Thanks to this boatman who steers a motor boat up and down a river to scoop up dead leaves and debris, our river is kept clean, says STOMPer Boatman.
In an email to STOMP today (June 30), the STOMPer says:
"These pictures were taken at the Singapore River. The boatman steers a motor boat up and down the river.
"His job is to scoop up the dead leaves and debris to keep our waterways clean.
"As seen in the pictures, there is an orange floater at the mouth of a canal to retain the dead leaves and debris.
"Many dead leaves can be found in our rivers.
"It takes a lot of effort to keep our rivers clean. So next time before you throw your drink can or cigarette box into the river, think of the people who have to clean up the rubbish in the river."
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
The fungi seen in these pictures are known as polypores, says STOMPer Mangrove Man, who wishes to highlight the wood-degrading species to all nature enthusiasts.
The polyporus fungus grows on tree trunks and is commonly spotted on fallen tree trunks.
In an email, STOMPer Mangrove Man says:
"These pictures were taken at Admiralty Park.
"This fungus called the polyporus fungus is leathery, hard and woody. It has no stripes and grows bracket-like on tree trunks.
"The orange polypores are common on fallen tree trunks because of their ability to degrade wood.
"This mangrove tree (Bruguiera cylindrica) can reach a height of 20 m and has buttress roots. The hypocotyl is about 15 cm long, like a green cigarette and slightly curved.
"The trunk of the tree is used for firewood and timber."
Based on my copy of A Guide to Tropical Fungi, it appears that the fungus in these photos belong to the genus Polyporella, although a bit of Googling suggests that the more accurate name for these bracket fungi may be Pycnoporus instead.
Pycnoporus cinnabarinus, Florida;
(Photo by pellaea)
There's an error in the description above; it's supposed to be "It has no stipes", which is a different matter from "It has no stripes". The stipe is the stem or stalk-like structure supporting the cap of a mushroom.
Bracket fungi are often found growing on decaying logs, and play an important role in helping to break down rotting wood, and facilitating the recycling of nutrients. However, some species are capable of becoming parasites, infecting living trees and causing the death of their host.
The famous lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum) used in traditional Chinese medicine is a type of bracket fungus.
It would have been better if the person who submitted this to STOMP had provided a picture of a mangrove hypocotyl and explained what it was as well. I'm sure most of the people who read this post have no idea what a hypocotyl is.
Here's a photo of a bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica) propagule. The hypocotyl is the long green part that has already sprouted from the seed.
Bakau putih propagule, Pulau Ubin;
(Photo by Chay Hoon)
STOMPer Engineer was at Admiralty Park and noticed that monkeys were moving freely in the area.
In an email to STOMP today (June 29), the STOMPer wrote:
"These long-tailed macaques were frolicking on a mangrove tree.
"The mother monkey was swinging the branch to gain momentum and after a short while, it jumped onto the pillar supporting the bridge.
"It then climbed up to reach the railing of the bridge. The baby monkey followed suit and soon the whole troupe was on the bridge.
"The monkeys climbed up the railings and jumped over each other. However, it was risky for if it missed a step it could end up in the river below which meant a fall of 5m.
"The monkeys were observing a cyclist, who was cycling past the bridge.
"These macaques live in primary and secondary forest, mangroves and the outskirts of towns and villages.
"They travel in troupes of up to 30. In Singapore it is the most common primate.
"They feed on buds, fruits, insects, crustaceans, spiders and cereals. Their most feared predator is the deadly python."
Ria has visited Admiralty Park on a number of occasions, and on her last trip there, encountered a group of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis).
Rat (Rattus sp.)
Pasir Ris, 26th May 2009
This could be any of the following species of rat commonly found in urban areas:
Oriental house rat (Rattus tanezumi), formerly considered conspecific with the common house rat (Rattus rattus)
Global Invasive Species Database
Animal Diversity Web
Common rat (Rattus norvegicus)
Global Invasive Species Database
Animal Diversity Web
Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans)
Global Invasive Species Database
Animal Diversity Web
Sunday, June 28, 2009
STOMPer Botanist saw the pitcher plant at Bukit Batok Nature Park and shares his knowledge of it. He says:
"These pictures were taken at the Bukit Batok Nature Park at Bukit Batok East Ave 2.
"This particular species, the pitcher plant (Nepenthes gracilis) is common and widespread in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
"It is easily spotted on road banks and cleared areas and grows well up to altitudes of 1000m.
"These carnivorous plants contain traps that can hold up to 50 cubic cm of liquid.
"Each leaf of the pitcher plant resembles a jug, or pitcher and has a lid to keep out the rain.
"An insect is lured by the bright colour and abundant nectar of the pitcher but the rim has a slippery surface.
"When the insect tries to get the nectar, it loses its footing and easily slides into the pool of liquid at the bottom.
"These plants make use of the proteins obtained from insects when their bodies are ingested."
The 120 species of tropical pitcher plants belong to the genus Nepenthes, and have a widespread distribution, from Madagascar and the Seychelles in the west, all the way throughout India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, to Australia and New Caledonia in the east. It is in the Sunda region, however, that they are at their most diverse, particularly in Borneo.
There are 3 species of pitcher plant in Singapore:
Narrow-lidded pitcher plant (Nepenthes ampullaria), Central Catchment Area;
(Photo by NatureInYourBackyard)
Slender pitcher plant (Nepenthes gracilis), Tuas;
(Photo by Siyang)
Raffles pitcher plant (Nepenthes rafflesiana), Sentosa;
(Photo by Ria)
It is possible that the carnivorous habits of pitcher plants are an adaptation for obtaining nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in soils that are deficient in these essential elements; in Borneo, pitcher plants are a prominent feature of heath forests or kerangas, where the soils are sandy and acidic, while here in Singapore, they can be found in the secondary forests known as adinandra belukar, which are also characterised for having acidic, nutrient-poor soils.
There are several interesting posts on pitcher plants in Singapore. Siyang and Kok Sheng have posted about their encounters with pitcher plants in the Kent Ridge area, while Gabriel Tan of eTour-Singapore.Com has a page detailing his encounters with the 3 different species of pitcher plant. He also mentions the Naked Hermit Crabs and the walks that we conduct on Sentosa. Joseph Lai has some excellent pictures of the 3 pitcher plant species, while Marcus has a post describing the unique features of each species, as well as some of the interesting relationships that pitcher plants share with some forest animals.
It's interesting to note that despite the digestive enzymes in the liquid within the pitcher, there are animals that actually live in pitcher plants. These include the larvae of many species of mosquitoes, midges and gnats, which feed on the remains of prey, and may play a role in breaking down large prey items and improving the rate of digestion. Otherwise, the enzymes secreted by the pitcher plant may act slowly, resulting in prey decomposing and leading to the growth of undesirable bacteria and fungi. These insect larvae are in turn preyed upon by the larvae of other fly species, such as the mosquito Toxorhynchites; larvae are voracious predators on mosquitoes, including their own kind.
Other creatures that utilise pitchers include a crab spider (Misumenops nepenthicola), which hides within pitchers and ambushes victims that are lured within, even descending down to retrieve insects that have fallen into the liquid. This spider can even submerge itself in the liquid and hide for several minutes if threatened.
Misumenops nepenthicola in pitcher of Raffles pitcher plant;
(Photo by Thomas Carow)
Crabs belong to the genus Geosesarma are also known to associate with pitchers; in Peninsular Malaysia, Geosesarma malayanum is known to raid the pitchers of the narrow-lidded pitcher plant to feed on the insects trapped within. And here in Singapore, a second species of crab, Geosesarma perracae, was found hiding within a pitcher.
Ng, P. K. L. & Lim, R. P. 1987. The taxonomy and biology of the nepenthiphilous freshwater sesarmine crab, Geosesarma malayanum Ng & Lim, 1986 (Crustacea, Decapoda, Brachyura, Grapsidae) from Peninsular Malaysia. Malayan Nature Journal, 41, 393–402.
