Record-breaking new discovery

  • Education
  • Sunday, 11 Aug 2019

Dr Soo uses a line instead of a net to catch groupers in Kilim, Langkawi, that are then dissected and investigated.

AQUATIC Science Lecturer Dr Michelle Soo Oi Yoon has discovered 14 new species of marine parasites.

As a marine taxonomist with UCSI University, who studies marine life, Dr Soo’s discovery is considered record-breaking in her field of work.

“In the scientific community, the discoverer can name their newfound species after other people; create a name; or use Latin names.

“However, it is a big no-no to name them after one’s own name, ” she explained.

Dr Soo said there’s one species from “ikan belanak” which she named L. bantingensis because I found it at Banting, Selangor and another which I named L. parvicopulatrix, ” she said, explaining the ‘L’ before the names of each species was the abbreviation of Ligophorus.

“After dissecting a few mullets or Ikan Belanak, I realised they are hosts to this specific genus of monogeneans called Ligophorus.

“And the ones I had found did not match previously described monogeneans from any previous scientific publications.

“That’s when I realised I had discovered something new, ” she said.

According to Dr Soo, studying previous literature was the preliminary step before confirming a new discovery.

“This, she said, was to avoid registering the same species with another name.

Dr Soo’s newly discovered specimens have been deposited in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in Singapore and the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom.

The process of identifying and naming species, according to Dr Soo, is a tedious one.

“After catching the fish from the sea, and dissecting and extracting monogeneans from the gills, to eventually naming them, everything has to be done under the microscope, ” she said.

The identification, analysis and description process can take up to one year - depending on the complexity of the said species.

“My first 10 discoveries were with my late supervisor, Prof Dr Susan Lim at Universiti Malaya; the next three discoveries were also with her and post doctoral research fellow Dr Tan Wooi Boon.

“The most recent discovery was on my own, ” she said.

Dr Soo, who has been with UCSI University for the past three years, decided to become a taxonomist when she realised that she enjoyed the art of discovering, describing and naming new species.

“This kind of work is a dying trade and not many people are doing it mainly because it is extremely tedious.

“I hope to create more awareness for this kind of skill because believe it or not, all of us have inborn taxonomic abilities, ” she added.

Dr Soo said that there were two more species to be published later this year.

“Let’s just say that the names proposed for these two are extremely long, ” she said.

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