Monday, January 28, 2013

Hidden Species of Taal Lake

Taal seahorse (maybe pipefish) c/o Doc Nielsen
 Last night, I had a kamustahan dinner with the Born to be Wild show manager/executive producer, and it was nice to hear that Born continue to get strong audience support (and even won awards). (I used to be one of the hosts  but kept in touch with the team every now and then). As another proof of the show’s health and standing, GMA7 just launched “Born Impact” – (Sunday morning) which I concluded to be like a supplementary show of Born to be Wild.

Then fresh from an animal operation (a big dog got ‘crashed’ by a water tank, but is now safe), Doc Nielsen (one of the hosts of the TV show) showed up -luckily without the dog or blood scent haha! Doc N has been in the show for quite some time but it was the first time we met. Well, we sort of knew each other anyway given common acquaintances so we’re not really strangers.

He just recently came back from a 10-day Taal documentary work – and I was surprised about some findings (and pictures) that he shared with me.

The picture posted here was claimed by locals to be a seahorse (although I think it’s a pipefish, a close relative of a seahorse). I’m a frequent visitor of Taal either for leisure, trainings (ex. sailing, boat rescue), kayaking  but not into-deep about its marine life (unlike the neighbouring Verde passage). Sure I did a docu work with Born about this place, had a few quick encounters with sea snakes (they pop their heads up to breathe), and observed thousands of sea birds frequenting the area – but still has not deep-dived (figuratively and literally) in this lake.

I told Doc that he and the fishermen might have discovered new, unnamed species. There was another picture of a flat, striped/bonded EEL, and he claimed to have seen (or heard?) a big ‘sugpo’ shrimp (not Ulang given the absence of claw). I suggested a check with some international marine-biological institutes to establish uniqueness or endemicity and even suggested, in jest- an ending/specie name ‘Nielsini’, and he countered “Donatiti” (from his first name Donato) – but we immediately decided against the latter. Haha!

My feeling about these finds was that – Taal lake still has some hidden treasure awaiting discovery. The eco focus these days is really preserving the lake (reducing if not eliminating those fish cages –along with the non-endemic Tilapia- which contributes to the lake’s demise), but should be matched up by a more dedicated study about its hidden treasures. So far, we know of the freshwater sardines (Tawilis), the small sea snake (freshwater ‘sea snake’) and maliputo (migratory jackfish), but not much more.

In general - I believe it’s but natural and very logical to have these, and many more species thriving in this place. When Taal lake was landlocked some 400yrs ago, it’s not just the sea snake and the Tawilis that were ‘trapped’ – but an entire eco-system that used to live there. So it should be no surprise that other species (like the pipefish) adapted, even evolved to a freshwater environment – to continue living, evolving and thriving in this majestic volcano-lake!

Baka nga may sirena pa eh! :)


Bonifacio V. Labatos Jr. said...

You are right, that's a pipefish of the Familly Syngnathidae HIPPICHTHYS HEPTAGONUS Bleeker 1849

Mary Florence Baltazar said...

Hi Sir! My father's family lived in the shores of Taal lake. When I was younger (around grade 4 or 5) and would visit for the summer holidays, I used to wake up early just as the sun would rise and wade in the knee-high water to collect animal curios otherwise hidden in sight under the hot daytime sun. And imagine my rapt excitement the first time I "discovered" these freshwater pipefish entwined amongst the "lumot" floating on the water's surface. The first thing that came in my mind was, yes! the possibility of discovering an unknown species of pipefish because most pipefish I read from books are "marine". This is freshwater! And so I made a search and discovered that it is in fact a known species. But what troubles me is my observation that in recent years, their numbers seem to be depleting. Whereas before, I get to collect a lot from my forays, recently I am surprised that I get to sight just a few individuals. The fact that most people living around the area does not really think much of nature and conservation bothers me a lot. Even the dragonfly nymphs that are usually a common sight in the waters have become hard to spot. Sana nga magkaroon po ng feature about the wildlife in Taal lake. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sir. Romi,

I lived in Malvar batangas, near the taal lake shore in municipality of balete batangas, recently I'm in to aquascaping hobby, then one time i'm collecting black sand for my aquarium and I found a specimen like on your image but a little bit thinner may be it's a male of the species wandering on the side of the lake I manage to catch it by my hands and brought it home, it was in my aquarium now doing fine I observe it was predating on the eggs of my Cherry Shrimp. nag reseach ako sa internet about pipefish mukha syang african freshwater pipe fish pero possible kaya na may freshwater pipefish na endemic sa pinas.