Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Semakau with the flatworms!

It has been a long time since I guided. Finally the projects and exams are over, I can visit the shores again!

I guided with yw a group of hyper and interesting ITE Clementi students from the Green Club at 28 Feb (: Thats them crossing the seagrass, also known as the 'death zone'.

The seagrass lagoon is a very good nursery ground for the animals to lay their eggs and juveniles to live in. To minimise trampling and damage from people, a 'death zone' is created as a passageway.

Love is in the air for the sand sifting seastars. For the first time, we could not find a single seastar to talk about since they were all in pairs!

Though the seastars are stacked on top of one another, they fertilise externally. This position only helps to increase the chances of fertilisation. The male, being the smaller one, is usually at the top. I have seen them swimming in this position before! (;

That's yw talking about the seastars..

Can you spot the anemone shrimp? The five-spot anemone shrimp gets protection from the anemone's stinging tentacles and feed on any remaining food of the anemone.

The flatworms (group) was excited to see the Knobbly Seastar. They may appear to be poisonous but they are not. Their knobs help to deter their potential predators. These knobblies prefer to feed on snails and clams though they do eat sponges and soft corals as well.

Mushroom corals are free-living animals and live singly. When it is young, it is attached to the ground with a stalk, just like a mushroom. The stalk eventually breaks off as it grows older. Food is passed in and out through the central opening.

The seahorse is a true fish! Being a poor swimmer, it can hook itself onto seagrass to prevent itself from being swept away. Few things I admire the seahorse about:
  1. With no stomach and a simple digestive system, the seahorse eats a lot continuously and the babies can eat up to 1000 shrimps! I eat alot ended up accumulating the fats zz.
  2. The male gets pregnant instead of the ladies. As ladies deposit their eggs in the males' pouch where it get fertilised.
The giant clam feeds in two ways. Besides filter feeding, the algae found on its mantle can make food and contribute to its nutrient intake. Its mantle is eaten by people in some countries. Its lifespan can be up to 100 years!

Not a very clear shot of the stonefish sea cucumber. It is edible but must be properly treated as tests have shown that it contain toxins.

A pretty nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) was found by the hunter seekers. It is carnivorous since it feed on immobile and slow-moving creatures like sea anemones and corals where they acquire their toxins. Its pair of rhinophores in front is used to detect chemicals in the hunt of their prey and mates while the flowery gills at the back is used for breathing.

We also saw a rather big cowrie (about the size of my palm!) found by Robert. A pity it was dead though.

Despite the hot weather over the weekend, it was a good trip and I hope the participants had enjoyed too!

Knobbly seastar galore!

Did line transect with Kim at 27 Feb. Saw many many knobbly seastars!!! (thanks to July)

Never seen so many of them at one time. Semakau never fail to surprise us all (:

Sungei Buloh training with RMBR guides

The Malayan Monitor Lizard is the biggest lizard you can find in Singapore. It is mostly a scavenger, though it eats live fishes as well. It do climb trees to feed on nestlings and small birds. Not only that, the monitor lizard can swim as well. Hence it can be considered a top predator since it basically eats anything that can fit into its mouth!

The roots and juice of the young leaves of Bandicoot Berry (leea indica) can be used as a digestive in Goa. The roasted leaves are applied to the head to treat dizziness and giddiness. For motr information, you can refer to http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Bandicoot%20Berry.html

This Fish Tail Palm (Caryota mitis) is poisonous! It may cause itchiness as it contain needle-like crystals that may be embedded onto your skin. However it has many uses. Its sap can be made into palm sugar. Its leaves are woven into household items; fibres into ropes and seeds made into beads.

The Sea Almond Tree (Terminalia catappa) is a common tree at our streets to provide colour and shade. Its nuts are edible, taste like almond, thus its name. Its leaves release organic acids when put in water. This lowers the pH creating a safe and soothing environment for the fishes in the aquarium. Hence some people even sell sea almond leaves at eBay! Its leaves also secrete sugary substances at its slits to attract ants hence protecting the plant.

The bark of the Wild Cinamon (Canella Winterana) can be made into fish poison. Its leaves and stem is toxic to poultry. One beneficial use is that its finely chipped wood may be smoked alone or with other plant materials to relieve headache and hangover.

This female Jungle Fowl like their cousins - domesticated chickens - forage the ground for seeds, fruits and insects. It uses its feet to scratch away leaf litter and peck at whats hidden underneath. The female usually dig a hole under the thick vegetation and incubates the eggs alone which hatch in about 3 weeks. The mother then keeps her chicks under her cover till they are fully grown for a period of about 12 days.

Cotton Stainer Bugs!!

They are often found in huge numbers to help them find their mates and protect against predators. This happens in most animals and this is 'safety in numbers'. These bugs feed on the seeds of Sea Hibiscus. So if you come across Sea Hibiscus, do look under the leaf and you may spot them! They are called 'cotton stainer bugs' because they stain the cotton bolls causing fungus growth. Their feeding habits also affect the growth of the cotton bolls since it cuts and damages its fibres.

The Barringtonia Racemosa (also called the Powerpuff Tree) has very very beautiful flowers!! It is said to be a rare plant. It grows very well under dry conditions. The pungent yet faintly sweet scent produced by the flowers attract moths and nectar-feeding bats at night. When the flowers shed, the ants are attracted to the dead flowers for its sweet nectar. In Bengal, its seeds are used to poison people and coconut is said to be its antidote! o.o

The fruit of the Nipah Palm is edible. It is grown and tapped for its sweet sap to make palm sugar. It is estimated that one hectare of nipah palm can produce 2000kg of palm sugar!

The Shield Bugs (Calliphara Nobilis) tend to congregate in large numbers.