Tan, H. H. & Ng, P. K. L. 2008. First record in Singapore of a nepenthiphilous crab, Geosesarma perracae (Crustacea: Decapoda: Sesarmidae). Nature in Singapore, 1, 201–205.
Geosesarma perracae in pitcher of narrow-lidded pitcher plant, Central Catchment Area;
(Photo from Tan & Ng, 2008)
Tadpoles of the black-spotted sticky frog (Kalophrynus pleurostigma) have even been found living inside the pitchers of the narrow-lidded pitcher plant.
Black-spotted sticky frog;
(Photo by kwokwai76)
Tadpole of black-spotted sticky frog;
(Photo from Frogs of Borneo)
In northwestern Borneo, the fanged pitcher plant (Nepenthes bicalcarata) has developed a fascinating relationship with an ant, Camponotus schmitzi. These ants nest only in the swollen hollow tendrils of the pitcher. While ants are a major prey item for many pitcher plant species, these special ants are able to crawl about the pitchers without slipping. They sip nectar from the glands on the rim of the pitcher, and even venture within the traps. Here they retrieve large prey items that would take too long for the plant's enzymes to digest, preventing the insect remains from putrefying. They are even able to dive into the liquid and swim around in pursuit of mosquito larvae.
Camponotus schmitzi retrieving insect prey from fanged pitcher plant, Brunei;
(Photo by clado)
Another amazing relationship takes place between Low's pitcher plant (Nepenthes lowii) and the mountain treeshrew (Tupaia montana). Instead of feeding on insects, the upper pitchers of this plant derive a large proportion of their nitrogen requirements from treeshrew poop.
Mountain treeshrew sitting on Low's pitcher plant, Sarawak;
(Photo by Ch'ien C. Lee)
These small mammals feed upon the nectar produced on the underside of the lid of the pitcher, which this species secretes in copious amounts. While feeding, they are perfectly positioned to defecate right into the pitchers. Consequently, these upper pitchers have all but lost the ability to trap insects, and instead obtain 57 to 100% of their nitrogen from treeshrew droppings.
Clarke, C. M., Bauer, U., Lee, C. C., Tuen, A. A., Rembold, K. & Moran, J. A. 2009. Tree shrew lavatories: a novel nitrogen sequestration strategy in a tropical pitcher plant. Biology Letters, published online before print.
To end off on pitcher plants, here's an interesting video from the BBC documentary series, The Private Life of Plants, on how the pitchers develop from the leaf tips.
STOMPer Aesthetician feels that the beach at Lim Chu Kang should be cleaned up so that more people will head there to soak in its rugged beauty. He says:
"These pictures were taken during low tide at the beach near the end of Lim Chu Kang Road.
"On the beach you can see old tyres, plastic sheets, plastic bags and polystyrene boxes.
"The beach looks filthy and muddy.
"I hope this part of Singapore can be cleaned up and perhaps NParks could build some boardwalks so that the public can get to enjoy the sea and appreciate the mangrove swamps with its rich flora and fauna.
"The beach is worth saving before the pollution turns this into a marine graveyard."
This stretch of coast at Lim Chu Kang is another area that's monitored every year as part of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS).
Siva has a gallery of photos from his recce trip in June last year, and it shows the appalling amount of trash that has accumulated in the mangroves.
This led to a cleanup session in July 2008, where various volunteers as well as Miss Earth Singapore 2008 contestants cleared more than 250 kilograms of man-made rubbish. The photos from that cleanup session can be viewed in this Flickr set, while Marcus has also blogged about the session over here.
A second cleanup session was held in September, where 435 kilograms of trash was cleared.
You can view the Flickr set containing photos from last year's cleanup session, and here are the results from the 2 groups who participated, Coca Cola and Republic Polytechnic.
It might seem impossible to stop the stream of garbage that washes up on our coastline every day, but we do what we can. I can only hope that in time to come, we will be more aware and more sensitive of the impact of our actions, and play a more active role in maintaining the cleanliness and health of our shores.
After a hard day's work, this foreign worker enjoys the simple pleasure of eating wild buah langsat growing along Jalan Murai.
