The Web Crawler

April 30, 2009 at 10:55 am | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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Itchyfingers have not seen this in the forest for a very long time. This was the first time I saw it in the mangrove. It could be we didn’t look carefully enough, though we often see many other species of spiders, many even smaller than this one. It is one of the beautiful spiders found in Singapore, with a most interesting name – the Saint Andrew’s Cross Spider (Argiope mangal)

cross
Do the outstretched legs remind you of a cross?

The Saint Andrew’s Cross Spiders get their name for the way their hold their eight legs in pairs to form an X shape. The X is called the St. Andrew’s cross because it is believed that the saint was martyred on a cross of this shape rather than the conventional + shape. Besides their standard orb-web, Argiope spiders build additional white opaque zig zag lines on their webs, called stabilimentumSometimes the zig-zag lines match their leg positions, which some people suggest that this helps give the appearance of longer legs. 

The purpose of these zig zag lines has a few possible explanation. At first thought to strengthen or “stabilise” the web, more recent ideas associate it with capturing prey or avoiding predators. They warn larger animals in the same way that safety strips on glass doors warn people from walking into them. Thus the web is protected from damage by flying birds. Research has shown that the ribbon-like silk in the stabilimentum reflects ultraviolet well, unlike the silk used in the rest of the web. Such light is attractive to flying insects, which use it to locate food sources like flowers and to navigate through openings in the vegetation. If the stabilimentum silk attracts insects it may increase the web’s prey catching efficiency.

Like many other spiders, the male is half to one-third the size of the females (body size around 5mm). So I think the one shown here should be a female with a freshly spun web, looking at the small amount of stabilimentum. We didn’t find the male though. :p

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The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research

April 26, 2009 at 11:33 am | Posted in itchy mouth | 1 Comment
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Words of Caution: The following pictures may cause uneasiness for some people…please bear with us and look with your eyes half closed or visit us again soon! :p

Itchyfingers are quite sure that not many people have heard of, let alone visit, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) before, although it is located at National University of Singapore (NUS). That applies to many friends who have studied there too. Formerly called the Raffles Museum, which was founded in 1849, RMBR is now part of the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS. Established on 1 October 1998, the RMBR contains some of the oldest and largest collection of plant and animal specimens from Southeast Asia, dating back to the 19th century. Having not studied in the local varsity, I did not know about this museum until I joined the Nature Society and later became friend with one of the staff there. Can’t remember when was my first visit there, but due to some projects, I had to drop by the office a number of times. Unfortunately each time I had to rush off almost immediately after the meeting. However, during the recent visit to the office, I made it a point to stay back to visit the museum once again.

Visitors to the museum will get to see various exhibits of stuffed and preserved wildlife, some of which, sadly, are already extinct. I remembered when I was a young Tisu still in primary school, one of the top levels of my school had a big glass display of stuffed animals…couldn’t remember what animals those were now but I remembered feeling a bit uneasy and scared looking at the dead animals, especially their eyes…they all looked eerie as if staring at you…Being on the top level meant that there were lesser people walking on the corridor…I remembered I had to walk doubly fast to escape their piercing looks. Wow so scary….hahah…..coward… But that was all in the past…erhem….:p

exhibits
Part of the exhibits on display. Photography is allowed as long as you do not
use flash…

Signs of “No flash photography” were everywhere but ironically, when I was alone there, some staff members came in with a photographer to take some group shots…and the photographer was firing his flash light against the backdrop of these stuffed animal specimens….hmmm….maybe should do that when there’s no outside visitors? :p

sign1
Do not try to touch the specimens with your itchy fingers…not only are they
fragile and old, they were all coated with toxic preservatives…

bear1
The Malayan Sun Bear

turtle2
Malayan Giant Terrapin

mammal
In the background: Rarely seen and a secretive species of wild goat, the Southern
Serow occurs in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. Foreground: A juvenile
Malayan Tapir. Right: The Dhole or Red Dog is widely distributed over
eastern Asia from Siberia south to India, Indochina, the Malay Peninsula,
Sumatra and Java.

tiger1
Hard to believe we had tigers once upon a long long time….

boar
The Banded Wild Pig, adult and juvenile

proboscis
Itchyfingers hope to go Borneo to see the Proboscis Monkey one day…

leatherback
This Leatherback Turtle is the only one recorded from Singapore territorial
water

turtles3
Wow…Once upon a time we had Green Turtle (left) and Hawksbill Turtle
in our water!

mousedeer
The Greater Mousedeer. Itchyfingers had seen its cousin, the Lesser
Mousedeer, in Malaysia’s national park

otter
The Small-clawed Otters can still be found in Pulau Tekong, which is
out-of-bound for civilians

specimen
The Common Palm Civet and the Sumatran Rhinoceros. The head of the
rhino had been displayed in RMBR since 1900…

(Ok…warning…time to half close your eyes now….it’s not a pretty sight…)

Looking at the specimens, it was especially sad to know many of these on display could be one of the last of its kind to be found in Singapore. One of these sad stories belonged to a last female Banded Leaf Monkey….

banded-leaf-monkey
This old female Banded Leaf Monkey was mauled to death by a pack of
stray dogs. 😦 She is now preserved in her own glass container…Looks
pretty scary…

The Banded Leaf Monkey was thought to have been extinct in Singapore until a recent rediscovery of a small family in one of the nature reserves of Singapore. Itchyfingers have not been fortunate enough to see these extremely shy monkeys in the wild yet.

