Saturday, December 29, 2007

Discovery @ Changi Beach on 27 Dec 2007

Forty second Discovery posting:

Do you go about walking around our shores and sometimes wonder what these are (picture below)?
A closer look... and who made these little balls of sand? (picture below)
Here is our answer, the sand bubbler crab (picture below). First 'discovery' of the day.
Discovery Note:
1. They eat the thin coating of detritus on the sand grains.
2. These processed sand grains will then be discarded to form the tiny ball of sands which you see.

On Thursday, i was at Changi Beach being a hunter seeker. As Ron was more or less busy with the filming session, heard it's for a local documentary which is the next season of "Once upon a Tree" (not sure if i got this correct or not)...haha, i was asked to help to look for interesting things for the filming.

Anyway, since i didn't had to guide and was quite free as long i find things (which i did), i took the chance to photograph of how a moon snail burrowed into the sand (pictures below). Oh ya, second 'discovery'
Burrowing in progress (picture below)
Almost there... (picture below)Discovery Note:
1. The moon snail can inflate its body with seawater as it emerges from its shell and the fully expanded body is larger than the shell (refer to pictures above)
2. Moon snails plough through the sand, hunting for buried snails and clams.
3. The moon snail can warp its large body around its prey to suffocate it or even secrete an acid to soften its victim's shell and create a hole with its radula.

Here's a photo of the filming in action (picture below). And the clouds which reflected the rays of light from the evening sun in contrast with the blue sky(picture below). Walking around, i found this (picture below) amongst some seaweeds and seagrasses. And when Ron saw this, he was telling me that this is a rare find, a live heart urchin. Wow! Third 'discovery'!Discovery Note:
1. It burrows in sand but can be found near the surface sometimes during low tides.
2. This is also known as the sea potato due to its shape.

Fourth 'discovery' could be a juvenile cake sea star which Ron found (picture below).Discovery Note:
1. Look at the size of this small thing, only about 2cm plus.

It was truly a starry night for us. Why? Look (picture below) Let me count, fifth, sixth and seventh 'discovery'...hahaDiscovery Note:
1. Look at their sizes compared to the orange cake sea star.
2. I wonder is that their biggest size or they will grow larger... well, that would depend on their species and that they live to grow big (hopefully they do).

Eighth 'discovery' is something i saw for the first time! A Luidia penangensis, the 6 armed sand star (picture below). Underside (picture below)Discovery Note:
1.They are called the 6 armed sand star because like the sand star, they have the ability to ingest their prey whole.

What a great night! Thanks to Ron for asking me to help him or else i couldn't have the chance to see all these things.

Read Ron's entry on the same trip with some other things we saw at here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Discovery @ Semakau on 25 Dec 2007

Forty first Discovery posting:

Where were you on Christmas Day? Celebrating with friends? Partying? Or somewhere with nature (like a batch of us).

On Christmas day, while Kok Sheng and a batch of shore lovers were at Chek Jawa doing the CJ monitoring project. Some Semakau and Naked Hermit Crabs volunteer guides were at Semakau for their coral workshop practical session (and i was one of them).

Initially, i thought that the plan was to go Kusu for our practical session as first proposed. But i don't know who (most likely to be Luan Keng) pulled a trick out of the hat and had all of us traveling (via boat) to Semakau for this session.

Here are some of us crossing the seagrass lagoon towards the area where we could see lots of corals (picture below).
Before the trip itself, Luan Keng was lamenting that we haven't been seeing any polka-dot nudibranch at Semakau in the last few trips. And so interestingly, the first interesting thing we saw besides corals was a polka dot nudibranch, Jorunna funebris. First 'discovery' (picture below)!

Side note:
I will do another posting for corals soon, as ID-ing Corals was part of our trip's purpose. Anyway, i will do a feature post for nudibranchs for this posting.
Discovery Note (General Information):
1. Nudibranchs, also known as sea slugs, are one of the most beautiful creatures in earth's waters (oceans and seas)
2. To date, there are about over 3000 described species worldwide.

3. Click here to read more about polka-dot nudibranch on the sea slug forum (picture above).

And very soon, we were spotting polka-dots here and there, here's a big one, about 8 to 10cm (picture below)
Discovery Note (More general information):
1. Nudibranchs are benthic organisms, meaning they live on the ocean bottom. They can be found crawling over rocks, seaweeds, sponges, corals and many other substrates.
2. They can be found from the lower intertidal zone to depths of over 700 m.
3. They are located all over the world.

