Monday, August 19, 2013

Spain cherry flowers

I know there had been a long hiatus in this blog.

Many things happened in these few years, I have gone overseas, came back, graduated from university and now I am in a job that involves checking roadside trees.

After I started working I realized there are really a lot of interesting creatures even at roadside, and I have managed to take a lot of interesting photos of plants and insects. I normally keep these photos in my phone without posting them on any website, however,  when I saw that one of the photos I sent to my colleague showed up in my organization's facebook page and got a lot of likes (I hate to admit, but it really feels like an achievement to get likes from many people), it kind of motivates me to continue sharing more of my photos online.

I currently have quite some photos, and I will keep on taking photos of amazing creatures that I have found. Let's see how long can this blog last again :-P


Small flowers are like snowflakes. They are small and often go unnoticed, but they have beautiful and intricate patterns. Trees with small flowers are often planted at roadside as they cause less nuisance at residential areas (some residents always like to complain about fallen flowers dirtying up their floor, it is somehow saddening that they have lost their ability to appreciate nature, in my opinion).

Mimusops elengi (Spain cherry tree) is one of these trees. It has compact crown, sturdy wood and their leaves have slightly wavy edges. It's flower is small (about size of a ten cent coin), white and come with numerous petals with delicate patterns:

If you happen to see these flowers, don't forget to try and take a sniff :-) the flowers have subtle fragrances :-)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sea Fig sightings ~~

Just want to share a recent sightings :) When I went to NTU on Friday, I saw that the Sea Fig (Ficus superba) is fruiting ! ! ! The tree is located at the bus stop in front of Chinese Heritage Centre. =)

Sea Fig is a rather uncommon strangler fig that usually grows near to the sea. When it fruits, the branches will all be covered by myriads of small figs (around 1.5 cm +/-). The figs by Friday were still white in colour and I guess it will now turn pink or purple, which will make the tree looks like it is covered by jewels =)

It is literally "myriad of fruits". These fruits have attracted a lot of birds such as yellow vented bulbul and Asian glossy starlings (Aplonis panayensis) :)

Semakau Hunting Seeking Trip on 30th Jan 2010

On 30th Jan 2010 I went to P. Semakau for hunting seeking survey. We gathered at Tanjung Pagar MRT station Exit A and a pink mempat tree happened to be in a full bloom =)

Punk Mempat, or Cratoxylum formosum, has pink flowers that look like cherry blossoms.

Interestingly, not every trees are blooming =) Some of them are just lushingly green without any signs of blooming soon.

After reaching Semakau, on the muddy area near seashore one can often see red berry snails (Family Assimineidae) lying everywhere. These red berry snails are very small in size, usually not more than 5mm.

This snail is probably Batillaria zonalis. I am very bad in identifying snails. :(

On the glove there is a small tidal hermit crab (Diogenes sp.). Tidal hermit crabs have soft abdomen, therefore they need to live in snail's shell to protect their abdomen from being attacked by predators and to retreat themselves into the shell when endangered. When there are no threats around, the crabs will then come out and feed on detritus by the means of a pair of small pincers. To them, the shells are their homes, where their livelihood solely depend on, while to us, the shells are nothing more than a souvenir or an item, at most an artpiece which is not essential for survival. Therefore, one shall not take shells home since the hermit crabs appreciate the shells more than we do =)

After that we saw a female orange fiddler crab (Uca vocans). She was also feeding on detritus by the means of pincers =) How did i tell that she is a female? Well, for fiddler crabs, while females have two small pincers, males have one enormous pincer and a small pincer. =)

Most animals have the instinct to regain their original position when they are turned upside down. However, she oddly did not try to regain position when we turned her over to take abdomen photo. Oh ya, another way to tell the gender of crabs (not only the fiddler crabs, but also other crabs) is that female crabs have round-shaped abdomen (as shown in photo) while males have a triangular shaped plate at the centre of abdomen (as shown in another photo later).

Under careful close examination, we found that there is a deep injury on the back, the carapace of the crab =( This could be the reason why she behaved so abnormally. Poor crab :( Hope that she can regain her health.

