Recently, we hosted Dr. Daniel Edison M. Husana, associate professor from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, who was here to examine freshwater crab specimens in the Zoological Reference Collection (ZRC). Dr. Husana’s research focuses on animals that reside in caves, such as cave crabs and cave fish.
Why cave animals (troglobites/stygobites)?
According to Dr. Husana, it is due to a love for adventure that sparked from childhood. Growing up, he has always loved thrill-seeking activities such as climbing mountains, and cave exploration brings about this sense of adventure within him.
“You don’t know what you’re going to find,” said Dr. Husana, “it’s a mystery each time.”
However, fieldwork can be very tough. Dr. Husana said that sometimes, he has to hike for a few hours just to get to the entrance of the cave, before spending another few hours inside. Once, he spent three days inside a cave, sleeping on mats that he placed on the cave floor.
The temperature inside the cave is also cold, and at times, they have to wade in icy cold water or crawl through narrow spaces just to navigate within the cave.
Nonetheless, fieldwork is also rewarding, as there are many discoveries to be found within the cave. Also, the scenery on the hike up can also be very beautiful, with views of nature and waterfalls along the way.
Living in the Dark
Within the cave, however, lies a different view. Deep and dark, there is no way of seeing anything without wearing a headlamp.
As animals residing in caves (e.g., the false spider crab) can be very small, a keen sense of sight is required to be able to spot them.
Due to the darkness within the cave, cave crabs have evolved a heightened sense of smell and touch giving rise to long antennae and walking legs. They also have smaller or missing eyes as they have little to no use of their sight while living in the dark.
As there is hardly any food inside the cave, some cave crabs survive on a diet of guano, or bat faeces, which is rich in organic matter. Incidentally, guano is also a precious commodity for farmers, who use it as fertiliser for their crops.
Dr. Husana is no stranger to the museum, with this visit being his third. It is, however, his first time visiting the new museum premises.
Dr. Husana was invited by crustacean curator (Dr. JCE Mendoza) to work on Philippine freshwater crab taxonomy, particularly the genus Sundathelphusa. During his month-long stay here funded by a LKCNHM research fellowship, Dr. Husana examined freshwater crab specimens in the ZRC, and compared them to the specimens collected during his fieldwork in the Philippines.
He said that the visit had been fruitful, having discovered a few species that are new to science. He added that he had also gained a better understanding of the freshwater crab fauna of the Philippines as a result of the visit.
We look forward to the results of Dr. Husana’s research, and hope to see him again!
Zootaxa paper by Dr. Husana, Dr. Tan Swee Hee from LKCNHM, as well as Dr. Tomoki Kase, on a new genus and species of stygobitic crab found in the Philippines: http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2011/f/zt03109p059.pdf