STOMPer Langsat Addict, who struck up a conversation with the worker, said:
"I was driving along Jalan Murai when I saw a group of foreign workers climbing up some trees to pick the fruits.
"Being curious, I stopped my car and politely asked them what they were picking.
"One foreign worker showed me a bunch of ripened 'buah langsat' and asked me to try one.
"I popped one into my mouth and found that it was very sweet as it tasted like 'buah duku' the larger species.
"It was in the evening and the workers had finished their daily work. So they went around to look for fruits which grew in the wild.
"This friendly worker, in his 20s, told me that on weekends his friends and he would go to a vacant piece of land next to the Chinese cemetery in Choa Chu Kang to look for free durians and rambutans.
"As June is the fruit season they get to enjoy our tropical fruits.
"Since the trees grow in the wild these workers need not pay to harvest them.
"This worker told me that he enjoyed our langsat more than the mangoes he used to eat in India."
Langsat is the Malay name for Lansium domesticum, a fruit-bearing tree native to the region. Here is a link for more information on this species.
Langsat fruits, Kundasang;
(Photo by jdream mx)
Langsat tree with fruits;
(Photo by Pretty Lady 241)
Apparently, the fruit we know as duku is a variety of langsat as well.
(Photo by kangdekry)
Saturday, June 27, 2009
STOMPer Ornithologist went to the fish farm at Lim Chu Kang and saw several weaver bird nests and a school of Japanese carp.
Sharing his findings, he says:
"These pictures were taken at a fish farm at Lim Chu Kang Lane 6.
"At the entrance of the farm I noticed several weaver bird nests on a tree.
"The weaver birds are gregarious birds which breed colonially. The birds build their nests together, and usually the male birds weave the nests and use them as a form of display to lure the females.
"I also saw a school of kois in a pond. The koi is also known as the Japanese carp.
"Kois have no stomachs. What they do have are expandable small intestines and they function as a pseudo stomach.
"They have small teeth in the back of the throat that they use to crush any crustaceans they may ingest.
"Kois are 'pigs' of the water because they love and eat anything they can find. They can consume up to 2% of its body in a day."
More nests of the baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus), I see. I wonder if they are still in use.
I was surprised to learn that common carp (Cyprinus carpio) actually lack a proper stomach. Instead, the oesophagus opens up into the lower intestine.
According to this link on digestion in teleost fishes:
Carp lack a stomach, but have a long intestine which winds extensively throughout the visceral cavity. The gall bladder rests on the dorsal surface of the anterior midgut and the bile duet opens into the intestine just anterior to the gall bladder. In addition, the liver has no specific shape, but seems to serve as packing material around the intestine. Food seems to be ingested in small particles in a relatively steady stream instead of intermittently in large units, so the storage function of a stomach probably is not missed. With the liver filling all the available visceral space, there would be no room for accommodating the stomach expansion of a large meal anyway.
By the way, koi is both singular and plural. There is no such word as 'kois'.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
An appalled STOMPer found the body of this Indian star tortoise floating in the waters near Labrador park.
He hopes that people will give unwanted animals to the Zoo or SPCA instead of abandoning them in public areas where they are exposed to danger.
He told STOMP via email today (Jun 25):
"Indian star tortoises are an endangered and protected species.
"It is against the law to keep a star tortoise in Singapore.
"Obviously someone who no knowledge on rearing this endangered has committed murder by abandoning it near Labrador park.
"Indian star tortoises are land animals, they do not swim!
"If anyone is intending to abandon the endangered star tortoise, please give it to the Zoo or SPCA so they will take proper care of it.
"Please do not throw it into the sea, pond or reservoir as it will drown.
"Please see pictures and video taken of the star tortoise found floating at Labrador Park."
Do check out the video posted on STOMP.
I'm absolutely appalled. First by the fact that we had some irresponsible idiot who thought it was a good idea to release an Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans), and also by the possibility that the fool was so ignorant that he thought releasing the tortoise into the sea was in its best interests.
