Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Discover about Global Dimming

Seventy Seventh Discovery Posting:

This is the first posting on a more general environmental issue: Global Dimming.

The rational behind this posting is that this is something new which I had discovered, and you might be wondering how is this related to any environmental issue.

Think global warming.

Here's a spoiler, it has to do with the sun as well.

Anyway, I don't believe I can present this topic better than the video which I learned about global dimming from. Another reason why I chose to embed this video (below) is because the introduction and discussion of this issue was done quite comprehensively (personal opinion) in this video.

For your information, the embedded video is a program on Global Dimming from "BBC: Horizons" and lasts about 45 minutes.

If you find that you do not have 45 minutes to spare to learn about global dimming, visit this link: to read a summary of the video.

Enjoy the video, discoverers.

Do give some thought to the issue of global dimming after watching or reading about it. =)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Semakau Inter-Tidal Walk on 18 Oct 2008

Seventy Sixth Discovery Posting

It was an evening out with a group of 'turtles' from the HSBC volunteer group. Here's a group photo of all of us before the walk (photo below).
Although it looked clear and blue at the point of time when we took this photo, it was actually raining quite heavily as we headed off from Marina South Pier. However, the rain stopped as we started our walk, thus, I must say we were quite lucky. =)

Anyway, our first 'discovery' is this pair of moon crabs (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. If you look closer, you will find that all the walking legs of the moon crab is of a paddle-shape.
2. This enables the moon crab to swim, and more interestingly, use its legs as 'spades' to quickly bury itself in soft sediments.
3. As they are often buried in the sediments, one don't see them very often.
4. Read more about them @

Close by, we saw a really cute juvenile squid (picture below). Second 'discovery'!
Discovery Note:
1. Squids are Cephalopods like octopuses and cuttlefishes.
2. This means that they are able to change their colours on their surfaces in an instant for camouflage purposes.
3. Do you know that squids are amongst the fastest aquatic invertebrates? Some of them can reach speeds of up to 40km per hour!
4. Stay Tuned for more facts on the squid on my next blog posting =P

The third 'discovery' was a find by one sharp-eyed 'turtle'. And this was something I never saw before. After some asking around, I managed to find out that this is a kind of headshield slug (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. According to observation and some help, the ID of this headshield slug might be Philinopsis pilsbryi.

The fourth 'discovery' is the stars of the seas (common sea stars). Here they are in an interesting position (picture below). Read on to find out more...
Discovery Note:
1. This is actually a mating behaviour of the common sea stars.
2. The sea star on top, a male, lies on top of the female, his arm alternating with hers as seen in the picture.
3. Their reproductive organs do not actually meet as they have interior reproduction organs.
4. What happens is that they will release sperms and eggs almost at the same time.
5. This behaviour they have is believed to increase the chances of external fertilization.

It was another great day out, as the 'turtles' were an attentive group. Thanks, everyone! =)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Semakau Inter-Tidal Walk on 1 Oct 2008

Seventy Fifth Discovery Posting

It was a Happy Children's Day as a group of nine fiddler crabs 'swam' (with the aid of a boat) to Semakau land-fill island, the last land fill we have in Singapore, for the first evening inter-tidal walk there (picture below).
After looking at ourselves at the bakau tree, we moved towards the seagrass meadows and being the lead crab, I had the responsibility to explain more about our first 'discovery' which we saw near the entrance of the seagrass meadows, a sand fish sea cucumber (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. The popular Chinese name for sea cucumber is haishen, which means, roughly, ginseng of the sea.
2. They usually have a soft, wormlike body and can range from a few centimeters to even 90 cms in length!
3. The sandfish sea cucumber is among one of the species that is collected as the Chinese delicacy.
4. However, they must be properly processed before they are safe to eat as they contain toxins.
5. The sandfish sea cucumber feeds on detritus (dead or decaying organic matter).
6. More information can be found on

And as we walked across the seagrass meadows, we came across another sea cucumber, our second 'discovery', a synaptid sea cucumber (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. The first thing to note about this sea cucumber is that it is one of the longest sea cucumbers in existance, it can grow up to a length of 3 meters!
2. They have a thin body wall and therefore more delicate than other sea cucumbers, so don't handle them with your hands if possible. =)
3. Like most sea cucumbers, they feed on detritus.
4. More information can be on

And before stepping out of the seagrass meadows, here are all the crabs (minus myself) in a group photo (picture below).
Forgot to take a photo of the sea stars and file snake we saw, so next up is a noble volute, third 'discovery'.

