Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Discovery @ Chek Jawa on 22 Jan 2008

Forty fifth Discovery Posting:

Woke up this morning just in time to catch the sunrise from my room's window (picture below)
Anyway, today was the second time that I was helping KS with his Chek Jawa project, at Chek Jawa of course.

Side Note:
You may read more about this project @ http://cjproject.blogspot.com/

And also today was a special day for KS, as he was to be interviewed for a Channel 8 programme on people working on the environment . So the camera was recording his activities almost all the time when it's on.

And due to that, he and some of the gang had to alight a bit earlier to walk to the entrance of CJ. Ron and myself managed to escape that fate by playing our age card. However, we aren't that old, mind you. It was just that we were plain lazy today. =P

Anyway, because of this, Ron and I were first to arrive at the entrance and got to see the first 'discovery', the flying dragon (picture below). Can you spot it?
Discovery Note:
1. The Flying Dragon, is a "flying" lizard that lives in the rainforests and rubber plantations of Asia and the East Indies.

2. It can spread out folds of skin attached to its movable ribs to form "wings" that it uses to glide from tree to tree over distances upwards of 8 meters (25 feet).

3. Its "wings" are brightly coloured with orange, red and blue spots and stripes, and they provide camouflage when folded.

4. They are known to feed on arboreal ants and termites.

After everyone arrived with a "grand" entrance, all of us walked to House No.1 for our briefing for our tasks today. And while waiting, here's second and third 'discovery' from the rescue tank at House No.1 (picture below). The fish at the foreground is a copper-banded butterfly fish, while the two at the background are kite butterfly fishes.
Discovery Note:
1. They have a large ‘false eye’ on its dorsal fin which fools predators into thinking that it is a big fish.
2. And if a predator does attacks it, the fish unexpectedly swim ‘backwards’.
3. Copper-banded butterfly fishes have a long snout with brush-like teeth to suck up coral polyps and small prey from crevices.

After the briefing, we headed out to the inter-tidal area and the first animal we encountered there was a elbow crab (picture below). This is fourth 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. Their common name comes from their interestingly structured pincers which seems to have elbows.
2. It ambushes prey passing within striking distances of its extra long pincers.

I read from Sijie's blog that the hairy sea hare seems to be "in season" at CJ, so i though i would have the chance to see at least one today. But was i in for a surprise, cause i didn't just see one, i saw LOTS of them!

However, here's one of them (picture below) and fifth 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. Sea hares probably got their name because they move rather quick for a slug and their tentacles do look a bit like the ears of a hare with some imagination.
2. The hairy sea hare is known to eat the thin film cyano-bacteria (a kind of micro-organism)

As today's tasks are mainly about monitoring of different organisms, we got a different one each. Alicia, Ron and I got to check out peacock anemones. However, it was only after the whole monitoring session and a reminder from KS (as i am typing this) that I realised that we didn't take any photos for peacock anemones. Duh!

Anyway, we were also asked to keep an eye out for common sea stars as they were wiped out after the mass flood back in Jan 2007 and seem to be sighted only recently in small numbers.

Read more about the flood @ http://iyor08singapore.blogspot.com/2008/01/chek-jawa-death-and-life-in-2007.html

Well, why do i mention this? Of course it was because we saw them, the common sea stars . Adelle found the first one as she was hunter seeking for the Chek Jawa guided walk, and soon we found 9 more of them (pictures below)!

A sign of recovery and sixth 'discovery'!
2 more common sea stars were found after this photo was taken (picture below)Discovery Note:
1. Although people commonly call them star fish, we prefer to call them sea stars. As they are not fishes.
2. If you look on the underside of the sea star, you will find the tube feet of the sea star.
3. These tube feet are used for walking, handle food as well as breathing, talk about multi purpose!
4. Sea stars get stressed when out of water, so please don’t take them out of the water for too long.
5. And although they are called the common sea stars, they are no longer common due to over collection and habitat lost and let's hope with the sight of these 10 sea stars, more will appear soon on the shores of CJ.

Here's something i've seen for the first time. A peanut worm (picture below), seventh 'discovery'!Discovery Note:
1. They were once very abundant in Singapore that they were collected and fed to ducks.

2. They are usually buried, but are sometimes seen on soft ground.

3. The ridged skin makes it look like a shelled peanut when it is contracted thus the name of peanut worm.

Eighth 'discovery' of the day was found after we've completed our task of the day, this should be a cake sea star (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. 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.
2. The upper surface of the disc is convex while the oral side is flat.
3. The arms are triangular, slightly upturned at the tips and boarded by prominent marginal plates.

