Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chek Jawa on 27 Mar 2010

Today, I was back at Chek Jawa for a guided walk. It was a very hot day, but I was really glad that it did not rain like the past few days.

With me was a really huge group, most of them from Schering Plough! And they knew one of our very own RMBR volunteer, Helen, who's also from Schering Plough. Schering Plough has a complex at Tuas, and right next to the complex was a really nice intertidal area with lots of marine life! We have been rather fortunate that Schering Plough had been giving us access to the intertidal area at Tuas.

Back to Chek Jawa, it was a really hot and sunny day, and the shore area felt rather quiet. Guess many of the animals are probably hiding from the heat. We still managed to see a number of interesting animals, though I did not managed to take many photos as this was a really big group, and guess I was too busy managing the group and forgot to take photos most of the time :P

One of the few photos I took was of this bronzeback snake (Dendrelaphis sp.). This was probably the most cooperative bronzeback I have seen so far. It was just slowly slithering around, and we could take all the photos we want! Not really sure exactly which species this was though.

At the intertidal area, we saw quite a number of marine life too, despite the heat. Here's an orange striped hermit crab (Clibanarius infraspinatus). Despite the name, hermit crabs are not true crabs. They have a rather soft abdomen, and need to hide it in a dead snail's shell for protection.

There were a sand star (Astropecten sp. on the left) and a sand-sifting sea star (Archaster typicus) too. It is interesting to note that sea stars are actually brainless. Yet, they can move around, eat, shit etc etc etc. It's just really interesting to see that some animals can be so different from us, but they can get along with their daily lives just as well! Quoting from a movie, just having a brain is really highly over-rated. You can survive well without one! In fact, studies on some temperate sea star species shown that some sea stars can live for hundreds of years! Like I always say, no brain, no worries! Haha.

There was also a little horseshoe crab. Horseshoe crabs are really ancient animals. They are often called living fossils as they existed for more than 400 million years ago, even before the dinosaurs! And one reason that they are so successful is their rather unique way of dealing with bacteria infection. When a horseshoe crab is infected with bacteria, its blood will clot around the invaders, becoming somewhat gel-like, trapping the bacteria inside to render them harmless. And it is also because of this special property that make horseshoe crab blood so important in the biomedical field. Many of the drugs we take for various illnesses are tested with horseshoe crab blood for contamination before they can be consumed. And our scientist at NUS have come up with a way to clone the compound in the blood that gives it this special property, and hence less horseshoe crabs need to be caught for blood extraction these days.

We also saw other things like sea anemones, sea cucumbers, various snails, clams etc, but I did not have photos of them.

Here another group shot just after we completed all the stations.

This was something that we saw after the walk - a scorpion! Alan found it just behind the visitor counter. This was also my first time seeing a scorpion on Ubin! Apparently, the NParks staff found another much bigger scorpion, the black one, sometime ago. Unfortunately, it was a road kill, and they have collected and preserve the dead animal. Really hope to see a live one one of these days.

Anyway, all in all, it was good to be back on Ubin. Despite the hot weather, hope that the visitors had enjoyed themselves! :)

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