Conservation, Species, Taxonomy

Are there fireflies in Singapore? 5 things you should know

1 – At least 11 species and still counting

A group of researchers from Singapore conducted surveys between 2009 and 2010 on local fireflies. They revealed 11 species but the number did not include the two species that were previously described from Singapore: Lucidina wallacei Pic, 1944 and Pteroptyx bearni Olivier, 1909 [see point 5].

2 – New but not new

The researchers also revealed four genera as new records for Singapore: Colophotia, Luciola [Luciolinae], Pyrocoelia and Diaphanes [Lampyrinae]. And just recently, The Biodiversity of Singapore portal displayed two interesting species ‘digitally repatriated’ from Natural History Museums in United Kingdom: Colophotia and Pyrocoeliaboth were actually collected from Singapore more than a century ago!

But I think the most interesting part is at least half of ‘species’ from the list have no scientific name and are waiting to be determined. Anyone?

3 – Favourite habitats

You can find fireflies in four main habitats in Singapore: mangroves, freshwater swamps, secondary forests and grassland. Most of these habitats are confined in Nature Reserves. So make sure you have a proper permit to conduct your own observation.

4 – Endangered species

Pteroptyx valida Olivier, 1909 is classified as Endangered in The Singapore Red Data Book 2008. It is known as a non-synchronous flashing firefly, and mangrove is its preferred habitat. So once the mangroves disappear this species will be gone forever.

5 – Overlooked or extinct?

Why can’t we find L. wallacei? One possibility  is because it is a diurnal species and does not produce light. You may spot this species among other beetles in one of firefly habitats. Identification of this species is not easy though. How about P. bearni? It is obvious that this species has not been recorded from Singapore for a long time. One possibility that I could think of is we have not been looking thoroughly for the species. They might still exist but much less abundant than used to be thus future surveys require good eyes for observations (and funding too). P. bearni is commonly distributed on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak. The nearest place to spot this species is in Johor – you just need to cross the border! <WFA>


Similar but not the same – revealed

Half of the respondents of my quick survey: similar but not the same think that there are five firefly species in this photo (not bad!). Actually, there are six species in total, including a newly described species from Balingian, Sarawak (manuscript in review). Well done to four anonymous friends who voted for six species  (are you Coleopterists?)

From dorsal view (top side), it is almost impossible to distinguish between species of Pteroptyx – aren’t they alike? So it is not surprising if someone thought there is only one species in this photo. How to distinguish them then? If you look at the firefly from ventral view (bottom side), you can find a light organ (whitish / creamy colour) on its abdomen. In other words, each firefly species has its dedicated light organ.

So, next time if you want experts to identify any firefly species using photos, make sure to send photos of your specimen with dorsal and ventral views.

Thanks to All for participating in this survey – stay tuned for more (fun) surveys!