Published works on seashore life abound, but most are either too academic, or benefit exclusively readers living in temperate environments. There are exceptions, notably S.H. Chuang's (1961) On Malayan Shores which is unfortunately out of print. Two recent works by Henrey (1983) and Chou (1988) have been directed at readers in the tropics but these emphasise the coral reef community instead.
When the authors contemplated writing a simplified guide to Singapore's shore plants and animals, we faced two main challenges.
Firstly, there is no typical shore to describe (e.g., true sandy or rocky), as its characteristics have been modified through land reclamation, construction, damming and the concretisation of estuaries etc. We decided that rather than give long descriptions of the various types of seashore recognised by numerous authors and explain how Singapore's shores differed from these, we would for practical purposes, dispense with a classification of shore types, and concentrate instead on describing the various groups and species found here. This has the advantage that the reader to the seashore requires no previous knowledge or detailed understanding of the shore.
Secondly (and this may surprise the reader), far from being impoverished, there are too many species of plants and animals on Singapore shore's to describe in such a small book, and what is basically an introductory text. There is a greater number of species of almost every plant and animal group on our shores than, for example Great Britain, which has a shoreline more than 40 times that of Singapore.
This book would therefore have to be necessarily selective. We have chosen plant and animal species that are more common, and what a reasonably observant visitor to the seashore might expect to see. In describing these,we have also departed from the conventional approach by concentrating on aspects more of interest to the layman. Scientific details have hence been kept to a minimum.
We realise that we can never do justice to the richness of our shores, and the approach we have adopted to present the selected information is far from perfect. The reader will undoubtedly still encounter organisms excluded from this book. Despite these potential shortcomings, we believe that this guide book will be generally useful, and spark off interest among young and old alike to the wonders that live in the margins of Neptune's realm.
From A Guide to Seashore Life by Dr Leo W H Tan and Peter K L Ng
Published by the Singapore Science Centre and sponsored by BP
@Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Singapore Science Centre