Rocket Tower

June 26, 2010 at 12:12 am | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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Singapore is such a small island but how many of us can claim to have set foot in every corner of the country?

Itchyfingers have been staying in the west side of Singapore most of our lives, so it is not surprising to know that we have never visited some of the places on the other sides of the island. We always hear about the meeting place for nature walks at Seletar Reservoir to be at the Rocket Tower, and we have also seen photos of the Tower, but we have never really been to the Tower itself. So this fine day, Itchyfingers decided to pay it a visit.

The first thing to greet you when you reached the carpark must be the Rocket Tower…


Wow, very retro hor?! ūüėÄ

We couldn’t wait to climb all the way up the spiral staircase…


You would be rewarded with a 360 degree panoramic view of the reservoir
and the adjacent greenery!


Oooo…this looked like a nice place for running…
ūüėÄ

We spent some time on the tower, taking in the breeze and views, before making our way down to take a walk around.


Built in 1920 as Singapore’s third impounding reservoir, Seletar Reservoir
was officially opened by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra on
10th August 1969. In 1992, it was renamed as Upper Seletar Reservoir and
became a marked conservation site in 1999

When we saw the playground, couldn’t help but jumped up….


But it made me giddy... :p


Oooo…hopscotch!


I¬†wanna play this but Tisu Boy had gone off without me... ūüėģ


Sidetracked into the trails…didn’t find interesting birds to photograph…

In the end we did manage to see one beautiful White-bellied Fish Eagle soaring so low in the sky before we headed back to the direction of the tower.


White-bellied Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), the largest raptor
commonly found in Singapore


Caught something familiar…You could actually see part of the Singapore
Zoo here…these boat rides bring you for a cruise along the Seletar Reservoir


Interesting to find the jetty submerged in the water…no wonder there
was the No Entry sign…

The 15 hectares park is great for many recreational activities with lush greenery. Do pay it a visit if you have never been there! ūüôā

Also see related posts:
> It’s Play Time! #3
>¬†It’s Play Time! #2
>¬†It’s Play Time! #1

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A Peep into the Changing Room

June 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | 2 Comments
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As we grow bigger, taller or even fatter, we will need to discard our old clothings that do not fit us any more for bigger ones. Similarly, as arthropods (eg¬†insects,¬†arachnids,¬†crustaceans) grow, they need to change their ‘clothing’ – a process called Moulting (or Molting), where old skin that has grown tight are shed for new one. Insects have an exoskeleton (i.e., they have their skeleton on the outside), making it a problem for a growing insect as the exoskeleton is rigid and cannot grow or stretch like skin. To make room for growth, the exoskeleton has to be discarded periodically. They shed their old, small exoskeleton after they grow a new and bigger one that is not yet hardened. This new exoskeleton gradually hardens and no growth is possible until the arthropod ¬†moults again. Moulting cycles run nearly continuously until the animal reaches its full size.

Itchyfingers were lucky to have witnessed, or rather, peeped into part of this private moment of a tiny grasshopper changing into its new look. ūüôā


This grasshopper was almost done with his skin shedding when we found
him. “When a nymph is ready to moult, it climbs onto a leaf or a branch.
It may even hang upside down. Slowly, the nymph slides out of its old exoskeleton.
Underneath, the nymph has a new, soft exoskeleton. The nymph puffs up with air.
This makes its body bigger while the new exoskeleton hardens.”

Did you notice that the body size is much bigger than the old skin, or moult? Did you also notice something missing?

Our friend was missing one leg!

Many arthropods are able to lose part of their limbs when they were caught by predators to make time for escape. They are able to regenerate lost body parts and their innervation (the distribution of nerves to a part). However, the regenerated limb would probably be unsegmented and remained much shorter than the intact leg parts. Also they would not be able to regenerate their limb if they have gone through the last moult of their lifespan.

This grasshopper was about an inch long, and since Itchyfingers are no grasshopper expert, we weren’t sure if this one is a fully-growth adult that has missed its last chance for regenerating new limb. ūüėģ


A look at the moult, which is the exact replicate of the grasshopper. Even the
antennae could be clearly seen! Notice the white thread-like tubes? On Francis
Seow-Choen’s A Guide to the¬†Stick and Leaf Insects of Singapore, there is a
picture of a Stick Insect moulting. There, the Stick Insect hangs from its
abdomen still attached to its moult, with two white thread-like breathing tubes
joining the old skin to the moulting insect. See this excellent series of Stick
Insect moulting pictures at this site
. So I suspect the white substance shown
here could be the breathing tubes or thoracic air sacs…Do correct me if I’m wrong! ūüôā