On rocks one can often expect to see bead anemones =) The ones shown in photo don't look quite like the normal "radiating anemone shape" we usually perceive because they are out of water. When out of water, the anemones will retract their tentacles to prevent water loss, thus looked more like a jelly blob.

Another common organisms that can be found on rock are limpets. Although limpets look like barnacles, they are not closely related to each other at all; they are not even in same phylum! =O While barnacles are surprisingly arthropods, limpets are molluscs. Limpets can grip to the rock very firmly so if one try to remove them from rock, one will hurt them :( Limpets generally feed on the algae during high tide. To my amazement, few days ago I saw a commercial featuring canned limpets; I never knew that limpets can be eaten until then.

After seeing the female fiddler crab, we saw a male one. As I said just now, male fiddler crabs have one large pincer and one small pincer. The large pincer of male is to show to the female that he is so strong that even with such a big pincer that hinders the movements he can still survive, so he is worth for mating with, and thus playing a role of attracting the females. The small pincer, like the female ones, is to collect detritus from the sand or mud substrate and feed it to the mouth.

When I was young, I went to an island of Indonesia which had a lot of fiddler crabs with striking colours including pink, blue, yellow orangish and etc. When I caught them and kept them in the container, however, the whole body of the crab will appear darker while the general colouration remains. When I freed them, the dull colour went off immediately. :O Somehow i think fiddler crabs are able to turn their bodies into a duller colour when endangered.

This is the first lighning dove snail (Pictocollumbela ocellata) I have ever seen, although they are not considered rare. The shell is typically black with conspicuous white or yellow stripes on it. The snails feed on algae and they are often found in small groups. =)

This snail is probably Gafrarium tumidum =) I am not sure whether it is really this species, but this species generally have transverse and vertical ridges on the shells and they are filter feeders. =)

I cannot identify this organism but it seemed to be a ribbon worm (Nemertea). I am not sure about particulars of this species, but ribbon worms generally are fierce predators that feed on other small organisms.

Can you see that there is an onch snail in the middle of picture? Onch snails (Family Onchidiidae) are very skilful in camouflaging because their bodu colouration and shape can blend into surroundings very well; one can hardly spot them unless when they are moving. Onch snails have modified gills that allow them to breathe in air, therefore they will actually drown if they stay underwater for too long! Onch snails feed on algae and lichens on rock during low tide.

After reaching sandy area, we soon spotted a small flower crab (Portunus pelagicus). Yes, the same flower crab that we see in supermarket. Flower crabs, like other swimming crabs, are fierce predators who use their sharp pincers to capture fishes and another preys. When confronted, they will raise their pincers and in a very aggressive manner; even when they know they cannot defeat their enemies, they can still escape very fast or makes the water murky so that they cannot be seen. =) The only reason that we can hold it in palm is because this crab is still very young and relatively manageable. When it grows larger, one will be very hard to put it on palm or even take photos of it.

The underside of the flower crab. Notice that there is a triangular shaped plate in the middle of abdomen, which means that this flower crab is a male. =)

We saw this smail in seagrass lagoon. This snail is probably a spiral melongena (Pugilina cochlidium). Spiral melongena feeds on barnacles.

There are a lot of snails that can be seen in seagross lagoon because seagrasses provide excellent shelter for them. Soon we saw a black-lipped conch (Strombus urceus). Black-lipped conch is named so due to the characterisically black-coloured opening of the shell. One very interesting aspect of this conch is that it can literally "hop" around using its pointed operculum (the sharp thing sticking out from the shell opening), which is a very big contrast with our usual concept of slow moving snails.

Another side of black-lipped conch. Note the algae that grow on the shell which help the conch to blend into surrounding and to camouflage itself =)

In two barren patches of seagrass lagoon, we saw 4 sandfish sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra). Sea cucumber uses hydrostatic pressure to maintain its shape and structure thus when out of water for too long, it will deform and dies. =( However, it is ok to take it out of water for a short while to identify the species or to take photos, as long as we put it back to the original places asap and don't squeeze them! When endangered, sea cucumbers will spit the internal organs out, which cause enormous stress on the sea cucumber :( Sandfish sea cucumber is collected as seafood, however, because it is poisonous, it needs to be properly gutted and processed before it can be sold.