The second type of nudibranch looks like the Phyllidiella nudibranch and this was 5 small ones (about 1cm) close to one another (picture below). Second 'discovery'!Discovery Note (and more general information):
1. Nudibranchs are essentially snails without shells, and their name literally means "naked gills".
2. In most species, the gills are prominently displayed on their dorsal (upper) surface.
3. They have a pair of tentacles (called rhinophores) located on top of their heads, which biologists believe are used as sensory organs to assist in finding food and seeking a mate.

And somewhere i saw this which looks like the
Phyllidiella (picture below) and which was almost as small as the ones saw earlier (picture above)
Discovery Note (Self defense):
1. As nudibranchs, in the course of evolution, have lost their shell, they have had to evolve other means of defense.
2. Some nudibranchs utilize camouflage through color patterns that make them invisible to the eyes of their predators.
3. Others warn off predators by being brightly colored, which serves to remind predators that they are distasteful or poisonous like the

The third type of nudibranch we saw is Ron's favourite, the Gymnodoris rubropapulosa (picture below). Third 'discovery'.
Discovery Note (Diet):
1. Nudibranchs are carnivorous. Some feed on sponges, others on hydroids, others on bryozoans, the list also includes tunicates, barnacles, anemones, corals, sea pens etc.
2. But the most interesting fact is that some are cannibals, eating other sea slugs, or, on some occasions, members of their own species. The
Gymnodoris rubropapulosa is one example of them.
3. Click here to read more about the
Gymnodoris rubropapulosa on the sea slug forum.

Sightings of more polka-dot nudibranchs. This pair in the act of creating the next generation (picture below). Fourth 'discovery'.

Discovery Note (Reproduction):
1. Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic which means they have a set of sex organs for both genders.
2. Nudibranchs typically deposit their eggs within a gelatinous spiral.

Fourth type of nudibranch, the bohol nudibranch, Discodoris boholiensis (picture below). Fifth 'discovery'.

Discovery Note:
1. Click here to read more about the bohol nudibranch on the sea slug forum.

Click here to read the duck's post on the nudibranchs of Semakau we saw on Christmas day.

To warp up, it was a treat going back to Semakau again before the year ends. Thanks Luan Keng and everyone else for making Christmas a very fun day!


Discovery @ Chek Jawa on 24 Dec 2007

Fortieth Discovery posting:

It was Christmas eve spent at Chek Jawa. And i was there helping Kok Sheng with his Chek Jawa project.

Quote from his project blog:
This project aims to study the mass mortality and recruitment of macrofauna for example like carpet anemones. This project is not just for my UROPS assignment in National University of Singapore, but also for the long run monitoring and understanding of Singapore's favourite shore, Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin.

It was a starry Christmas eve, so i'll feature more echinoderms in this posting.

If you are still wondering what am i referring to. See first 'discovery' (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. Sea stars belong to the class Asteroidea.
2. The sea star above is probably a cake sea star , Anthenea aspera.
3. Distinguishing features for this species are the large bivalved pedicellariae (pincer-like structures) on the oral surface (under side where you find its mouth), with smaller versions found on the marginal plates and tiny scattered pedicellariae on the upper or aboral surface.
4. The upper surface of the disc is convex while the oral side is flat.
5. The arms are triangular, slightly upturned at the tips and boarded by prominent marginal plates.

Second 'discovery' was something that got Kok Sheng very excited, as although he heard that the common sea stars, Archaster typicus, have returned to Chek Jawa, this was the first time he saw them with his own eyes (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. Their arms are flat topped with angular edges, and sides that are parallel at the base, tapering to a point distally.
2. They have a pattern of transverse, sometimes indistinct, dark bands on their arms.

Third 'discovery' were spiny sand stars, Astropecten indicus (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. They are able to ingest their prey whole, this is distinct as most other sea stars extrude their stomach out through the mouth to digest their prey extra-orally.
2. A dark line is often visible extending along the mid-line of the upper surface of each arm.
3. They bear prominent spines that give the arms a comb-like appearance, thus the other common name of comb sea star.

Besides being a place with rich flora and fauna life, Chek Jawa also offers everyone a great nature scenery which we urban dwellers may not stop to take in its beauty, the sunset (picture below).
Although i was quite tired as i had to move all around (i was Kok Sheng's lovely assistant of the day..haha), it was a fun day. Thanks everyone and of course the wonderful weather!

Read more about the latest updates of the project here.