Thanks LK and Ron for organising this informative and interesting trip!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Apologies for the lack of updates! Just finished the projects and papers (finally!) and will be updating the past trips real soon!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2009, we had the first cleanup at Semakau together with the HSBC and Ministry of Environment and Water Resource(MEWR) volunteers. The RMBR nature guides did the cleanup at the mangroves, while the HSBC and MEWR volunteers did the cleanup at the coasts. All sorts of rubbish were found including tyres and big styrofoam pieces were found! Fishing nets are the headache as fishermen leave their nets discarded among the roots causing many creatures to get stuck. It was a refreshing experience as I totally did not expect the mud to be that soft. We had to crawl almost hip deep in the mud to remove the litters!

Although the cleanup lasted for about 2 hours, we have only cleaned part of it and there were certainly more trash to be cleared of! Of course we could not clear everything but to try our best in doing whatever we can within our own limits.

People dispose their trash into the sea carelessly, not knowing (or do not care about) the resulting consequences. These rubbish are swept to the shores, some animals may mistaken them as food and pollute the environment. Such cleanup sessions give us the opportunity to give back to the environment. Well if we do not clean up our own beaches, who else will?
*Sorry for the lack of pics. Will post more pics once I receive them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On the way to the intertidal flats, we spotted these feet markings on the sandbars. It belongs to the Monitor Lizard!(Thanks SY.) It probably come here in search for seafood eh.

That's sea turtle with Prof Tan crossing the 'death zone'!

A trail has been marked out in the seagrass lagoon for visitors to past through and this zone is known as the 'death zone' as no organisms are able to live in there. This is to prevent people from trampling all over hence minimizing the damage caused .

This spider crab was spotted by Prof Tan! They are hard to spot as they move slowly and camouflage really well with the surroundings. They are named after their long and skinny legs. Though they are small with a body width of 2cm, they belong to the same family as the Japanese Spider Crab- the biggest crab in the world! Its leg span can reach up to 4m!!

As a comparison, I have found this picture to show its size as compared to us!

Heart Cockle!
Unlike other bivalves, this shell opens at the centre vertically! People have been collecting their shells as a prove of their love to their other half. Isn't it ironic how people use such heartless methods to prove their love??

Giant clam can grow up to 227kg and 1.2m across! They are facing extinction due to overcollection of their shell and meat! They are eaten as a delicacy in certain places and their shells were used as ashtrays.

This noble volute is actually a very beautiful creature. Its body is even more attractive than its shell. This is a mother noble volute who is laying eggs. It's nice to see these animals are surviving well (: The noble volutes feed by suffocating the other bivalves till they have to open up their shells to breathe. Then it will scraps them off their shell to eat! Not so noble isn't it?

This jellyfish is usually found upside down as they habour zooxanthelle (symbiotic algae) in their tentacles. The algae photosynthesises in the prescence of sunlight hence provide food to the jellyfish. The upside down jellyfish in turn provide a home and minerals to the zooxanthelle.
We saw many other organisms but I didn't manage to get their pictures ><
  • nudibranch
  • flatworms
  • 4 Knobbly sea stars!!
  • Cushion Seastar (A big one!)
  • Spidercounch
  • Seahorse
  • Carpet Anemone
  • Synaptid Sea Cucumber
  • Sandfish Sea Cucumber
  • Ocellated Sea Cucumber
  • Squid
  • Dead Cowrie
Soon it was time to leave..

and the sky was looming with dark cumulonimbus clouds.

The kids could not bear to leave and bidded farewell as they leave their tracks in the sand.
Many thanks to the hunter seekers, we saw many great stuff yesterday! A big thank you to my participants as well for making this yet another memorable trip! (:

Friday, June 26, 2009

WOA what have we got here that attracted everyone's attention and snapping away with their cameras?

Sunrise!! Nice~ if only there's dolphins as well q;

Guided a bunch of enthusiastic happy people today, thanks mudskippers for making this walk such an enjoyable one!

Peek-a-boo seastar!

Soft corals- dead man's fingers!

It's best not to touch these soft corals as they have stinging cells. At low tides, it may look uninteresting as they flop over one another. But during high tides, they extend their polyps as they feed on planktons and it looks really beautiful! However its 'fingers' may look like calling out for us to join them and it is kind of eerie hence the name 'dead man's fingers' (;

There were plenty of red seaweed around! Compared to the green seaweeds, they can survive in deeper waters as being red allows them to photosynthesise in lower light levels. //edit (Thanks Ron) The 'nori' used in Japanese sushi is made of certain types of red seaweed. Some red seaweed are also used to make 'agar-agar' in jellies and stabilisers in processed food such as cholocate milk and yogurt.

Out of so many organisms in Semakau, my favourites are flatworms and nudibranchs (: They come in such vivid colous and patterns! They are poisonous since they feed on sponges and corals. That is where they acquire their toxins from as this is warned to their predators by their bright colours!

//edit. As we venture further in, we saw a school of fishes! It's best not to approach too close these fishes as we do not know if these fishes have protective mechanism like venomous spines.

Another red flower crab that was ready to fight us out. This swimming crab has a pair of paddle-like legs at the back allowing them to swim faster than other crabs. //edit. The male flower crab has brighter colouration in blue whereas the red female crabs come in duller colours. Now why the flower crabs that I usually see seem to be ready to declare war with me S:

The highlight of the day was the Aerobatic Flying Displays!

That was a bonus to all of us! We were awed by the displays and that certainly stopped most of my participants in their tracks! The airplanes had captured my participants' attention and boy was I jealous!

The trip ended off with holiday mode for the participants...

and I spotted two olive-backed sunbird within such close proximity on the way home! That certainly ended my day on a perfect note! (:

//Thanks Ron for the edit! (: