Systematics and ecology of crabs (Indo-West Pacific)
My research – when time and powers permit – is on the diversity and biology of marine and freshwater crabs in the Indo-West Pacific. That been said, some of my work these days include the species in the Atlantic and East Pacific, especially when revisions take place. I am one of the very old school who believes that taxonomy is the basis for all modern biodiversity work – regardless of whether you are in ecology, conservation or even management. Unless you understand and know the identities and affinities of the animals – much of the subsequent work becomes doubtful or even weak. Brachyuran crabs in particular are a major group with some 7500 living species (half of all Decapoda) and the majority occur in the Indo-West Pacific. The laboratory has some half a dozen graduate students of different backgrounds, and not all work on crabs; but the nature of PhDs is such that they are neverthless “umbrellaed” anyways. Explorations, discoveries of new habitats and new species, understanding their evolution and conserving them are all missions of the laboratory. Old style natural history of crabs and other interesting animals!
With over 510 technical papers (mostly in international journals) published over the past 15 years, the laboratory is now a regional leader in systematic and applied zoology, and has garnered numerous national, regional and international awards, honours and kudos. There has also been funding from external agencies like UNEP, FAO and foreign conservation bodies. I have been or am still on the scientific committees of some 30 international organisations, ranging from external academic review boards for major organisations (e.g. Smithsonian Institution and the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature, a select team of some 28 senior scientists tasked with overseeing the naming of animals.), conservation agencies (e.g. World Conservation Union), global and regional biodiversity agencies (e.g. UNEP), as well as numerous peer-reviewed journals from Europe, America and Asia.
The Systematics and Ecology Laboratory of the Department focuses its work on the taxonomy and Ecology of crustaceans in the Indo-West Pacific and freshwater fishes of Southeast Asia. Members and graduate students of this laboratory are currently working on broad systematic and regional revisions of various groups of freshwater and marine crabs (including deep water families), the freshwater prawn (Palaemonidae and Atyidae) fauna of East and Southeast Asia, revisions of selected groups of commercially important riverine catfishes, ichthyological freshwater fish fauna of Sumatra, systematics of air-breathing fishes in Southeast Asia, general ecology of mangrove crabs and swamp fishes, vicariance biogeography of freshwater crabs and fishes, and the conservation ecology and management of regional freshwater ecosystems (especially peat swamps). Many of these studies are ongoing collaborative efforts with crustacean and fish specialists from over a dozen countries internationally.
Bossuyt, F; Meegaskumbura, M; Beenaerts, N; Gower, DJ; Pethiyagoda, R; Roelants, K; Mannaert, A; Wilkinson, M; Schneider, CJ; Bahir, MM; Manamendra-Apachchi, K; Ng, PKL; Oommen, OV; Milinkovitch, MC Biodiversity in Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats - Response. Science (2005) Vol 308: 199
Bossuyt, F; Meegaskumbura, M; Beenaerts, N; Gower, DJ; Pethiyagoda, R; Roelants, K; Mannaert, A; Wilkinson, M; Bahir, MM; Manamendra-Arachchi, K; Ng, PKL; Schneide CJ; Oommen, OV; Milinkovitch, MC. Local endemism within the western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. Science (2004) 306: 479-481
Jeng, MS; Ng, NK; Ng, PKL. Feeding behaviour: Hydrothermal vent crabs feast on sea 'snow' Nature (2004) 432: 969
Ng, H.H. & Ng, P.K.L. A revision of the akysid catfish genus Acrochordonichthys Bleeker. Journal of Fish Biology (2001) 58:386-418.
Ng, P.K.L. & Clark, P.F. The eumedonid file: a case study of systematic compatibility using larval and adult characters (Crustacea:Decapoda: Brachyura). Invertebrate Reproduction and Development (2000) 38 (3):225-252.
Ng, P.K.L. Biodiversity challenges for Southeast Asia in the new millennium and the role of the Raffles Museum. In: Proceedings of theFirts and Second Symposia on Collection Building and Natural History Studies in Asia. Ed. K. Matsuura. National Science Museum Monographs (2000) 18:3-23.
Ng, P.K.L. The deep-water swimming crabs of the genus Benthochascon Alcock and Anderson, 1899 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura:Portunidae), with description of a new genus for the American B. schmitti Rathbun, 1931. Journal of Crustacean Biology, (2000) 20(2):310-324.
Kerle, R., Britz, R. & Ng, P.K.L. Habitat preference, reproduction and diet of the earthworm eel, Chendol keelini (Teleostei: Chaudhuriidae),a rare freshwater fish from Sundaic Southeast Asia. Environmental Biology of Fishes, (2000) 57(4):413-422