David J. W. Lane & Dider Vandenspiegel. A Guide to Sea Stars and other Echinoderms. Singapore Science Center, 2003.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Discovery @ Chek Jawa on 23 Dec 2007

Thirty ninth Discovery posting:

(Entry @ 28 Dec 2007: Correction for the ID for seventh 'discovery', thanks to Ria for pointing out the mistake)

My back was still a bit aching after yesterday's (22 Dec) clearing net session at Belayar Creek, Labrador. However, it would not stop me from being able to go to Chek Jawa Inter-tidal area for the first time!

But first we were to gather at the Ubin Volunteers Hub and at there, Ron spotted a caterpillar, first 'discovery' (picture below). However, after a little picture search here and there, i am still unable to ID this, could someone help me? Thanks!
Very soon, we headed out to Chek Jawa and we made a short walk around the mangroves on the boardwalk before heading down the stairs to the inter-tidal area.

Here's a photo from the inter-tidal area of the boardwalk and you can see 20m tall Jejawi tower in the background (picture below).Side note:
In this posting, i'm not going to list everything i saw but i'll show some rare finds and try to introduce everyone to the echinoderms i saw, i'll also try to explain what are Echindoerms.

So, what are Enchindoerms?
Discovery Note:
1. The echinoderms are a group of animals that includes sea stars, sand dollars, urchins, feather stars, brittle stars and sea cucumbers.
2. They are simple animals, lacking a brain and complex sensing organs.

3. They have a water-vascular system (humans have a blood-vascular system) which pumps water through the madreporite.

4. The madreporite is an opening used to filter water into the water vascular system of echinoderms.

5. And they have tube feet which they use to attach to objects, for protection, as well as to obtain food.

6. They have radial symmetry and most can regenerate lost limbs.

The first echinoderm of the day is a sand dollar (picture below). Second 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. Sand dollars belong to the same class as sea urchins, class Echinoidea.
2. Living sand dollars are coated in fine, harmless spines that made them very velvety.
3. The spines are movable and are used to dig into the sand or move around.
4. The dense layer of spines also helps to keep off sand and silt so there is a flow of oxygenated water across the body.

Third 'discovery' is a brittle star which is another example of an echinoderm (picture below).
Underside of the brittle star (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. Brittle Stars belong to the class Ophiuroidea.
2. Related to and like the sea stars, they have five arms and a central disc.
3. As the name suggests, the arms of the brittle stars are rather liable to break. This is actually an escape mechanism. They can regenerate their arms, but slowly.
4. Brittle stars use their arms for locomotion. They do not, like sea stars, depend on tube feet.
5. Brittle stars move fairly rapidly by wriggling their arms which are highly flexible and enable the animals to make either snake-like or rowing movements.

Fourth 'discovery' is a rare sight which i've have been lucky enough to see it at Changi beach recently. A bubble shell or headshield slug, a Hydatina amplustre (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. The front of the head shield is developed into a pair of tentacles on each side.
2. It has a shell with alternating pink and white spiral bands, separated by narrow black lines.

3. Worms are part of its diet.

'discovery' is a 'naked' hermit crab (picture below). However it was dead when i found it. =( It had probably died due to an attack from a predator when it's inside its home (an empty shell) or when 'naked' thus making it an easy target. Lesson of the day:
Don't pick sea shells from the sea shores , thus hermit crabs will have homes to live in.

Class Asteroidea of the echinoderms refers to the sea stars. And sixth 'discovery' is a sand star (picture below)Discovery Note:
1. The tube feet of sand stars end in points instead of suckers.
2. These pointed tube feet push down powerfully allowing Sand star to ‘race’ rapidly over the sand and burrow quite quickly.

Seventh 'discovery' is a sea star that i've seen with my own eyes for the first time, a cake sea star (picture below)!

Entry @ 28 Dec: ID for this sea star should be Gymnanthenea laevis.Discovery Note (Updated):
1. Large block-like superomarginal plates define the border of this sea star.
2. Notable features of the upper surface are prominent spine-like tubercles on the central radial plates and sometimes it can be found on some of adjacent plates too.

Another class of echinoderms, the Holothuroidea refers to the sea cucumbers. And eighth 'discovery' is one sea cucumber, this is probably Colochirus quadrangularis (picture below). Discovery Note:
1. This is a small sea cucumber. Often less tan 10cm in length.
2. It has bushy tentacles that are used to strain plankton and suspended organic particulates from the water.

That about warps everything up. And we were quite lucky today as it only started to rain cats and dogs after we got on the van back to the jetty on Ubin.

Would like to thank Luan Keng for making this trip possible + the kuey and everyone else for coming along today! =)

David J. W. Lane & Dider Vandenspiegel. A Guide to Sea Stars and other Echinoderms. Singapore Science Center, 2003.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Discovery @ KNT & SBWR on 15 Dec 2007

Thirty eighth Discovery posting:

(Entry @ 17 Dec 2007: Correction of ID for both butterflies in this posting. Thanks to Commander for pointing out the mistake => Got the ID for second 'discovery' too, thanks, Ron!)