Very soon, the tide was coming in and the whole gang had to leave the area unless anyone wanted to be washed away by the waves (picture below). Reaching back the jetty at Ubin, a scene of great serenity greeted us (picture below) before we departed Ubin. Thanks to everyone for making this trip another fun one and it didn't rain. =)

Read wildfilms to check out some other organisms that was spotted by clicking here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Discovery @ NTU Yunnan Garden on 19 Jan 2008

Forty fourth discovery posting:

When was the last time you looked up into the sky?
Above our heads this morning was this wonderful sight (picture above and below).
Bougainvilleas which lined on both sides of the Chinese Heritage Center main door, stood as a welcoming natural fencing instead of a daunting concrete or steel fence. Flower of the bougainvillea (picture below).
The 'little yellow flower' which dots around Singapore could also be seen around the place (picture below).
And on the grass, have you ever looked closely enough to notice these little wonders (picture below)?I was at Yunnan Garden today for a final trial guiding session before the actual walk itself. So to give a sneak preview of what visitors can see in the garden would be the first 'discovery', a hibiscus (picture below). Discovery Note:
1. The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (Bunga Raya or "Chinese hibiscus") is the national flower of Malaysia.

2. The ma‘o hau hele (Hibiscus brackenridgei) is the state flower of Hawai‘i.

3. The Hibiscus syriacus (Mugunghwa or "Rose of Sharon") is the national flower of South Korea.
4. And did you know that the dried flower is actually edible
and is a delicacy in Mexico!

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibiscus

More about the event @ http://niegreenclub.blogspot.com/2008/01/new-event-nature-walk-yunnan-garden.html

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Discovery Corals @ Semakau

Forty third Discovery posting:

This is a follow up entry on the Christmas day trip to Semakau. But this entry will solely focus on corals as part of the assignment requirement. However, i will not do exactly what the assignment required us to do (to do a Coral IDs blog posting, as SY (fellow group member) has already done one. So i've decided to do what others have not covered, to give a brief introduction on what are corals.

What are Corals? An example from Genus Faviidae is shown (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. Corals are animals.
2. They belong to a group of ancient and simple group of animals known as Cnidarians (pronounced as "nai-day-rians") Jellyfishes and sea anemones are also from this phylum Cnidaria.
3. Cnidarians are aquatic and they share a common and unique feature of having stinging cells used for protection and catching of prey.

Now as said, corals are animals, which means...

Discovery Note:
1. They are generally composed of more than one tiny animal, probably tens / hundreds / thousands of them in one coral structure, that's why you have heard of "Coral Colony".
2. These tiny animals are called polyps which feed on microscopic plankton or small organisms.
3. A polyp begins its life as a tiny, free-swimming larva; the larva is only the size of the head of a pin. Once it finds a hard support, it will settle there and will never move again. It reproduces by budding (in which an identical polyp sprouts out of the polyp's side) and by sexual reproduction (in which polyps release eggs and sperm, which mix in the water).
4. Budding usually occurs when the coral is "young" (meaning there is only a few polyps in the colony)
5. Look at the picture below, inside each "walled" section, you will find a polyp.
Now, some of you may have been always wondering about this, why are coral reefs so colourful? How do they do it?

Discovery Note:
1. From what i know, there are two possible reasons, one is due to fluorescence (which i will not go further into, as TC have already covered about it). The other reason is due to the colourful zooxanthellae algae they host.
2. These algae form a symbiotic relationship (one which they help one another) with the corals.
3. Through photosynthesis, these algae generate "food" for themselves and pass the extras to the coral which will help to the coral to grow into a larger colony. In return, the coral provides a "home" for these algae.
4. Thus, corals are usually found in clear and shallow waters, as sufficient sunlight is essential in photosynthesis.

Genus Oulastrea (picture below)
Have you ever been on a guided tour to an inter-tidal area and heard the guide telling you about hard and soft corals?

Discovery Note:
1. As we go down the list on how to classify corals, Corals belong to the class of Anthozoa.
2. And this can be divided further into two subclasses, Octocorallia and Zoantharia
3. Subclass Octocorallia. Polyps are characterized by having eight pinnate (side- branching) tentacles. Octocorallians include sea pens and soft corals.

4. Subclass Zoantharia. Polyps are characterized by having tentacles in multiples of six. Zoantharian tentacles are rarely pinnate. Black corals and reef-building corals are members of this subclass. Reef-building corals are also known as "hard corals" or "stony corals".
5. Hard corals are hard because of the calcium carbonate they produce to form the rock-like skeleton.

6. Soft corals also produce calcium carbonate, but in little amounts to help them keep their shape.
7. It is possibly because of this that the soft corals usually "grows" at a faster rate than hard corals.

Example of a hard coral. Genus Acropora (picture below) Example of a soft coral. Genus Sinularia (picture below)Close up view of soft coral. Notice the polyps... (picture below)Thanks again to Jani, our instructor for the Coral Workshop and Luan Keng for organising this .

Read SY's blog for more coral IDs.
Read RY's blog for another entry of coral IDs.
Read TC's blog on Coral fluorescence.
Read more about Corals on wikipedia.