There were also many other smaller specimens of bird, bats, fish, crabs, insects, plants on display.

cowfish
I was intrigued immediately by these specimens..looked so primitive…

Besides the bigger turtle specimens, there were a few of the small species preserved in bottles of solution. How I wish I can see them in the wild!

spiny
A Spiny Terrapin from our nature reserve… 😦

turtle
The Big-headed Terrapin, found in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, is
endangered as it is heavily exploited for wild meat and pet trade 😦

hatchling
Some of the hatchlings that did not make it to the sea….These were from
as recent as 1996 in East Coast beach! 😦

gecko
Er…I dun think I wanna take these as medicine….eeee…they have a cute
name though – the Tokay Gecko…sounds like ‘Towkay’, which means ‘boss’
in Hokien…hahah

satay-bird
Most of the bird specimens are preserved this way for easy storage, making
then look like satay bird sticks…:p The museum’s library of thousands of
bird specimens which were not displayed are all kept in drawers

bat2
I always find bats very cool…hanging upside down…hahah…

In ancient Chinese culture, bats were regarded as auspicious animals and their decorative form can be found in many household item. Today, maybe due to popular dracula and vampires movies and with lesser contact and understanding of the animal, many people have some misconceptions about bats.

bat
Despite the name, Malayan False Vampire does not suck blood. Instead
it is a hunter of relative large prey like mice, lizards and even smaller
bats

long-tongue
A lot of bats are fruit bats. Notice the long tongue of this specimen? Looks
like he is teasing you from his bottle…:p

snake
I always wonder how they managed to maintain the shape of snakes in
bottles without having them sink to the bottom…This is the venomous Blue
Coral Snake

tortoise-beetle
A Tortoise Beetle. Didn’t manage to take a picture of the one we saw in
Malaysia…

stink-bug
This is a kind of Stink Bug. They may come in yellow, red or green with black.
See how it really looks like a Sumo Wrestler’s face? 🙂

stick-insect
I didn’t know there’s such species as the Water Stick Insect
…They are
closely related to water scorpions

leaf-insect
A beautiful Leaf Insect…

soldier-crab
They may be tiny but they are called the Soldier Crabs

three-spot
It should be fairly easy to recognise this crab with its distinctive spots…

whip-spider
Menacing looking though tiny

horseshoe-crab
Horseshoe Crabs are more related to spiders and scorpions than crabs.
My first encounter of wild horseshoe crabs were two dead ones washed
up to the shore… 😦

hermit
The Hermit Crab

tiger
These are still found in Singapore

birdwing
Another gorgeous butterfly…Can’t remember if I have seen them here but
definitely seen them in Malaysia forests

death1
See the face mask on the thorax of this moth?

There are many more interesting animal and plant species in the museum. Though not a very big museum, it is still worth a visit if you are interested in nature. Unfortunately, it is opened on weekdays during office hours only. But if you happen to be on leave, do drop by RMBR to learn a bit more! Admission is free. 🙂

Also see related post:
>
Private Lives: An Exposé of Singapore Mangroves

> Attaining Immortality – Body Preservation
> Touch No Evil
> Invasion of the Creepy Crawlies

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle @ Hort Park

April 20, 2009 at 11:06 am | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

22 April will be Earth Day. A day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. 

As we know, the place we all call home is facing threats and challenges everyday. Most of these, sadly, are caused by the very occupants of the Earth itself – Man. Industrialisation and modernisation bring about pollution and logging, which in turn results in habitat loss for many animal species. The inbalance in the ecosystem has a far larger effect than man could imagine. 

Today, with greater awareness of the many environmental issues, many people are trying to do their bits to try to save the Earth. Every little effort does count. Just like switching off the lights for a mere one hour during Earth Hour last month, we can all do our part in reducing our impact on Earth.

By reducing the need to print on papers or using less plastic bags; by reusing plastic bags or the other side of papers; and by recycling these simply by putting them into recycling bins are just some very simple habits we can cultivate. At Itchyfingers‘ visit to the Hort Park some time ago, we saw one section of the park dedicated to providing ideas and tips on recreating a ‘recycling garden’ using simple discarded items. Some of these ideas were not new, but sometimes people prefer to buy new pots to plant their flowers so as not to appear like a cheapskate. But take a look at this garden and you could see that with a little creativity, these old items could really complement the plants and beautify your garden, making them so interesting to look at!

bottle3
After quenching your thirst…reuse the bottle to quench these plants’ thirst for life…

bottle2
Adding a bit of colours…

bottle
Another example

cone
Nice bouquet…

pot1
Sprouting life…

boots
Hmmm….walking plants?

helmet
A safety helmet

tyre
Old tyres and PVC pipes can also be part of the garden!

rice2
Rice cooker not working? Give it a new life! 

rice
The inner piece from the cooker makes a nice pot too

bag
Attended too many National Day Parade? That torn bag from the parade
is great if you need to move your plant around often! 😀

spit
A spittoon from the old days!

bathtub
Weather getting a bit too hot? Even plants need a soak in the nice bathtub!

It’s never too late to start doing our part for the Earth! 😀

Also see related post:
> Earth Day 

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