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!