Survey finds 20 new animal species on Singapore’s Pulau Ubin, including a spider not recorded elsewhere in the world

A new species of spider from the Piranthus genus, found on Pulau Ubin during a biodiversity survey. The spider had not been identified anywhere else in the world. — Paul Ng/NParks pic via TODAY
A new species of spider from the Piranthus genus, found on Pulau Ubin during a biodiversity survey. The spider had not been identified anywhere else in the world. — Paul Ng/NParks pic via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Sept 25 — A two-year survey of Pulau Ubin’s biodiversity has identified 20 species of animals not previously known to exist on the island, as well as a new species of spider never previously recorded anywhere in the world.

Pulau Ubin, off mainland Singapore’s east coast, has long been noted for its rich diversity of plants, birds and animals.

In a Facebook post today, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said that of the 20 new species, six had never previously been recorded anywhere in Singapore. Another 13 had not been recorded on the island before, though they had been seen elsewhere across Singapore.

The new species of spider, which belongs to the Piranthus genus of spiders, was first collected in Brunei in 2012. It was also spotted in local coastal areas of Singapore such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and mangroves in Lim Chu Kang.

However, at the time of those earlier sightings, the spider, which has yet to be named, was thought to belong to the Bavia species of spiders.

When a specimen of the spider was collected in Pulau Ubin as part of the biodiversity survey of the island, Singapore researchers realised that it was in fact, an entirely new species. The female is notable for the bright reddish-orange colour on its front two pairs of legs.

The Swamp Tiger Butterfly, one of the species recorded for the first time on Pulau Ubin. — Khew Sin Khoon/ NParks pic via TODAY
The Swamp Tiger Butterfly, one of the species recorded for the first time on Pulau Ubin. — Khew Sin Khoon/ NParks pic via TODAY

Here is a summary other new species found in the first comprehensive survey of Pulau Ubin’s biodiversity, which began two years ago:

Species not previously recorded in Singapore:

* Hersilia sundaica: The Hersilia species of spider is known for its long spinnerets, which is the part of the spider that is used to spin webs. The one found in Pulau Ubin is one of the smaller species of the Hersilia found in Singapore, measuring only 4mm long without its spinneret

* The Swamp Tiger Butterfly: The white-spotted butterfly found in coastal areas and mangrove swamps in Malaysia was spotted on Butterfly Hill on Pulau Ubin

Species not previously recorded on Pulau Ubin:

* The Black-bearded Tomb Bat: This bat species is rarely seen and the males sport a black beard

* The White-banded Awl Butterfly: This butterfly frequents heavily-shaded forests and is active in the early mornings and late evenings. It rests upside down under leaves.

The Black-beared Tomb Bat, one of the species recorded on Pulau Ubin for the first time. — Noel Thomas/NParks pic via TODAY
The Black-beared Tomb Bat, one of the species recorded on Pulau Ubin for the first time. — Noel Thomas/NParks pic via TODAY

The survey, which involves more than 200 National Parks Board (NParks) staff, researchers from the National University of Singapore and citizen scientists from nature groups such as the Vertebrate Study Group of the Nature Society (Singapore), is due to be completed at the end of this year.

Findings from the survey will help the agency plan for future research and species recovery projects on the island.

For instance, knowing what type of animals are present at a particular site will help the agency determine what kind of trees should be planted.

The announcements of the findings were made ahead of “Ubin Day” tomorrow. Since 2002, the day has been marked as an occasion to showcase the island’s natural riches and culture.

16,000 new trees for Pulau Ubin

Separately, three more disused quarries on Pulau Ubin — Balai Quarry South, Sungei Teris and Jalan Jelutong — have been identified for reforestation this year as part of a nation-wide movement to plant a million trees across Singapore by 2030.

More than 16,000 trees from over 70 native species such as the Small-leaved Nutmeg and the Malayan Spindle Tree will be planted across 16ha of land previously used for granite mining and aquaculture.

Those areas are covered with non-native invasive plants such as the Acacia tree and do not support a high diversity of wildlife.

Efforts to remove invasive species and restore the areas with native trees will provide additional habitats for the local biodiversity on the island such as the Greater Mousedeer and the Leopard Cat.

These wildlife species have been observed using reforested sites as new habitats for roosting and foraging.

More sites on the island will be identified for reforestation later. — TODAY

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