09 August 2012

Singapore Species

It's National Day, and over the past week, the NParks Facebook page has been sharing photos of various animals and plants named after Singapore!

To celebrate National Day, we'll be sharing one species a day until 9 August that was named after or first described from Singapore. At the end of the series, you'll be surprised to find out about all the interesting flora and fauna that share our home.

For today, let's take a look at the Singapore Kopsia (Kopsia singapurensis)! This is a small tree that grows naturally in the freshwater swamp forest. We bet you didn't know that it can only be found in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia! Its white flower has a red heart, displaying the colours reminiscent of the Singapore flag. Pretty cool, huh?

Could you tell that the Bulbophyllum singaporeanum is an orchid? It sure doesn't look like one of your typical orchids, right? This plant is easily recognised by its long, dark green leaves (about 30cm) and its beautiful pale purplish green flowers. Henry Nicholas Ridley, the first director of Singapore Botanic Gardens, described this species in 1896, but it was renamed in 1911 by Friedrich Richard Rudolf Schlechter as Bulbophyllum singaporeanum, in honour of the country where it was first discovered.

Many of us might be disgusted by this close-up photo of the Syndyas singaporensis, but did you know that this species of the long-legged fly was one of the 150 new species that Dr. Patrick Grootaert, a Belgian entomologist, discovered during his one-year stint to study mangrove insects?

His discoveries prove that mangroves in Singapore still harbour a wide variety of insects, many of which remain undescribed and new to science. It's amazing how much there is to discover in our island home. :-D

You've heard of 'Mao Shan Wang' durian, 'XO' durian, and durians with the D-prefix, but have you ever seen the Singapore Durian (Durio singaporensis)? It is a large forest tree that grows up to 40m in height. Found only in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia, it is closely related to the tree of the well-loved commercial durian fruit. Unfortunately, the seeds of the Singapore Durian do not have much flesh and the fruits are also much smaller - only 10cm in size!

This tiny shrimp, AKA the Temasek Shrimp (Caridina temasek), is found only in the streams of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Possessing pincers that allow it to filter minute organisms found in the stream systems, it was described from Singapore in 1991. Subsequently, this shrimp has since been found in Peninsular Malaysia.

Mmm... Tempura for lunch, anyone? :-P

The Singapore population of this green tree snail has been recently described as a new subspecies, Amphidromus atricallosus temasek or Jade Tree Snail. Little is known about this tree-dwelling snail, but the main part of its diet is likely to consist of fungi or lichen growing on trees. The Jade Tree Snail is only found in older and less disturbed forests like those in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and at Mandai.

The Singapore Vinegar Crab (Episesarma singaporense) was originally described from Singapore by Michael Tweedie. The Teochews used to pickle them in vinegar and salt, and eat them with congee. Yummy...

Also commonly known as the Tree-climbing Crab, the crab has been observed to climb trees to a height of more than six metres above water level.

The Singapore Fourline Blue (Nacaduba pavana singapura) is a fairly rare butterfly found mainly on the landward edge of mangrove swamps. The best place to spot this pretty butterfly is at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, where its caterpillar host plant is found. The butterfly has a wingspan of about 30mm.

This energetic and sometimes noisy squirrel is native to Singapore. The Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus singapurensis) is commonly seen in our forests, parks and even urban areas. It lives in trees and often leaps from branch to branch. Its chirping calls are often mistaken for those emitted by birds.

We've come to our last NDay fun fact, which means NDay is finally here!!! Yippee~ (^_^)

These are just a few of the species named after Singapore; there are others like the Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis), the daisy sponge (Coelocarteria singaporensis), the orchid known as the Singapore Dendrobium (Dendrobium singaporense), and a parasitic fungus on plants (Dimerium singaporense) too!

Happy National Day everyone!

(Photos courtesy of the NParks Facebook page and the contributing photographers)

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