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The third and last expedition to Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling Islands carried out by the Raffles Museum was featured in the Straits Times last Saturday! This follows the coverage we received in the local press when the first expedition to Christmas Island was undertaken in 2010.
Spending two short weeks a year over three years from 2010-2012 has been fruitful indeed and the first two papers arising from the Christmas Island collections have already been published in the latest issue of the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, describing new species of crabs that are most likely to be endemic to Christmas Island. They are:
1) Ng, P.K.L. & P.J.F Davie, 2012. The blue crab of Christmas Island, Discoplax celeste, new species (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Gecarcinidae). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 60 (1):89-100.
Abstract: The indigenous Blue Crab of Christmas Island, previously misidentified as “Discoplax hirtipes (Dana, 1851)”, is here recognised as a distinct new species, D. celeste. In addition to its unique blue-coloured carapace when adult, the new species can be distinguished from true D. hirtipes by carapace, male abdominal, and male first gonopod characters. To stabilise the taxonomy of Cardisoma hirtipes Dana, 1851, a neotype from the original type locality in Fiji, is selected. A separate eastern Indian Ocean taxon, Discoplax aff. hirtipes, present in the Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands and western Sumatra is also found in small numbers on Christmas Island.
2) Davie, P. J. F & P.K.L. Ng, 2012. Two new species of Orcovita (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Varunidae) from anchialine caves on Christmas Island, eastern Indian Ocean. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 60 (1):57-70.
Abstract: Two new species of anchialine varunid crabs of the genus Orcovita Ng & Tomascik, 1994, O. orchardorum and O. hicksi, are described from Christmas Island, eastern Indian Ocean. This marks the first record of Orcovita from the Indian Ocean. The new species are easily distinguished from congeners by differences in the form of the carapace, chelae, ambulatory legs, and male abdomen. Two groups of Orcovita are recognised, and their affinities discussed. A new key is provided for the 10 known species.
Even though the 2012 expedition is to be RMBR’s last, Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling surprised us so much that we don’t think we are done with it just yet. We have collected at least four new species and five new records of crustacea from these localities and will look forward to returning in the future! More photos will be up on our Facebook page soon. Stay tuned!