel Baruna Jaya VIII will be used to sample the seabed at depths between 500 metres and 2,000 metres from the vicinity of the Sunda Strait Trough off Cilacap. Based on the team’s experience, the depth of 500 metres to 2,000 metres usually displays the greatest diversity with the most interesting species.

The expedition will be led by Professor Peter Ng, Head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum of the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Dr Dwi Listyo Rahayu, Senior Research Scientist at the Research Center for Oceanography (RCO) of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

“This is the culmination of 15 years of discussions and explorations of possibilities,” said Prof Ng, chief scientist for the Singapore team. “This is the first time that Singapore and Indonesia are organising a deep-sea biodiversity expedition together and we are all very excited to find out what animals are present in an area that is practically unexplored by any biologist. There is certainly a wealth of biodiversity still to be discovered – much of it poorly known and new to science. We cannot conserve what we do not know.”

Dr Rahayu, who is the chief scientist for the Indonesian team, adds, “This deep-sea expedition will reveal the diversity of demersal organisms on the southwestern part of Java Island, the area where almost no exploration has ever conducted. It will certainly incite a strong maritime spirit among young Indonesian scientists participating in the expedition to go forth and seek the many interesting animals that live in the deep-waters of their country!”

The NUS research team comprises scientists from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the Tropical Marine Science Institute, together with researchers from the Research Center for Oceanography of Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

Scientists from Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan and France in front of Baruna Jaya VIII

The Voyage

Over the 14-day expedition, scientists plan to collect numerous samples of deep-sea marine creatures which are hard to obtain and rarely accessible, from depths up to 2,000 metres with various equipment. The expedition will focus on a variety of organisms – Crustacea (crabs and prawns), Mollusca (shells), Porifera (sponges), Cnidaria (jellyfish), Polychaeta (worms), Echinodermata (starfish and urchins), and fishes.

Prof Ng and Dr Rahayu have participated in many deep-sea expeditions in the region and they have also been involved in the discoveries of hundreds of new and rare species of deep-sea crustaceans. As the area that the team is visiting has hardly been surveyed over the centuries, they are expecting many interesting new records and rare animals, as well as new species.

Prof Ng recounted, “Our past expeditions had unearth bizarre Darth Vader like sea cockroaches, bloated oil-filled fishes with poorly developed eyes, eerie wraith-like crabs as well as spectacularly coloured lobsters. For example, during a deep sea expedition in central Philippines organised by Philippines, France, Taiwan and Singapore in 2005, we found over 1,500 species of crabs, shrimps and lobsters of all kinds, with over 150 of them new to science!”

Scientists to survey 29 sites in 14 days

This latest expedition will involve the use of various deep-sea sampling methods for qualitative and quantitative determination of benthic biodiversity. These will include dredges and beam trawls as well as a box core and a multicorer to sample the animal life in mud. Each day, the research team plans to conduct sampling at three to four sites, covering a total of 29 sites. Each sampling exercise will take at least 3 to 4 hours to complete due to the depths involved and the time it takes to deploy the equipment. Important biological samples will be sorted out, photographed, preserved and labelled on board the research vessel. Some will even be kept alive for short periods in special chilled aquariums so that they can be observed, studied and filmed.

At the end of the expedition, the samples collected will be studied by scientists from both countries. This is anticipated to take up to two years and the results will be shared and discussed with the world at a special workshop that will be held in Indonesia in 2020. The outputs will then be collated and published in the museum’s science-citation journal, The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

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