The late Subaraj Rajathurai
The Straits Times of 8th August 2022 had a large spread that reported a series of animals found in Singapore named after Singaporeans. The highlight of the piece was a newly discovered frog, Micryletta subaraji or Subaraj’s Paddy Frog. Not larger than a marble and found only in Singapore, this frog was named after the late Subaraj Rajathurai, to honour him as a conservationist and a self-taught naturalist. He was an avid birder but his interest was not confined to birds alone. When out in the field looking at birds, he paid attention to other life forms like butterflies, dragonflies, termites, lizards, skinks, toads, frogs, snakes, rats, flying foxes, etc. His knowledge was such that he acted as a resource person on these faunal groups.
The Straits Times of 8th August 2022.
Subaraj’s Paddy Frog (Image courtesy of Sankar Ananthanarayanan)
Subaraj was also a conservationist at heart. He played a major role in opposing the government’s proposal to clear a patch of mature secondary forest at Lower Peirce Reservoir for a golf course.
The discovery of this small paddy frog, not larger than a marble, was first noticed some three years ago along Old Upper Thomson Road by members of the Herpetological Society of Singapore (HSS) headed by Sankar Ananthanarayanan. Another location was later traced to the Kranji Marshes. A serious study was only initiated in 2021when members of the HSS roped in Dr Chan Kin Onn, Curator of Herpetology at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Genetic materials became available as voucher specimens were collected. This in turn paved the way for detailed morphological and molecular studies that led to the confirmation of a new species of the Paddy Frog from Singapore.
Type specimens upon which description and name of a new species are based. Image courtesy of Ananthanarayanan Sankar et al, 2022.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Paddy Frogs are taken to strengthen the spleen, for malnutrition, diarrhoea and scrofula. It is also pounded into a powder and applied externally for sores, boils and ulcers on the tongue and mouth.
Acknowledgement: I wish to thank Sankar Ananthanarayanan for useful discussion, image of Subaraj’s Paddy Frog and that of the type specimens.
YC Wee, Singapore, 16th August 2022