Just yesterday morning (15 Dec), together with a few members of Semakau and Naked Hermit Crab Guides, we went for a walk along Kranji Nature Trail (KNT) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR).

As usual, our speed was a bit slow due to the fact that we were looking out for things along the way and photographing them whenever we spot anything. Anyway, the first 'discovery' of the day are two Dark Brand Bush Brown butterflies if i'm not wrong. (picture below)

Entry @ 17 Dec: The ID for first 'discovery' should be Nigger.
Discovery Note (Updated):
1. This is a common grassland butterfly from the same family as the Dark Brand Bush Brown.

2. The caterpillar of this butterfly is believed to feed on grasses, particularly, Lallang.

And not far away afterwards, i spotted an insect landing on a plant nearby. This is second 'discovery' but i am wondering what this insect is. Anyone can help me with the ID (picture below)?

Entry @ 17 Dec: This insect is the assassin bug.
Discovery Note:
1. Many assassin bugs have been known to bite humans when not handled carefully.
2. For some species the bite is known to be very painful, sometimes causing allergic reactions, and bites can become infected, as with any wound.

And nearby (again), someone spotted this beautiful spider. The ID of this spider might be the Mangrove Big-Jawed spider from the family of Tetragnathidae. Third 'discovery' (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. When disturbed, it will run away from the web and lie motionless on a leaf or branch nearby.

2. Males are easily identified by their large and prominent jaws, thus their common name.

As we walked into the trail, we spotted a number of St. Andrew Cross Spiders, here's one of them (picture below) and this is fourth 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. These spiders get their name for the way they hold their eight legs in pairs to form an X shape.
2. This X is called the St. Andrew's cross because it is believed that the saint was martyred on a cross of this shape.
3. Besides their standard orb-web, these spiders also build addition white opaque zig zag lines on their webs.

Click here to read more about the St. Andrew Cross Spider.

Fifth 'discovery' should be a grasshopper (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. Those species that make easily heard noises usually do so by rubbing the hind femurs against the forewings or abdomen, or by snapping the wings in flight.

Sixth 'discovery' is a Cabbage White butterfly (picture below). Oh ya, sorry everyone, i kept saying this is White Cabbage =P. Anyway, i was following this butterfly for about 50 meters plus before i got this picture which you see.

Entry @ 17 Dec: ID for sixth 'discovery' should be Psyche.
Discovery Note (Updated):
1. The Psyche is a small and delicate butterlfy.
2. It is relatively common in Singapore.
3. Although it has a weak flight, it can go on flying for long periods of time without making a rest stop, no wonder it took me so long to get one photo of this.

When we reached the mangrove boardwalk of the SBWR, this Malayan Water Monitor Lizard was happily basking in the sun before our voices made it move to another quiet spot (picture below). Sorry.. oh, by the way, seventh 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. Among the largest lizards in the world, Malayan Water Monitors can survive in habitats that wouldn't be able to support other large carnivores.
2. One is because they are cold blooded and thus doesn’t need to use energy to maintain their body temperature.
3. In addition, they eat anything that they can swallow. From tiny insects, to crabs, molluscs, snakes, eggs (of birds and crocodiles) and even other monitor lizards. They even eat rubbish, human faeces, and even dead bodies.
4. The Water Monitor's main hunting technique is to run after prey that it has spotted, rather than stalking and ambushing.
5. Water Monitor Lizards are highly mobile. They can swim, run faster than most of us can run and even climb trees.
6. Like snakes, they have a forked tongue that they stick in and out regularly to "smell" their prey and other tasty titbits.

Click here to read more about the Malayan Water Monitor Lizard.

And along the sides of the boardwalk were some very beautiful flowers from the torch ginger (picture below). Eighth 'discovery'.Discovery Posting:
1. This is also called the Sceptre of the emperor, maybe due to the beautiful flower?
2. The showy pink flowers of a tall perennial look almost too pretty to eat but their flavour is an essential ingredient in some dishes.

3. But its flowers are only used for food before it blooms.
Think rojak.

As we walked on the boardwalk, we spotted an Atlas moth resting on a leave just next to the boardwalk (picture below). Wow! This is my first time seeing a real Atlas moth. Ninth 'discovery'!Discovery Posting:
1. The Atlas Moth has the largest wing surface area of all moths.

