The unique method of oyster diving in Sungai Muar was first recorded in 1858. Oyster bottom farming is a well-known heritage at Sungai Muar estuary. The premium oyster was once a delicacy reserved for the royals and high-ranked officials and later exported to the Singapore markets in the early 1900s. A collaboration between UPM and Queen’s University Belfast recently discovered the oyster to be a new species and named it Crassotrea (Magallana) saidii.
The oyster species gained the attention of Dr. Nur Leena Wong from International Institute of Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences (I-AQUAS), UPM, when a local businessman Md Saidi Mohamed reached out to UPM with concerns of the depleting oyster population in 2017. With his efforts in preserving this natural heritage, the UPM team managed to further understand the biology and ecology of this unique species.
The oyster is locally known as “tiram putih” indicating their creamy white flesh of superior quality, which is preferred over the other co-existing species C. belcheri (tiram kapak) in Sungai Muar. Though oyster is difficult to identify through external morphology due to their plasticity, local oyster divers armed with decades of experience can easily distinguished these two species easily at one glance.
“I was totally blown off by the accuracy in oyster species distinction by the oyster divers!” exclaimed Dr. Leena. Specimens identified by the local fishers were later confirmed through DNA testing, it shows the importance of local knowledge in scientific discovery.
“You can’t protect a species unless you know it exists through scientific validation, so it was important to make that distinction between it and any other species,” explained Dr. Julia Sigwart, a mollusc taxonomist from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast.
The new species Crassotrea (Magallana) saidii is named after Md Saidi Bin Mohamed, who has been actively promoting research and conservation for the sustainability of this oyster. Born and raised close to Sungai Muar, he resigned from his job to fully focus on the promotion and awareness of this oyster species. The name recognises his dedication, commitment, passion, and discovery of the new species. His company Oyster Reef Enterprise is now focussed on the promotion of Sungai Muar oysters as an environmental friendly aquaculture product.
Sungai Muar estuary is the only known occurrence of this new species in the world and conservation of this small oyster population is urgently needed to ensure their sustainability in the fishery. I-AQUAS research team is currently working to increase the oyster population through an aquaculture approach.
The journal publication can be accessed here.
Oyster diver Abdul Shukor bin Bahrom demonstrating river bottom oyster dive-harvesting skills.
Type specimen of Crassostrea (Magallana) saidii (left) named after Md Saidi Mohamed (right).
Link to paper here.
Date of Input: 20/10/2021 | Updated: 25/10/2021 | m_fakhrulddin