Indian star tortoise, Tennessee Aquarium;
(Photo by Richard Nix)
I don't think it can be confirmed that the tortoise was indeed released into the sea. There is always the possibility that it was released on land instead, and was subsequently washed into the sea. Still, I won't be surprised if someone was genuinely so mentally deficient as to have believed that tortoises are aquatic. Marcus has stated before that star tortoises have been released into the pond at East Coast Park, while Andy has blogged about a couple that attempted to release a pair of Chinese softshell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) (which are freshwater species) into the sea at Labrador, in the mistaken belief that they were sea turtles.
I mean, come on. How stupid is that? Does anyone seriously believe that the turtles you see being sold in pet shops and markets are sea turtles? Isn't it obvious that the star tortoise is definitely not adapted for an aquatic lifestyle?
Let me try to explain the differences between tortoises, freshwater turtles (sometimes known as terrapins), and sea turtles.
Aldabra giant tortoise (Dipsochelys dussumieri), Aldabra Atoll;
(Photo by Johnny Shaw)
Tortoises all belong to a single family, the Testudinidae. These are turtles that are specialised for a terrestrial lifestyle. They have legs built like pillars or columns, to help support their weight on land. Most tortoise species also have shells that are shaped like domes.
While many tortoise species like to take a soak in a shallow pool on a hot day, they are at best clumsy and cumbersome swimmers. They are entirely terrestrial creatures, and are not meant to swim for long periods of time. There are many books and caresheets warning people not to keep a pet tortoise close to a deep pond, where it might fall in and drown. There is even a webpage by the Tortoise Group that gives advice on how to attempt to resuscitate and care for a tortoise that has fallen into a pond or swimming pool and drowned.
Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina), Virginia;
(Photo by derAmialtebloede)
Close relatives of the tortoises, the families Emydidae and Geoemydidae contain the species we commonly know as pond turtles or terrapins. Most species in these families are semi-aquatic to varying degrees, though there are some species belonging to these 2 families that are quite similar to tortoises, in that they spend a lot of time on land. Like tortoises, they are often characterised by having a dome-like carapace. While some of these turtles will spend time close to water, and even soak themselves in shallow pools, many of them are also poor swimmers, and will drown in deep water.
Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), Barbados;
(Photo by jcantroot)
As mentioned earlier on, most other turtle species are aquatic, and live in freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, and marshes. These species, often called terrapins, tend to divide their time between land and water, with many species feeding in water, but crawling onto dry land to bask in the sun. Compared to tortoises, their shells tend to be somewhat flattened to provide some form of streamlining, and many species have webbed feet. However, if forced to swim non-stop, these turtles will often tire and drown.
Although many of these species can be found living in brackish conditions, few are capable of living in truly marine environments.
Chinese softshell turtle, Itami;
(Photo by muzina_shanghai)
The softshell turtles, which belong to the family Trionychidae, are very well-adapted to an aquatic lifestyle. 1 species in particular, the Chinese softshell turtle, is commonly raised and sold for food here in Singapore, and forms the main ingredient in turtle soup. In softshell turtles, the shell is even flatter, the webbed feet are well-developed, and a long neck and long tubular nostrils enable the turtle to breathe while most of its body remains submerged. These are also mostly freshwater species, although some species are known to live in shallow coastal areas.
Pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta), Blue Reef Aquarium Portsmouth;
(Photo by Jim Nicholson)
This relative of the softshell turtles is the most aquatic of the freshwater turtles, with flippers that enable it to fly through the water. The pig-nosed turtle spends its entire life in the water, and never basks on dry land like other aquatic and semi-aquatic turtle species. Although it is predominantly found in freshwater habitats, it is sometimes found in brackish and coastal waters.
Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Great Barrier Reef;
(Photo by kaukahi)
At the other end of the spectrum are the sea turtles, which are specialised for life in the open sea. Sea turtles have their limbs modified into flippers. Their shells are flattened, providing a streamlined profile that enables them to minimise drag. Entirely marine creatures, the only time a healthy sea turtle ever comes onto land is when females come ashore to lay their eggs, a laborious and exhausting task. They are so well-adapted to a marine lifestyle that they are practically helpless on land.
