Today’s fieldtrip with some ex-students and their friend who are now doing their undergraduate studies in Biology reminded me how much one can discover in our forests and also the fact that my peers and I are ushering a new generation of biologists. What better way to do this than to have a walk in the forest and chat. It was an easy-going field trip and with no students to really look after, the company of these junior biologists was a real privilege as I brought them to a part of the forest I had often frequented as an undergrad with my peers as well. We started off with a breakfast of prata of course. I heard them chatter along as we made our way through the trails and they uttered terms they had learnt in the past few years (such as “tropical niche conservatism”) and also heard them speak of their professors in university and the field trips they had done themselves.
In the forest, things appear when you are not looking for it. I have heard of people doing theses on animals or plants that everyone else had seen except themselves.
Boyi and June Eng spotted a Colugo. It looks like a mouse-deer doesn’t it? Except that it glides in the air. The fella saw us and decided to glide away. Luckily we had those 300 mm lenses so the shot of it looks pretty decent. Seeing a Colugo fly “Attenboroughrised” the moment and such is the charisma of this mammal as it swooped heavily yet silently with the strange patagium stretched out against the light of the sun on a misty (ok, hazy) morning… It is a cute animal and I am glad it lives in the canopy and shies away from humans, who seem to find it hard to share their living spaces with other animals.
Home to the peat swamp is this interesting rattan below called Daemonorops sabut. (I am sure it is D. sabut but the leaflets I observed seem to differ from descriptions). The spines which are arranged in whorls interlock and form galleries in which ants can be found to live in. A strange adaptation indeed.
The flowers below belong to Thottea grandiflora. It’s got a large (about a good-sized pear) cinderalla skirt for its flowers, fit for a forest fairy. Extracts from the roots of this smallish shrub are used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes and most recently tested on mice.
Stamens and style underneath.
The bat lily (Tacca integrifolia) is not uncommon but is glorious when it flowers. Very attractively gothic. It must be attracting something important if it goes to such lengths to look so dramatic! The pollination syndrome is something scientists find hard to answer as well. See the paper about the genus and why they look the way they do. Answer is not straightforward!
And the beetle below looks like a dung beetle. Yes, we do have dung beetles in Singapore.
And then there is the giant rattan, Plectocomia elongata which is one of the biggest rattan species in the world.
Finally curiosities wouldn’t be so without the curious, and I have these 3 companions (Boyi, June Eng and Charlotte) to thank for a day of discoveries.