2. It is so named because its wing patterns resemble maps.

3. The Atlas Moth's wings have triangular transparent "windows" whose purpose which no one knows yet.

4. The wing tips are hooked and some say resemble a snake's head complete with eye, to scare off predators.

5. Atlas Moths are found only in Southeast Asia and they are common in Singapore, especially from November-January.

Click here to read more about the Atlas moth.

The last feature, tenth 'discovery' is a spider which i don't know which species it belongs to. But according to the others, the white thing is its eggs. Interesting! There are many other things which we saw, like jumping spiders which jumped from one camera to another and Siyang's back, many other spiders, misc insects and of course Homo sapiens. =)
Read these on,
Manta's blog, Tidechaser's blog, Urban Forest and on Colourful Clouds.

Finally, it was really a wonderful outing due to the company and weather. So thanks to everyone and the weather. =)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Discovery @ Hort Park on 12 Dec 2007

Thirty seventh Discovery Posting:

Hort Park, a park opened to the public on 7 Dec 2007. was my destination for the afternoon.

HortPark is a one-stop gardening hub that brings together gardening-related, recreational, educational, research and retail activities under one big canopy in a park setting (NParks, 2007).
For more information, click here.

As i walked into the park, i noticed these flowers (pictures below) which i never seen before. First 'discovery' of the day. The name, Portulaca grandiflora, was tagged to one of them, so that's its name. And the common name for this is the moss rose or rose moss.
Discovery Note:
1. The roselike flowers are about an inch across and come in bright colors like rose pink, red, yellow, white, and orange.

2. The plant is used in the treatment of hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver with ascites, swelling and pain in the pharynx.
3. The fresh juice of the leaves and stems is applied externally as a lotion to snake and insect bites, burns, scalds and eczema.

Second 'discovery' looked like a sea holly, but a sign board nearby indicate that this is the Laurentia longiflora or otherwise known as the Star of Bethlehem.
Discovery Note (Information for Hippobroma longiflora, a synonym for Laurentia longiflora):
1. When pulling this, it is important to wear gloves: the sap is an irritant which can be absorbed through the skin, and a small amount of sap in the eyes can cause blindness.

Walking around the park, i spotted this interesting looking cube (picture below).
From a signboard nearby the cube:
Flowers found around the cube (picture below).Third 'discovery' is a plant which i have been seeing around Singapore but i never got to know its name. But a signboard nearby this plant finally answered my question. This is the Fairy Lily (picture below). Discovery Note:
1. This is also known as the white rain lily.
2. Scientific name: Zephyranthes candida

Located in the park
is a section where they showcase ideas on how to recycle bottles and other materials as containers for plants. I'm showing some of the ones which i found interesting and nice (pictures below). Walking around, i also noticed this (picture below).The bins are a great start for what other parks clould do. But the venting machine? I do hope they're (vending machines) there due to the GardenTech event and will be removed soon.

Cause it does really 'stand' out in the park.

Anyway, there's a section called, Fantasy park, which features characters from the Wizard of Oz.

Here's Dorothy and her dog (picture below). The Scarecrow (picture below):Tinman (picture below).The lion who loves flowers if my memory serves me correct (picture below).Fourth 'discovery' is a very common flowering plant which we see almost all around Singapore. The bougainvillea (pictures below)!Discovery Note:
1. They are thorny, woody, vines growing anywhere from 1-12 meters tall, scrambling over other plants with their hooked thorns.

2. The thorns are tipped with a black, waxy substance that is easily left in the flesh of an unsuspecting victim.

3. The actual flower of the plant is small and generally white (picture above), but each cluster of three flowers is surrounded by three or six bracts with the bright colours associated with the plant, including pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white, or yellow.
4. You will most likely to find them to be at the sides of our bridges.

What really made me want to go visit Hort Park was the green houses which they housed flowering plants from the Mediterranean regions in the springtime and flowering plants from cloud forests. And these green houses are actually experiment green houses to find out the most energy, water and economic efficient
way to maintain these plants. As eventually, you will find these plants in greenhouses located in the upcoming Gardens by the Bay.

Read more about these by click on the picture below (you might need to magnify a picture a bit for reading) Flowers from Green house No. 2 (picture below).Flowers from Green house No. 5 (picture below)There was just one thing which made my trip there a little disappointing. I was unable to enter the Green house as the doors were locked... arghz.

Anyway, if you are wondering what methods are they using to make the green house efficient, click on the picture below for a detailed explanation.Lastly, there was a lifestyle corner where they showcase ideas on how to do interior landscaping using shade-loving and indoor plants. What a place to relax myself while waiting for the drizzle outside to stop outside (picture below). =)