Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little bugs in the lab

Another short post for everyone since I have not been out on any field trips recently.

The lab that I am in seems to be a rehabilitation centre for rearing small insects.

Little hemiptera bugs belonging to the Green Stink Bug (Plautia affinis) just hatched from the cup shaped eggs. The eggs actually have a little lid which serves as the opening for the babies to emerge.

An astonishing surprise to everyone when we saw this amazing golden chrysalis belonging to the Striped Blue Crow butterfly, Euploea mulciber mulciber. This is said to be a warning colouration since the caterpillar feeds on poisonous leaves.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wasp nest in DBS

A beautiful large wasp has made its home above the door of one of the biology labs. For the safety for the wasp baby living inside, I won’t say which lab, though its pretty obvious from the background that there can only be two possible labs for those who work here.

Thanks to John, this wasp is a potter wasp, Phimenes flavopictus.

It was probably eating its larvae baby within the potter. Being so big and scary, I ran away when it seemingly flew towards me threatening. Still, its nice to know another animal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Total Vascular Flora of Singapore!

Kwek Yan from the Plant Systematics Laboratory has just published an ebook in the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research entitled “A checklist of the total vascular plant flora of Singapore: native, naturalised and cultivated species. You can download the book by clicking the picture below.


Kudos to him for his overwhelming efforts and many sleepless nights to compile this book. I am certain it will be of great help to many biologists and nature lovers for a quick reference of our species list and status in Singapore!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Virgin Trip to Tanah Merah

Today is my first trip to Tanah Merah organised by KS with a ton of other of his friends. Glad to finally put a face to the awesome pictures in his Singapore Nature blog by James.


The intertidal habitat is basically a sandy shore enclosed by a long seawall. It was under these huge boulders which formed the wall where life thrived, especially the crabbies. There were so many swimmers around, like the flower crab above (Portunus pelagicus).

There was also a hive of activities as we witness them feeding among the rocks.


J went far out first and called us when he spotted the Common Seastar (Archaster typicus).

The rabbit fishes (Siganus sp.) are probably the most easily spotted medium sized fishes here. According to wiki, they are exclusively diurnal and this might be the reason for their sluggish behaviour and half-shut eyes. One even knocked on my booties and just laid flat on it as if to sleep!

Feather-duster worms always make great photography subjects.


Squids and cuttlefishes are a common sight here and I was excited to bear witness to one that caught a tiny shrimp that can barely fit in its mouth.


A gastropod of considerable size, the dolphin snail, Angaria delphinus looks just like a piece of rock. However, when cleared of the algae and debri, it appears pretty magnificant.

I was also lucky to spotted this blue spotted fan tailed ray (Taeniura lymma) that settled just in front of me.


I was impatient to see what is hiding under the rocks so I clambered over them. The algae was very slippery so it made a difficult task harder… However, did managed to spot a few interesting stuff like the Arabic Cowrie (Cypraea arabica).

I also managed to catch a glimpse of a Synatid Sea Cucumber (Synatidae).

Also present is another beautiful cucumber yet to be identified.


Finally along the upper shore, there were many athletes racing on the sand. These were the horned ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalmus).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mangroves from Punggol to Serangoon

After work yesterday, I decided to head down to ground truth some mangroves around my area for my friend. I engaged my dad’s help to drive me straight down to Punggol Beach before heading back using my bicycle.


Large patches of the wasteland here are being cleared in the vicinity.


There is a really super tiny mangrove near the beach. Unfortunately, I did not check the tide and it was rather high then.


There were lots of mudskippers at the drain linking to the mangrove. I am not particularly good at identifying these fishes, but they look a little like the dusty-gilled mudskippers (Periophthalmus novemradiatus). Please correct me if I am wrong.

Lots of Ellobium snails (Cassidula sp.) on a low stem of sea hibiscus.

A tree climbing crab retreating into a hole. However, this is not the tunnel of a mud lobster mound but rather, one from the concrete drains!


At the opposite side of the road, there were also some remnant of a mangrove. Api-Api (Avicennia sp.) needle roots poked out of the stagnant water-logged mud.

A huge clump of mud lobster mound stood at the centre with sea hollies (Acanthus sp.) over growing it.

I also caught sight of some beautiful orange fungus.


Next, I cycled over to Sungei Serangoon. The dam is already being constructed and this, together with Sungei Punggol will be our next two up-coming reservoirs.


I spotted a small water body leading into this Acacia auriculiformis dominated forest filled with Asystasia gangetica undergrowth and thought some mangroves might be hiding inside. Hence I made a decision to bash in.

Here is the reddish stream that is probably covered with tannin from the fallen leaves; but no mangroves. I wonder what life is present inside.

A Lampin budak (Claoxylon indicum) plant. The leaves of this native plant is used by the Malays previously as diapers for their babies.


And lastly, a view from Buankok Bridge of the mangroves with Sengkang estate at the background. Though it looks pretty lush, but it is just a thin strip along the embankment. With the dam being completed soon, this entire river will be dammed up and will convert into a freshwater body eventually. What will happen to the mangroves?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another encounter with Banded Leaf Monkeys

A tiring day after a guiding session at Semakau yesterday, I still decide to head down to CCNR to get some pictures that I need for a publication. Luckily I managed to get HF, who was also looking for company to survey the banded leaf monkeys.


I arrived earlier than I wanted to (wasted half hour of sleep) and as I walked slowly to our meeting point, I caught sight of this bare Albizia (Albizia falcataria) tree. There were a few birds perching on it, including the common flameback woodpecker, some doves and a few Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) shown above.


HF soon came after and after trekking for awhile, she pointed out some hanging ‘fruits’. It was only later when I realised that they are the flowers of Petai (Parkia speciosa), where the seed pods were eaten and popularly known as smelly beans.