The bottom (picture below)The top where one can see its pretty shell (picture below)Discovery Note:
1. Volutes are carnivorous.
2. They prey on bivales, enveloping the victim completely with their foot forecing the bivalve to finally open from exhaustion and lack of oxygen.
3. Called the 'kilah' in Malay, the noble valoute is edible and people also often collect its attractive shell, thus it is now considered vulnerable.
4. More information can be found on

And of course, we also saw a relative, the swimming crab (picture below)! Fourth 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. Swimming Crabs are among the few crabs which are fast and agile swimmers.
2. They usually swim sideways, like how all crabs move, but can also swim backwards and sometimes forwards too!
3. However, they don't swim all the time but usually dwell on the substrate they are at.
4. They have long pincers armed with sharp spines to snag fish, worms, clams, snails and other fast moving prey.
5. And when they are disturbed, they wave their pincers as a warning sign to tell you that they will not fear to give a 'good' pinch if one goes too close.
6. More information can be found on

Fifth 'discovery' is a great find by our seekers, a pair of sea horses (picture below)!
Discovery Note:
1. They are hard to find as they are well-camouflaged.
2. Do you know that a seahorse is actually a fish? Yes, it is, but instead of having scales, they have an inflexible armour of overlapping bony plates.
3. A seahorse cannot swim faster because it doesn't have tail fin and pelvic fins like other fishes, thus it is well-camouflaged. But they can make a short burst of speed if in danger.
4. They may look harmless, but they are actually quite voracious predators. It sits in wait and ambushes on any tiny animals that drifts or wander by.
5. They have a very simple digestive system (no stomach) thus they need to eat almost constantly. Baby sea horses are known to eat thousands of tiny shrimps in a day!
6. And of course, the most well-known fact of the sea horse is that the male can get 'pregnant', this is because the female seahorses lay eggs in the pouch of a male seahorse and it is in their where the eggs will be fertilized and then the male seahorse will carry them till the eggs hatch.
7. More information can be found on

And our sixth 'discovery' are the very 'cute' nudibranchs (pictures below).

Here's a Jorunna funebris (picture below). And a glossodoris atromarginata (picture below)Discovery Note:
'Nudibranch' means 'naked gills'. The name comes from the flower-like gills found on the back of many nudibranchs. These nudibranchs use the gills to breathe.
Nudibranchs are related to snails. Little baby nudibranchs are born with shells, but they lose them when they become adults.
It doesn't mean that they are without defense. To protect themselves, some produce distasteful substances, toxins and even acids. They advertise this with bright warning colours. Others are camouflaged to match their surroundings.
4. By being small and flat, they can also easily hide in narrow places.
5. Most nudibranchs are carnivores, they eat immobile or small, slow-moving prey. Examples are sponges, ascidians, hard/soft corals, sea anemones, etc.
6. More information can be found on

And our seekers also found the 'stars' of our walks, the knobbly sea stars (picture below)!All crabs gathering for a photo with the stars (picture below).And as the night approached, many creatures came out to play, errr.. i mean prey.

Here's an octopus, our seventh 'discovery' (picture below) Discovery Note:
1. Octopuses are characterized by their eight arms (not tentacles), usually bearing suction cups.
2. They have a relative short life span, and some specials live for as little as six months.
3. They have three hearts! Two pump blood through each of their two gills, while the third pumps blood through the body.
4. They are also highly intelligent, probably more intelligent than any other order of invertebrates (any animal without a spinal column).
5. They are also able to change their body colour to camouflage themselves.
6. More information can be found on

Although we could not observe much stars under the sky due to the many clouds, we did have stars from the inter-tidal zone to light up the night (picture below). =)
Would like to thank all the fiddler crabs for the wonderful company, we crabs rock! =P

a) Read KS's blog on his entry about this trip.