During moulting, the insect will swell up its body by taking a large quantity of
water or air, thus splitting the old exoskeleton from the top into halves to
allow the insect to slowly make its way out. This could take several minutes.
The new exoskeleton is so soft that the insect cannot support itself and find
it very hard to move. It has to continue pumping itself up to stretch the new
cuticle and harden it. We could tell it was pumping up its abdomen as it was
constantly stretching itself out…

The moult was dropped onto the leaf a few centimetres away from the grasshopper. I read that some insects eat their own moult for the protein because in the initial phase of moulting, the insect has to stop feeding before releasing a mixture of enzymes that digest the endocuticle (the inner, elastic layer of an insect cuticle) and thus detach the old cuticle. Hence this old cuticle provides a ready food source for the insect to regain its strength. Being Itchyfingers, I tried to put the discarded skin back to the same piece of the leaf where the grasshopper was to see if it would eat it… :p


We were expecting him to move over and eat the moult after he had pumped
and hardened up enough. But while waiting, we were constantly distracted by
the nearby nesting birds and  each time we looked back, the moult was further
away and eventually dropped onto another piece of leaf before falling onto
the ground…We won’t sure if it was the work of the strong wind or could it be
the grasshopper had kicked it away as it¬†didn’t want to attract attention
from predator since he was at his most vulnerable stage, especially when
he had only one leg? The translucent shell was so glaring as compared to the
well-camouflaged insect, so it might be a good idea to keep it away…

The grasshopper stayed at the same position until we left for the day.

The following week when we visited again, we were surprised to see this guy at the same spot again. Well, it seemed like the same insect, cos it also had only one leg…


He had grown visibly bigger and was munching on a leaf…


The grasshopper positions itself so that it is able to eat the leaves of the
plant by means of a circular to and fro motion, with extension and flexion
of the head. The mandibles chew and swallow the bitten-off leaf portion in this
semi-circular motion. When it reaches the end of the leaf, it goes back to the
starting position and repeats its feeding pattern, leaving characteristic large
rounded bite marks on the leaf

Also see related posts:
> Dun Pray Pray

> Eating Its Own Kind? РSpidey Galore #2
> Jaws РSpidey Galore #1
>¬†‘Leaf’ Me Alone
> Masters of Disguise and Camouflage
> A Visit to the Hospital
> Attaining Immortality РBody Preservation

Dun Pray Pray…

June 14, 2010 at 8:09 am | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment
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This particular day when Itchyfingers found the Leaf Insect nymph, there were also lotsa other insects in the vicinity, most of them also pretty young ones. We saw a couple of these tiny green ones Рone of them was in a particularly open spot that was ideal for some close observation.


A tiny juvenile Praying Mantis. What was he looking at?


Praying mantises are so called because of its prominent front legs, which are
bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer


“What are you looking at?!?” Look at the sharp piercing eyes! This tiny guy
turned immediately to my direction when he discovered me peeping at him.
Praying Mantis have¬†triangular heads poised on a long “neck,” which is
an elongated thorax (the middle section of insects). They can turn their
heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large
compound eyes
and three other simple eyes located between them. Compound eyes are
very sensitive to motion

I was distracted for a short while by some birds and the next moment I turned back, I realised I just missed some action!


He had just caught himself lunch for the day! When he saw me still peeping
at him, he tried to take cover under the leaf..apparently pissed…hahah…
Praying Mantises are formidable predators. Being well camouflaged on plants,
they lie in ambush or patiently stalk their prey. Then they use their powerful
spikey front legs to snare their prey with remarkable speed and accuracy!
Some unfortunate insect preys include moths, crickets, grasshoppers and
flies. Bigger species will even take small lizards, frogs, birds, snakes or
even rodents!

Well, with the juicy lunch in hand, obviously he couldn’t wait to savour it while it’s still fresh…hahah. So after trying in vain to hide himself, he gave up and started chewing the fly..head first…


Hmmm….delicious! Praying Mantis eats its whole prey. I was surprised this
one even took the wings! He must be starving…haha
:p ¬†“The structure
of the compound eye creates the illusion of a small pupil, which could be a
diffraction of light and dark that you see inside the eye which ‘appears’ to be
following you as you move. This illusion is because the dot is a spot that’s
always toward you as you move. It is not following you, it just ‘appears’ to be
doing so because of light diffraction within the many cells of the compound eyes”

I kept staring at him munching his lunch from beginning to the end. He must be really uncomfortable and pissed off with me that after he finished his meal, he turned to me again to give me this warning stare again… :p


“Dun pray pray! ” :O

Wow…Itchyfingers is so scared…hahah…! 8)

Also see related posts:
> Eating Its Own Kind? – Spidey Galore #2
> Jaws РSpidey Galore #1
>¬†‘Leaf’ Me Alone
> Masters of Disguise and Camouflage
> A Visit to the Hospital
> Attaining Immortality РBody Preservation

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