Later we saw a Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni). Haddon's carpet anemone is usually 50cm in size and it can predate on preys using its stinging tentacle. It has symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, a kind of algae that can undergo photosynthesis. While zooxanthellae share their food with anemone, thus providing extra nourishment for the anemone (or major food source when the anemone can catch no prey), the anemone provide a shelter for those algae. Unfortunely, Haddon's carpet anemone had been collected for aquarium trade. :(

After leaving seagrass lagoon, we stepped into the coral rubble area. :) The first organism we immediately noticed was the spectacular Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus), who is probably the official mascot of Semakau =) it is said that they feed on clams and snails but also sponges and other animals. Although it has dangerous looking spines, it is not venomous. This species of sea star used to be common in Singapore, but now it is not common anymore due to habitat destruction and collection for aquarium trade. I usually see only one or two for every field trip, but that day I was quite lucky to see 21 individuals in my survey area :D Ron also commented that recently it seems to be the season of many marine organisms because other uncommon species also occur in greater numbers suddenly :)

We also saw a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). The central part of the anemone is the oral disk which the anemone send food into :) Like Haddon's carpet anemone, giant carpet anemone also has symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae.

A small fish hop onto the ground and stranded on it. I am not sure about the species but the striking blue stripes on the fish should be able to give some clue of its identity. Luckily it managed to hop back into water after a short while. :)

My most unforgettable spotting for this survey is this beautiful Pentaceraster Sea star. This is the first time I have ever seen this species in my life :) It is only recently found to occur at Singapore. =)

After that we saw a blue swimming crab (Thalamita sp.). Note the typical aggressive posture of swimming crab when threatened. =) Like other swimming crabs, this crab is also a fierce predator.

and by unknown reason it decided to seek refuge at my booty lol :P

LK found a red ribbon worm (Phylum Nemertea) under a rock. Not much is known about it by far, though.

On some big rocks we found massive colonies of zoanthids, who is closely related to the sea anemone. They feed on planktons and/or fine particles; many of them also have symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae. =) Some zoanthids can be highly toxic, though, so one shall never ever touches them.

LK also found some hammer oysters (Malleus sp.). It is said that most of them live in crevices of coral rocks or on reef flats.

She soon also found a Hell's fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.). Other than stonefish, this anemone is probably one of the deadliest creatures on Semakau shores. It can inflict very painful and burning stings on whoever that touches them, thus earning them the name "Hell's fire"

My partner found a spotted top shell snail (Trochus maculatus) on the rock. Note the zig zag pattern on the bottom of the shell =) Pretty, isn't it? However, together with other intertidal organisms, this species is also affected by human activity on environments :(

In a small water puddle we saw a white-orange black flatworm (Pseudobiceros uniarborensis). Flatworms body are rather fragile, however, the flexible body allows them to squeeze in very fine crevices to hide from predators or feed on organisms. =) According to, flatworms of this genus has two penises! =O Note that there is also a short ribbon worm at the right side of the photo.

At the coral reef we saw a red swimming crab (Thalamita spinimana). It is also a fierce predators who catch prey by means of the two sharp pincers =)

A closer view of the aggressive-looking red swimming crab ;)

As the sky was getting darker, we had to leave the shores and walk back to the mainroad. Luckily there were no mosquitoes when we trekked through the forest :) I must say that this trip is very unforgettable because I have seen quite a number of organisms that I have not seen before in all my previous field trips :)

Good job, everyone ;)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Chequered Lancer, Death Head Hawkmoth and presumable Centaur oakblue and Gram Blue

Recently I have spotted quite some interesting butterflies and moths =)

The first one I want to talk about is Chequered Lancer (Plastingia naga), as shown in the picture below. I spotted it when I walked down the corridor connecting Central Library and YIH.

