Work is underway in Malaysia to protect a rare new species of oyster discovered by a team led by a researcher from Queen’s University.
Dr Julia Sigwart of the School of Biological Sciences and her colleagues named the new species Crassotrea (Magallana) saidii.
It was discovered during a collaboration with academics at Universiti Putra Malaysia to increase the oyster population in the Muar River in Johor state, south of Peninsula Malaysia.
While local fishermen were familiar with the species, it had not been officially named because until DNA testing took place, scientists were not convinced that it differed from a similar and more common species. .
It lives in a small estuary and can be threatened by urbanization.
Dr Sigwart said fishing in the area is done in the traditional way, involving free diving and collecting fish by hand.
“The fishermen depend on the capture and sale of these oysters as a source of income, but the process is recognized as being horribly dangerous and tragically one of the fishermen involved in the project has died this year,” she said. declared.
Local businessman Md Saidi Bin Mohamed keen to promote the oyster – considered a delicacy with a unique taste and once only allowed to be eaten by the Sultan of Johor and his closest advisers – was concerned about whether these fishing processes were sustainable. and contacted Universiti Putra Malaysia to see if they could help.
Dr Sigwart, whose research group at Queen’s works to understand global patterns of biodiversity, has been tasked with documenting all species of oysters in a practice known as taxonomy and says there are around 20 species of oysters that can be eaten.
As part of this project, she named the new species Crassotrea (Magallana) saidii in honor of Md Saidi Bin Mohamed, who has been actively promoting research and conservation for the sustainability of this oyster since 2013.
The name recognizes his dedication, commitment, passion and discovery of the new species.
The newly named species measures around 120mm by 6mm with a relatively flat shell with brown scales.
Dr Sigwart said that a species can only be protected if its existence is confirmed by scientific validation.
“Official validation helps manage sustainability because scientists have more influence to encourage government and those who fish to protect it,” she said.
“It also ensures that it has the best possible market value when sold as food.
“The population appears stable, but it is concerning that the only known occurrence of this species in the world exists in such a small area and we do not know what is happening downstream that could threaten it.
“Tropical Southeast Asia is a region very rich in biodiversity and this particular area of the Muar River is a rich and important habitat that can tell us a lot about climate protection and global biodiversity. “
The discovery of the species is the subject of a research article published Tuesday in Marine Biodiversity.