Chimaeras: part-lion, part-goat, part-snake

They may not be as dramatic as the creature in ancient Greek mythology, but ASEAN’s chimaeras are very real

By Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Long-tailed Slug (Ibycus rachelae) (2008-06-08) by Thor-Seng LiewLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Long-tailed Slug
Ibycus rachelae Schilthuizen & Liew, 2008

The Long-tailed Slug is half-slug, half-snail and all semislug. While it superficially looks like a slug, it has a shell that is too small for the animal to retract into. It gets its common name from the fact that the tail is three times as long as its head.

Long-tailed Slug (Ibycus rachelae) (2008-06-08) by Thor-Seng LiewLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

It has a habit of wrapping its long tail around its body when resting. It was first described from Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia in 2008. The Long-tailed Slug has since been found in the Lojing Highlands in Kelantan, Peninsular Malaysia. This species is not found outside of ASEAN. Within ASEAN, it is only found in Malaysia (Kelantan and Sabah).

Solitary Duckbill Eel (Nettastoma solitarium) (2018-04-02) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Solitary Duckbill Eel
Nettastoma solitarium Castle & Smith in Smith, Böhlke & Castle, 1981

This species belongs to a group of fishes commonly known as duckbill eels in allusion to their chimeric appearance, similar to the famous Duck-billed Platypus of Australia.

Solitary Duckbill Eel (Nettastoma solitarium) (2018-04-02) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The Solitary Duckbill Eel was given its corresponding scientific name (“solitarium”) because it was first discovered in the Philippines and Australia which set it apart from all other species in the group that are only known from the Atlantic Ocean. Outside of ASEAN, it is known from Australia and India (Andaman Islands). Within ASEAN, it is only found in the Philippines.

Binturong (Arctictis binturong) (2018-04-08) by Reuben G. ClementsLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Binturong
Arctictis binturong (Raffles, 1822)

Also known as the Bearcat due to its cat-like appearance and bear-like gait, the Binturong is a true chimaera. And neither like cat or bear, it possesses a prehensile tail which can be used to hold on to or grasp objects! That is why it is all alone in its own genus! Perhaps the strangest (at least to humans) adaptation is its scent that has been described as “buttered popcorn” and is produced by glands near its tail. Binturongs use this scent to mark territory and to locate one another. Outside of ASEAN, it is also found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, southern China, India and Nepal. Within ASEAN this species is found in Indonesia (Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra), Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines (Palawan), Thailand and Vietnam.

Pig-nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) (2013-03-17) by Heok Hui TanLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Pig-nosed Turtle
Carettochelys insculpta Ramsay, 1886

This species gets its common name from its nose that has prominent fleshy tubular nostrils. It also looks like an intermediate between a (freshwater) softshell turtle and marine turtles. Originally described from the Fly River in Papua New Guinea, this species is also found in the Indonesian province of West Papua. It is thus also commonly known as the Fly River Turtle. It is thoroughly aquatic in its habits and only the females come out to lay eggs. These eggs only hatch when the nest is flooded by the nearby river. Although a protected species, it is threatened by the indiscriminate but very lucrative pet trade. Outside of ASEAN, it is found in in Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. Within ASEAN, it is only found in Indonesia (West Papua).

Sinobatis sp. (2018-03-29) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Andaman Legskate
Sinobatis andamanensis Last & Bussarawit, 2016

The Andaman Legskate is a species of legskate that was recently discovered in deep water off Phuket Island, Thailand. It is the only species of legskate known from the northern Indian Ocean.

Sinobatis sp. (2018-03-29) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Species of legskates are true chimaeras as they appear like ‘typical’ rays from above but when they are turned over they reveal a remarkable adaptation.

Sinobatis sp. (2018-03-29) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Their pelvic fins are modified into a pair of ‘legs’, hence their common name. Legskates are able to use their ‘legs’ to walk along the seafloor.

Sinobatis sp. (2018-03-29) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The Andaman Legskate is currently only known from the ASEAN region. It is restricted to deep water off Phuket Island, Thailand.

Sunda Stink Badger (Mydaus javanensis) by Biodiversity Heritage LibraryLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Sunda Stink Badger
Mydaus javanensis (Desmarest, 1820)

Known in Malay as the ‘Teledu’, this species is multi-sensorial chimaera. While it resembles a badger in colouration and appearance, it smells like a skunk. The smell has been described as that of mercaptan, a chemical added to odourless natural gas to make it detectable to the human nose. This smell is present even after the animal has died. They are generally docile creatures and are sometimes kept (illegally) as pets. This species is not found outside of ASEAN. Within ASEAN, it is found in Brunei, Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) and Indonesia.

Sinobatis sp. (2018-03-29) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

From a Bearcat that is not a bear or a cat, to semislug that is half-way between a slug and a snail. These are just some of ASEAN’s chimaeras—creatures that are neither one nor the other but nevertheless 100 percent unique!

Credits: Story

Text:

Binturong
Jharyathri Thiagarajah
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Long-tailed Slug
Clarisse Y. D. Tan
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Pig-nosed Turtle
Kelvin K. P. Lim
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Sinobatis sp.
Solitary Duckbill Eel
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Sunda Stink Badger
Peter K. L. Ng
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Images:

Binturong
Reuben Clements
(Rimba Research, Malaysia)

Long-tailed Slug
Thor-Seng Liew (Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia)

Pig-nosed Turtle
Heok Hui Tan
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Sinobatis sp.
Solitary Duckbill Eel
SJADES 2018
(Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Indonesia and National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Sunda Stink Badger
Biodiversity Heritage Library
(http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/)

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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