Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Visiting Scientists Feature: Ichthyologist Edition

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Visiting Scientists Feature: Ichthyologist Edition

Recently, we hosted ichthyologists Dr. Helen Larson and Dr. Kevin Conway. Dr. Larson is an old friend of the museum, having visited numerous times prior. On the other hand, this is Dr. Conway’s first visit to LKCNHM, despite having ties to the museum as an Associate Editor for the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

During their stay here, they examined fishes in our Zoological Reference Collection (ZRC). Dr. Larson and Dr. Conway are working on a revision of gobies in the genus Gobiopterus (glass gobies), in collaboration with Dr. Zeehan Jaafar from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Larson is also currently writing a 3-volume book, tentatively titled “Gobioids of the World”, with Dr. Doug Hoese of the Australian Museum, Sydney.

Work on the book began about 4 years ago, and is still in progress. This is probably due to the massive amount of research that has to be put in, with Dr. Larson mentioning that about 700 species of gobies will be included in one volume. During this visit, she examined gobies in the genus Rhinogobius (East Asian stream gobies) as part of research for this book.

“They (the stream gobies) are not well understood, we only know that they can be eaten in soup in Japan,” joked Dr. Larson.

In addition, she is working with Dr. Tan Heok Hui on a redescription of the enigmatic gudgeon, Pogoneleotris heterolepis. This species is known for the many tiny hairs near its mouth that resemble a beard, and is sometimes referred to as ‘beard gudgeons’. At the moment, the only description of the species is from the holotype (collected in 1869) that currently resides at the Natural History Museum in London.

There has been no formal collection of this species in the 150 years since the holotype was obtained. However, Dr Tan purchased some examples from an unassuming market in Sarawak market a few years ago. At present moment, the specimens of Pogoneleotris heterolepis in the ZRC appear to be the only known ones in the world, aside from the holotype. According to Dr. Larson, a possible reason why this species is so hard to come by could be due to their habitat—deep, murky, estuarine waters that are infested with crocodiles.

We wish Dr. Larson and Dr. Conway all the best for their research, and hope to see them soon.