Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mudlobster Condo

Mudlobster formations are found around the old prawn pond and inside the back mangroves (where the Nipah palms start getting abundant).
Three NAKED facts

Question: Can you guess what animal makes those funny volcano shapes in the mud?

naked fact#1: Without mudlobsters there will be fewer plants and animals in the mangroves.

Those volcanoes are the result of mudlobsters that dig deep in the soft mud. As they burrow about, mounds are created without them even knowing what happens above ground. Mudlobsters are seldom seen above ground.

The mound is like a cosy condo for all kinds of animals. These animals make little holes and tunnels to live in. These animals include crabs, ants, spiders, worms, clams, snakes, and shrimps.

Some plants also appear to grow better on these mounds.

Corny joke: The condo even comes with a swimming pool!

Water is trapped in the mound system forming pools which shelter fish and swimming animals at low tide.

naked fact #2: Mudlobsters are like earthworms. As they burrow and dig, they loosen the mud and allow air and oxygen-rich water to penetrate the otherwise oxygen-poor ground. This allows other animals and plants to make use of the mud.

naked fact #3: The Mudlobster is listed among the threatened animals in Singapore as their preferred habitats are lost or degraded. If it disappears, so will its 'condo' and the plants and animals living there.

Other interesting things to look for at mudlobster mounds

How many plants and animals can you see growing on the mound?

How can you tell whether the mound is an old one or one that is freshly made?

How high do you think a mudlobster mound can get? Records are 2m above the ground, which is taller than an adult human being! I've seen mounds at Lim Chu Kang that are as tall as me.

Too Much Information about Mudlobsters

This photo was taken of a mudlobster on Chek Jawa before deferment. It was spotted by Zeehan as we were having lunch on the big rock where the intertidal walks usually start! We don't know why it was wandering about in the open. We brought it to the prawn pond and left it there hoping it will burrow to safety.
Mudlobsters are not lobsters! Mudlobsters (Thalassina anomala) are more closely related to ghost shrimps of the genus Callianasa. A mudlobster can grow to about 30cm long.

What do they eat? No one knows for sure. They are believed to eat mud.

Can eat or not? There isn't really much of a mudlobster to eat. But they are eaten in some places. They are considered a nuisance by fish and prawn farmers as their digging activities undermine the bunds (raised edges of mud) that surround fish and prawn ponds.
Ubin villagers believed that mud lobsters can be eaten to treat asthma, but no scientific study has confirmed that.

Ferocious mud ant! There is a kind of ant that is found on mudlobster mounds that has a really nasty evil malignant bite. It's name is suitably Odontomachus malignus. I've been bitten by these tiny ants before, their bite really hurts! More about them on the Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore

Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore

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