Rarely-spotted lobster included on Taiwan species list

11/20/2020 05:57 PM
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Photo courtesy of National University of Tainan
Photo courtesy of National University of Tainan

Taipei, Nov. 20 (CNA) A lobster species rarely caught by local fishermen was included for the first time on the TaiBNET (Catalogue of Life in Taiwan) maintained by the Biodiversity Research Center at Academia Sinica earlier this month, after works by a Taiwanese biologist.

Huang Ming-chih (黃銘志), an associate professor from the Department of Biological Sciences and Technology at National University of Tainan, acquired 10 Neptune lobster -- scientifically named metanephrops neptunus -- from fishermen based in Cheng Pin fishing port in Keelung, according to the school's statement released Thursday.

The lobsters were caught in waters close to the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea in July 2019, the statement said.

Known locally as red-head lobsters, the lobsters are rarely seen among the catches of Taiwanese fishermen, with fewer than 40 caught each year. They were one of the most expensive items being sold in the Keelung seafood market, the statement said.

Notably, there were three ovigerous females and seven mature males, which facilitated more detailed research into the species, on which there's few scientific records, the statement said.

Relatively little is known about this lobster species and only minimal related research has been conducted domestically and internationally, Huang told CNA. Registering the crustacean on TaiBNET represents the first step in seeking to protect the species, he added.

Huang thanked Tadashi Kawai, chief researcher at the Hokkaido Research Organization under Japan's Central Fisheries Research Institution, for the latter's assistance in identifying the rare species and recording its features in detail and providing pictures.

An article based on their joint observations, was published by the Crustacean Research journal in its current issue for 2020, titled: "Observations on Metanephrops neptunus (Bruce, 1965) (Crustacea: Astacidea: Nephropidae) from the Pratas Islands, South China Sea."

The 10 Neptune lobsters have since been donated to the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei as specimens for academic researchers to use in their work, Huang said.

The Neptune lobster, which has a red head and white abdomen, was first discovered in the South China Sea in 1965. It has a total body length of 18-25 centimeters and is mainly found at a depth of 300m-600 meters in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean west of Australia.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang and Elizabeth Hsu)

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