This species of butterfly belong to a family called Hesperiidae, i.e. "Skipper family". Although people usually regard them as butterfly, they are actually not considered "true butterfly" from strict taxonomical aspect; rather, they share common ancestor with true butterfles. They are commonly called skippers because they can dart very quickly from one place to another, and their flight is often short and unsustained. Also, Skippers have stout bodies and the fore wings tend to be narrower than those of other butterfly families.

Skippers are usually brown of yellow with a slight tinge of brown, therefore I am quite surprised to see this strikingly black and white-coloured skipper. =)
According to, Chequered Lancer is often found in lowland forests like nature reserves. The reason why I saw this butterfly in school is probably due to the presence of Fishtail Palm, which is the host plant of Chequered Lancer caterpillar. =)

A nice link I found for this butterfly:

Last night one of my choir mate saw an interesting moth on the entrance of Raffles Hall:

Initially I thought it was a wood moth (Cossidae) because the way this moth folds its wings looks like those of big Xyleutes species. However, it turned out that this species belongs to Hawkmoth family, Sphingidae and the common name of this moth is "Death's-head hawkmoth" (look at the skull like pattern on the thorax/back of the moth). There are three species of moths that share this common name, however this particular species is Acherontia lachesis.

Acherontia lachesis caterpillar feeds on various plants including those in Bean family (Fabaceae) and the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). It is said that this moth enters bee-hive and steals a honey. =O

There is an informative link for this moth:

There are two more butterflies I would like to share with everyone, however, the identification here is tentative and may not be true. I will be grateful if someone can point out my mistake in identification :)

When I went to NTU, I saw a beautiful butterfly with blue-coloured compound eyes. This butterfly is probably Centaur Oakblue based on external morphology. (see: Centaur Oakblue belongs to Lycanidae, in which the butterflies are often called "Blue", "Copper" or "Hairstreak". Many of caterpillars of these butterflies involve ants in their life cycles.

According to, the butterfly often occurs where weaver ants are found. To think of it, few months ago I did find a lycaenid caterpillar on Syzygium oleosum (Blue Lilly Pilly, see: , did you find it familiar? the trees line many roads or paths in NUS) which was tended by a lot of weaver ants.

And it does look like the caterpillar of Centaur Oakblue (See: Apparently It needs weaver ants in obtaining food because when I attempted to breed it in my own room, the caterpillar did not look healthy so in the end I need to put it back to the host plant tree one day later.

The last butterfly species I would like to share today is presumably Gram Blue (Euchrysops cnejus cnejus). Spotted it outside NUS Co-op bookstore, mating on Mickey-mouse plant (Ochna sp.)

One feature about lycaenid is that every species looks almost the same so sometimes it is very difficult to identify them based on external morphology alone. :(

Lycaenid butterflies often have strikingly blue or metallic or both coloration when it opens its wing, which is a big contrast with the dull-colored, striped and spotted wings on another side. =)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Painted jezebel

During last semester, I noticed that around 10++ yellowish pupae appeared on the limau tree behind block 2 of the Raffles Hall.

I was quite delighted when I found that these are the pupae of Painted Jezebels (Delias hyperete metarete) ! ! ! Among the singapore butterflies this species seems to be the only one that has yellow-coloured pupae =)

Not long after, there was indeed Painted Jezebel emerging from the pupa! !!

Wait a minute.... Painted Jezebel larvae feed on mistletoes, don't they? How can they appear on Limau trees??? It was not until then I realized the limau tree was in fact heavily parasitized by mistletoe plants, with part of the branches completely without limau leaves.

There were also quite a lot of mistletoe plants on some other plants in Raffles Hall such as those on Chiku trees in Raffles Hall, as depicted below.

As mistletoe plants produce sticky seeds, the seeds stick on the anus opening of the birds such as scarlett-backed flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum), causing the birds to rub their buttock against the stem of other plants. By this they disperse widely. Luckily there are balance in nature; the painted jezebels larvae feed on these plants ravenously.