25 January 2010

Nature in Singapore: worms transformed and good and bad vines

What does this pretty worm-like thing turn into? We find out in the first series of papers for 2010 in Nature in Singapore by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research!
Often called an 'inch-worm' because of the looping way the animal moves - it seems to measure out inches - it is the caterpillar of a moth!

And what a pretty moth it is indeed! To see the moth, view the original article, which describes and illustrates, possibly for the first time, the life cycle of this animal.

Leong, T. M., 2010. Final instar caterpillar and metamorphosis of Dysphania glaucescens (Walker) in Singapore (Lepidoptera: Geometridae: Geometrinae). Nature in Singapore, 3: 13–19. [PDF, 1.31 MB]

While this caterpillar is less attractive and probably often overlooked as a bit of twig, it too turns into a pretty little moth!
Read all about it in the paper.

Leong, T. M. & C. H. S. Low, 2010. Final instar caterpillar and metamorphosis of Eumelea ludovicata GuenĂ©e, 1857, in Singapore (Lepidoptera: Geometridae: Desmobathrinae). Nature in Singapore, 3: 21–26. [PDF, 886 KB]

Sinister Syngonium

This rather innocent looking plant is actually a threat to our nature reserves!
Cultivated as an ornamental climber on pillars and slopes of expressways and flyover bridges, and also in the Singapore Botanical Gardens, this plant is not a native to Singapore. The paper reports finding this plant growing wild in many places and starting to invade the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and back mangroves of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. The paper notes that the plant's "dense and aggressive growth form, enveloping the trunks of trees, may exclude other native, epiphytic species such as ferns and orchids from establishing." The paper "strongly recommends that national and private landscaping projects should stop using this species as an ornamental plant and that it should be removed from native ecosystems."

Chong, K. Y., P. T. Ang & H. T. W. Tan, 2010. Identity and spread of an exotic Syngonium species in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 3: 1–5. [PDF, 538 KB]

Vanishing Finlaysonia

This climber, on the other hand, is a rare native plant that is found in our back mangroves, draped over mangrove trees. This plant was recently found to contain substances that have antibacterial properties against fish diseases.
Prior to 1994, the plant was only collected from Geyland and Kranji. Since then, it has been collected from and sighted at various other places.

Nevertheless, its current status in the Singapore Red Data Book has been upgraded from 'Nationally Vulnerable' in the first edition, to 'Nationally Critically Endangered' in the current second edition. This is because it is estimated that there are fewer than 50 mature individuals left in the wild with some evidence of decline and fragmentation of its natural habitat.

The paper calls for the conservation of the dwindling wild populations of this plant.

Ang, W. F., P. X. Ng, S. Teo, A. F. S. L. Lok & H. T. W. Tan, 2010. The status and distribution in Singapore of Finlaysonia obovata Wall. (Apocynaceae). Nature in Singapore, 3: 7–11. [PDF, 476 KB]

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