As you can see, there is a wide range of habitat preferences, from the entirely terrestrial tortoises, to the entirely marine sea turtles, with various semi-aquatic and aquatic freshwater turtle species in between. To toss a tortoise into the sea thinking that it's meant to live in a marine environment isn't just irresponsible, but also downright cruel and stupid. I can only shudder at how the tortoise must have suffered under the care of a person so ignorant of basic tortoise care. Was it kept in an aquarium full of water and forced to swim all day long, under the assumption that it was aquatic?
Now you can understand why I get very irritated when people mistakenly use the term 'tortoise' to refer to a freshwater turtle, when tortoises are not aquatic in the first place! It gives lazy people who don't bother to check the facts the wrong idea that tortoises live in the water, and leads to unnecessary suffering and cruelty. How woefully ignorant and misguided was this person, thinking that upon release, his tortoise would be swimming away happily in the sea?
I'm seriously getting very angry over this, considering that I have a soft spot for reptiles, and turtles in particular. Indian star tortoises are already threatened due to heavy collection for the pet trade, and while they are banned as pets, I know that they can still be found for sale both locally and in the region. Personally, I have nothing against people who own illegal exotic pets, as long as they are responsible enough to provide the best possible care for the animals. But here we have a case of absolute criminal negligence, and further evidence as to why these reptiles are rightfully banned as pets in Singapore. I don't know about the survival rate of red-eared sliders, but I'm not optimistic about many of them reaching old age. Given that in comparison, Indian star tortoises aren't easy to keep in the first place, I do not dare to think about the mortality rate of all these smuggled Indian star tortoises.
Even if this tortoise had not been deliberately released into the sea, the fact that this person managed to illegally obtain an Indian star tortoise, only to abandon it without regard for its ability to survive in the wild or the possible ecological consequences makes me very angry.
I'm not a violent person, but it's stupidity like this that makes me wish I had been there to shout at the idiot before he committed the act, and maybe throw in a smack on the back of the head for good measure.
A STOMPer shares his knowledge of these marine creatures which he came across when he was at Sungei Buloh Nature Park.
In an email to STOMP, Marine Biologist says:
"These pictures were taken at the shore of Sungei Buloh Nature Park.
"The mangrove swamp is a place teeming with small marine animals of various shapes and sizes.
"The common nerite (Nerita lineata) is a mangrove snail and it grazes on algae at night during low tide.
"Its hard operculum is used for defense purposes.
"At low tide, the nerite remains on the tree trunk exposed to the air.
"The signaller crab has orange claws and feeds on worms.
"This common periwinkle is conical in shape and lives on the trunks of mangrove trees, grazing on algae.
"It is well adapted to terrestrial life.
"Barnacles are marine and tend to live in tidal waters.
"They grow on any hard surface immersed in seawater, so they are found everywhere in the intertidal zone.
"They are found on rocks, trees, pillars and boats.
"Barnacles are crustacean-like crabs.
"They are hermaphrodites, each barnacle having both male and female reproductive organs."
I find it mildly annoying that despite the title, the main image for this post doesn't even feature barnacles at all.
The correct name for the lined nerite is a little confusing. For many years, it was known as Nerita lineata, although recently, it appears that Nerita articulata is the proper name. To make matters worse, this species is also commonly known as Nerita balteata.
I believe that the crab in the photo is indeed the orange signaller crab (Metaplax elegans), while the periwinkle is likely to be the black-mouthed mangrove periwinkle ( Littoraria melanostoma).
To be pedantic, barnacles aren't "crustacean-like crabs", which is nonsensical, since crabs are crustaceans in the first place, and besides, barnacles aren't crabs. I'm sure the writer meant to say that they were "crustaceans - like crabs".
And he left out what is in my honest opinion, the most interesting fact about barnacles: they are extraordinarily well hung. A barnacle may possess a penis about 10 times its body length.
I guess this would be a good time to introduce this quirky and yet very educational video on barnacles: