Remarkables: truly outstanding

Like a well‐known cartoon superhero family, these creatures share unique and incredible abilities and habits

By Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Gigantes Limestone Frog (Platymantis insulatus) by Arvin C. DiesmosLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Gigantes Limestone Frog
Platymantis insulatus Brown & Alcala, 1970

This species belongs to a specialised group of Philippine frogs that lives only in limestone karst forests. These frogs can be seen inside caves and in crevices of limestone boulders and outcrops from sea level up to an elevation of 150 metres. Like other frogs of the genus Platymantis, this species is unique amongst most frogs for not having a tadpole stage. The fertilised eggs of this species develop directly into tiny frogs that grow inside the nutrient-rich egg capsule, a reproductive mode known as direct development. Adult frogs are typically between 40 and 50 millimetres in length. This species is only found the ASEAN region on the Gigantes Island Group in the Philippines.

Giant Sandy Earthworm (Amynthas arenulus) (2013-08-26) by Somsak PanhaLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Giant Sandy Earthworm
Amynthas arenulus Bantaowong & Panha in Bantaowong, Somniyam, Sutcharit, James & Panha, 2014

The Giant Sandy Earthworm is a giant terrestrial earthworm from northeastern Thailand that is found in paddy-growing areas that are surrounded by dipterocarp forest. The specimen which was used to name this species was 46.5 centimetres in length and between 1.5 and 2 centimetres in width—these dimensions alone qualify as remarkable. The dorsal colour is brown and is darker than the ventral side.

Giant Sandy Earthworm (Amynthas arenulus) by Somsak PanhaLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The worms were found living in sandy topsoil at a depth of between 20 and 30 centimetres in the earthen barriers adjacent to paddy fields. The species name “arenulus” is from Latin for a “sandy place” in reference to its habitat. This species is not found outside the ASEAN region and is only found in Thailand.

Demania toxica (2018-05-17) by Hsi-Te ShihLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Demania toxica Garth, 1971

This species of pretty-looking crab was responsible for the first documented fatal human poisoning by a crab from the Philippines. In 1969 a fisherman who ate the crab died about seven hours after eating the crab. A dog and a cat that were also fed parts of the same crab also died. This species was later found to be distinct and named Demania toxica. Scientist have determined that the toxin in the crab is the same as that found in pufferfish, and it is not destroyed by the heat of cooking. Outside of ASEAN, this species is found in Taiwan. Within the ASEAN region, it is only known from the Philippines thus far.

Acmella nana by Thor-Seng LiewLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Acmella nana Vermeulen, Liew & Schilthuizen, 2015

On 28 September 2015, scientists announced the discovery of the world’s smallest land snail, measuring just 0.86 millimetres high. That species would hold the record for just a few weeks until Acmella nana (at no more than 0.79 millimetres high) was announced to the world on 2 November 2015. This species is known only from the ASEAN region, from Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) and Indonesia (Kalimantan).

Phu Luang Cascade Frog (2012-07-27) by Somsak PanhaLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Phu Luang Cascade Frog
Odorrana aureola Stuart, Chuaynkern, Chan-ard & Inger, 2006

This species of frog was first found in the Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary, Loei, Thailand. Although it may not look very special, this species has the ability to change its colour from green to brown and back again!

Paedocypris progenetica (2010-09-19) by Heok Hui TanLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Paedocypris progenetica Kottelat, Britz, Tan & Witte, 2006

This species holds the record for being the world’s smallest fish. The smallest mature females measure a mere 7.9 millimetres. Being the world’s smallest fish also means that this species is also the world’s smallest vertebrate. Both males and females have translucent orange bodies, with the male having an iridescent orange spot on its head. The males also have a pair of modified pelvic fins, which are mostly likely used in reproduction.

Paedocypris progenetica (2010-09-19) by Heok Hui TanLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

This species inhabits the acidic peat swamp forests in Indonesia and feeds on tiny aquatic invertebrates. Unfortunately, this species is threatened by the destruction of the peat swamp forests in which it lives. This species is not found outside the ASEAN region and is only found in Indonesia.

Lentinus sajor-caju (2017-09-27) by Amy ChoongLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Lentinus sajor-caju (Fr.) Fr.

The species name of this fungus is derived from two Malay words “sajor” (now spelled as “sayur”) meaning vegetable and “caju” (now spelled as “kayu”) meaning wood. It is literally the vegetable that comes from wood, in reference to it being edible and found growing on wood. It superficially resembles the cultivated oyster mushroom.

Lentinus sajor-caju (2017-09-27) by Amy ChoongLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

What is remarkable about this species is its ability to absorb very nasty heavy metals that are dissolved in water. Scientists have shown that it can absorb cadmium, chromium, lead and even uranium! As the impact of our industrial activities continue to grow, this species of fungus could potentially be used in land remediation or perhaps even in water purification. This species has a widespread distribution and outside of ASEAN is found in Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa. In ASEAN, it is known from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Mekong Giant Earthworm (Amynthas mekongianus) (2008-05-15) by Somsak PanhaLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Mekong Giant Earthworm
Amynthas mekongianus (Cognetti, 1922)

The remarkable species of earthworm has a slender body almost three metres long and between one and two centimetres wide. It lives in mud or sand on riverbanks to a depth of between 30 and 50 centimetres. To reproduce, it lays a spherical cocoon (about five millimetres in diameter) in the soil. This species is not found outside of ASEAN, and is only known from the banks of the Mekong River in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Opisthostoma vermiculum by Thor-Seng LiewLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Opisthostoma vermiculum Clements & Vermeulen in Clements, Liew, Vermeulen & Schilthuizen, 2008

This species of snail was discovered on a limestone karst in Peninsular Malaysia. It is remarkable for having a shell that has four different coiling axes—that is, its shell starts to coil along one imaginary axis before it starts to coil around a completely different axis and this occur two more times. In simpler terms, it looks like a coiled snail shell that has been unwound and wound back four different ways. Sadly, this species lives on limestone karsts that are threatened by quarrying activities. This species is not found outside of ASEAN, and is only found on Gunung Rapat in Perak, Malaysia.

Sierra Madre Forest Monitor (Varanus bitatawa) by Arvin C. DiesmosLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard
Varanus bitatawa Welton, Siler, Bennet, Bennet, Diesmos, Duya, Dugay, Rico, Van Weerd & Brown, 2010

The Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard is one of the largest species of lizards in the Philippines. It is also only the third species of monitor lizard in the world that feeds on fruits! It lives in trees and spends most of its time perched in trees at a height of over 20 metres above the forest floor. It lives in undisturbed lowland rainforests below 500 metres. Adult individuals may reach a total length of two metres.

Sierra Madre Forest Monitor (Varanus bitatawa) by Arvin C. DiesmosLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The body colouration is generally black and with bright golden yellow spots. Its limbs are olive yellow and the head has yellow mottling. This species is severely threatened by habitat destruction and from illegal harvesting to supply the illicit trade in wildlife species. The Sierra Madre Forest Monitor is only found in the ASEAN region in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range of Luzon in the Philippines.

Opisthostoma vermiculum by Thor-Seng LiewLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Biodiversity in Southeast Asia does not get any cooler than these organisms. We know you are impressed.

Credits: Story

Text:

Acmella nana
Opisthostoma vermiculum
Thor-Seng Liew
(Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia)

Demania toxica
Jose Christopher E. Mendoza
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Giant Sandy Earthworm
Mekong Giant Earthworm
Somsak Panha
(Chulalongkorn University, Thailand)

Gigantes Limestone Frog
Sierra Madre Forest Monitor
Arvin C. Diesmos
(Philippine National Museum of Natural History, the Philippines)

Lentinus sajor-caju
Amy Choong / Keng Soon Chua (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Paedocypris progenetica
Ming Li Chen
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)


Images:

Acmella nana
Opisthostoma vermiculum
Thor-Seng Liew
(Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia)

Demania toxica
Hsi-Te Shih
(National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan)

Giant Sandy Earthworm
Mekong Giant Earthworm
Somsak Panha
(Chulalongkorn University, Thailand)

Gigantes Limestone Frog
Sierra Madre Forest Monitor
Arvin C. Diesmos
(Philippine National Museum of Natural History, the Philippines)

Lentinus sajor-caju
Amy Choong
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Paedocypris progenetica
Heok Hui Tan
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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