27 May 2011

No longer extinct: a swamp forest palm! And more!

Lots of new articles in Nature in Singapore with fascinating finds and insights.
A palm of the swamp forest, Salacca affinis was considered extinct in Singapore. Adrian Loo's discovery of this palm  in the Nee Soon Swamp Forest "establishes its status from “extinct” in Singapore to “critically endangered”. He discusses the extreme vulnerability of this palm species "in relation to its habitat and only known locality, the freshwater swamp forest in Nee Soon, which is the last of its kind in Singapore." Read more in: Loo, A. H. B., 2011. Rediscovery in Singapore of Salacca affinis Griff. (Arecaceae). Nature in Singapore, 4: 123–126. [PDF, 300 KB]. And also in Adrian Loo's blog.

This beautiful orchid which had eluded botanists for more than a century has finally been rediscovered! The authors note that "This species is quite easy to cultivate, and is a spectacle to behold when mass-blooming, making it a top candidate for reintroduction on park and street trees." So perhaps ordinary people will soon be able to view this spectacular orchid.
Read more in Lok, A. F. S. L., W. F. Ang, K. Y. Chong, C. K. Yeo & H. T. W. Tan, 2011. Rediscovery in Singapore of Coelogyne rochussenii De Vriese (Orchidaceae). Nature in Singapore, 4: 49–53. [PDF, 727 KB]

Elsewhere, Faunus ater is found in mouths and lower reaches of freshwater streams and rivers with a brackish influence. The authors found a population in West Coast Park in an artificial pond next to a canal!
Read more in: Lok, A. F. S. L., W. F. Ang, P. X. Ng, B. Y. Q. Ng & S. K. Tan, 2011. Status and distribution of Faunus ater (Linnaeus, 1758) (Mollusca: Cerithioidea) in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 4: 115–121. [PDF, 1.73 MB]

The Leea species are spectacular plants which are a food source for many native animals. A study of the four native species of Leea recorded from Singapore found that two have been lost. The authors say this "is indeed regrettable." They urge the protection of sites where the last single location of Leea angulata is thriving. They also urge the reintroduction of extinct and critically endangered species into the nature reserves, and cultivation of the still common species in parks and urban areas "for the ecological services that they provide to native fauna."
Read more in Lok, A. F. S. L., W. F. Ang, B. Y. Q. Ng, S. M. Suen, C. K. Yeo & H. T. W. Tan, 2011. Leea L. (Vitaceae) of Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 4: 55–71. [PDF, 2.79 MB]

A study of the delicate and naturally rare Plocoglottis javanica orchid found that "it is likely that the only known population in Singapore is in Nee Soon Freshwater Swamp Forest, as it has also not been collected from the Bukit Mandai, Chan Chu Kang and Seletar localities for more than a century."
Read more in Ang, W. F., A. F. S. L. Lok, C. K. Yeo, B. Y. Q. Ng & H. T. W. Tan, 2011. The status and distribution in Singapore of Plocoglottis javanica Blume (Orchidaceae). Nature in Singapore, 4: 73–77. [PDF, 646 KB]

A harmless snake, the Banded file snake Acrochordus granulatus is often seen on our shores. One was found tangled in a gill-net that was set near a canal leading out of the Lower Seletar Reservoir. The authors suggest that "it is likely that there is an established population of Acrochordus granulatus in the Lower Seletar Reservoir. This population could have originated from land-locked individuals trapped there since the estuary was dammed. It could also consist of individuals migrating into the reservoir from the sea from time to time owing to the proximity of the reservoir to the sea. The suitable water conditions of the reservoir also allow the species to thrive there. Other coastal reservoirs in Singapore also are potential habitats for populations of Acrochordus granulatus adapted to freshwater conditions."
Read more in: Ng, T. H., 2011. A record of the banded file snake, Acrochordus granulatus (Reptilia: Squamata: Acrochordidae) in a freshwater habitat in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 4: 91–93. [PDF, 121 KB]

The golden apple snail Pomacea canaliculata is among the 100 of the world’s most invasive species that can upset the natural balance where they are introduced. Their eggs contain proteins that are resistant to digestion and neurotoxins, which could explain their bright pink warning colours and the relative absence of animals that eat them. This study found that our land snails, such as Quantula striata and possibly, Bradybaena similaris, are capable of feeding on these eggs. But the authors say "It would be imprudent of us to suggest that Bradybaena similaris, Quantula striata, or any other land snail has the potential to be an effective biological control against the highly invasive Pomacea canaliculata based on this preliminary experiment."
Read more in: Ng, T. H. & S. K. Tan, 2011. Observations of land snails feeding on the eggs of Pomacea canaliculata (Lamarck, 1822) (Mollusca: Gastropoda). Nature in Singapore, 4: 79–83. [PDF, 1.06 MB]

A lovely account of the Black-faced conehead katydid Peracca subulicerca which lives in the forested areas of the Central Catchment and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves, includes lots of lovely photos and an account of a female feeding on a juvenile forest snail.
Read more: Leong, T. M., 2011. Records of the black-faced conehead katydid, Peracca subulicerca (Karny, 1926) in Singapore, with an account of predation on a forest snail (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Conocephalinae: Agraeciini). Nature in Singapore, 4: 85–90. [PDF, 1.25 MB]

By raising larvae of mystery dragonflies, the authors were able to come up with better ways to distinguish the species and learn more about the distribution of Microgomphus chelifer.
Read more in: Ngiam, R. W. J., S. W. Sun & J. Y. Sek, 2011. An update on Heliogomphus cf. retroflexus Ris, 1912 with notes on Microgomphus chelifer Selys, 1858 in Singapore (Odonata: Anisoptera: Gomphidae). Nature in Singapore, 4: 95–99. [PDF, 715 KB]

What does this beautiful caterpillar turn in to? The authors share with lots of photos and descriptions.
Read more in: Leong, T. M. & V. D’Rozario, 2011. Final instar caterpillars and metamorphosis of Acherontia lachesis (Fabricius, 1798) IN Singapore (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae: Sphinginae: Acherontiini). Nature in Singapore, 4: 101–114. [PDF, 3.10 MB]

Read more on Nature in Singapore on the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research website.

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