After taking the pictures that I wanted, we were rewarded with another glimpse of the Banded Leaf Monkeys (Presbytis femoralis). This is a critically endangered primate in Singapore and recent surveys by Nparks (in the news) indicated that there are about 30 or so individuals left in the wild. This particular monkey was picking on a leaf, probably to eat before leaping deeper into the forest.


I did not managed to get any nice shots since they were under the canopy and mostly out of sight. I did get a fleeing shot of the back of this adorable monkey though.

Lastly, I caught sight of this Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica) eating on what looks like a Malayan Brighteye (Torenia polygonoides), a common turf weed. This exotic snail is known to have a voracious diet (practically on anything!) that explains its extremely invasive nature.

Semakau Intertidal Walk 19 Sep

Rushing down from work wearing pants, shirt and leather shoes, I reached Marina South Pier for a guiding session at Pulau Semakau with the Raffles Museum. It had been almost 3 months since I last guided and it is about time to wipe off my rustiness.

Me and Robert were guiding another volunteer group, the Singapore Zoo Docents.


First up was the Swimming Anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi). True to its name, it can swim like a jellyfish by pulsating. Check out this link.

RY found this Spider Conch (Lambis lambis) among the seagrass meadow. Conches are fascinating molluscs in that they have two alien like eye stalks that peep out of their snail to scan the surroundings for safety.


The Sandfish Cucumber (Holothuria scabra) is an edible species of cucumber that is a delicacy for Chinese especially during the New Year period. They feed on detritus and has the habitat of burrowing in the sand, perhaps to escape from predators and also the sun.


Love was in the air and this was reflected from the tremendous number of pairing Common Seastars (Archaster typicus). However, it is said that the lustful males has such an urge to mate that sometimes they will mount on another male!
We also found other stars like the Knobbly Seastar (Protoreaster nodosus) on top and a seastar yet to be identified.

The Long Spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum) has very long spines that are slightly venomous. However, the spines are very brittle and thin, thus will easily penetrate through the skin of the unknowing.


Lastly, the Onch Slug (Onchidiidae) is an extremely well-disguised air breather that has a tough outer skin for protection.

In sum, a nice day out with nice finds and company. Thanks for coming guys!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


At long last! After so many trips to Sungei Buloh, I managed to tap on RY’s luck and finally get to see the Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)! 

It was basking on the across the bank from the platform where we were. It seemed like quite a small one but RY said it is because of the distance. This species is the largest of all living reptiles today. I hope the public who visit this place will also feel the awe that I felt rather than fear, followed by complains and ultimately, the removal of it to a crocodile farm and ending up as a purse as what had happened previously.

This is a nature area and we should we be proud that we have such amazing animals in Singapore.

Guided walk at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

I woke up early today hoping to do a recee before my walk at SBWR. The weather looked perfect when I waited at the bus interchange, or so I thought. Evi sent me an SMS about “raining giant lizards” in the west, followed by SF about thunderbolts striking in her area and lastly from Mel in the East.


I decided to go ahead despite the weather-women warnings since it was not raining in the north. However, I got more worried about my decision as dark clouds gathered gradually. My heart went down when it started to pour just when I reached Buloh.

What a relief, as with just all my previous trips, the rain stopped in pretty soon! Though we started half an hour late, all of us were in a jovial mood. For me especially, phew…!


It was low tide at this time and animals come out to play… this phrase got entrenched in my mind after watching the video show at SBWR so many times. The Tree Climbing Crabs were down at the mudflats feeding. During high tide, these crabs will climb up the trees to escape from predators that sweep in with the tide.


A favourite site for juvenile Mangrove Horseshoe Crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda), we only managed to find a tiny one at the stream. This species is known to be very poisonous and people have died eating it in Thailand where it is a delicacy.


The largest mudskipper in Singapore, the Giant Mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosser) has a voracious diet and is even known to eat other mudskippers!


The Nipah Palm (Nypa fruticans) are bearing fruits! Do you know that encased within each of them is an attap chee?


Due to the muddy nature of mangrove habitat, the substrate is perpetually waterlogged and soft. Many mangrove trees have found a way to overcome this obstacles. For example, the Api-Api (Avicennia sp.) have needle roots poking out of the mud like snorkels to breath air.

Bakau (Rhizophora sp.) on the other hand, possesses prop roots that provide a strong foothold on the mud.
The next charismatic root form is found in the Bruguiera sp. They have have roots that bend upwards then down with the knobs resembling the knee caps of a person; hence the name knee roots. These “knees” pop out of the mud just like the Api-Api to gasp on air.


After finishing the boardwalk, as it was already 10am, I decided to bring my group to watch the video show first before heading to the main bridge.

A Stork Billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis)was perching at its favourite spot and we admired some photos from a bird-photographer who took some amazing shots of it.


The migratory birds are here! At the main hide, we found a Malayan Water Monitor Lizard walking among a group of Pacific Golden Plovers (Pluvialis fulva). One of the staff who was doing a survey there shared with us that the lizard can spot for any injured birds and grasp the opportunity to kill it; but not when they were all healthy and alert.


On the freshwater pond, the Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a reminder of the invasive nature of this exotic weed. Just at the nearby Kranji Reservoir, a population explosion occurred in 1975 and filled the entire water surface with it.
These pink clumps are egg masses of the Giant Apple Snail (Pomacea sp.). This is an invasive species native of America that is probably introduced through the aquarium trade.


Lastly, a group photo of my group, the old gang together with some of their friends. Nice to catch up with everyone again. :)

Thanks to Sean for the awesome photos of the stork billed kingfisher, water hyacinth and group shot.

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