Whistling Wonders

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I will never stop being excited about the Western Ghats.

There, even being woken up in the morning is a thrilling experience, because the bird doing the waking up is the Malabar Whistling Thrush, a bird you will see – or, more likely than not, hear – nowhere else in the world. The Ghats have a stunning sixteen species of endemic birds. For an area that’s not an island, it’s an impressive total; indeed, it shows the uniqueness of the habitats found in the Anamalais – the sholas, the rainforests, the swamps…

Let’s pull some organisms out of a hat and see what happens. Got a tree? There’s a one-in-two chance it’s endemic – betting odds, I would say. Even better, catch a frog? Two-in-three chance. Best yet, tiger beetle? Four-in-five odds. And that’s not even counting the species yet to be discovered. Just recently a species of frog was found that not only hadn’t been seen in a hundred years, but was also proven, after genetic analysis, to be an entirely new genus – as in, a member of a group of frogs entirely new to science.

Ahhhhhhh.

So, no, I will never be annoyed at the Malabar Whistling Thrus, even if it starts singing at 4 in the morning. (It often does.) It’s a symbol of the amazing biodiversity of the Western Ghats, of the enormous and barely-understood treasure contained in those hills’ valleys and peaks – and that, that is something I can never stop being excited about.

Crazy Tiny Insects: Crazy Curious (Tiny) Spider

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I still haven’t identified this spider, spotted at Pasir Ris Boardwalk on a walk there with the Naked Hermit Crabs last weekend.

(Admittedly, I know zilch about arachnids.)

So, once again, I’m going to talk about something that’s not really related to this cute critter at all: namely, Singapore’s endemic animals. For such a tiny island, we do have some animals that are only found here, and that’s actually not surprising given Singapore’s location in the Sundaland biodiversity hotspot. These include a few plants (most of which have gone extinct– surprise, surprise), a dance fly, a creeping water bug, an endemic subspecies of Banded Leaf Monkey, Lesser Mouse Deer, Plantain Squirrel, and a Cream-colored Giant Squirrel to call our own– oh, wait, that’s most likely extinct as well. Sorry!

And spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. But as a whole, so much of Singapore’s endemic wildlife is confined to our mangroves. Given that from almost the entire coast of the island covered in mangrove all original mangrove left (sorry, Paisr Ris!) is the tiny section at Sungei Buloh, that’s pretty astounding. The number of species entirely new to science discovered there is jaw-dropping. Glass gobies, our endemic almost-transparent now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t fish, a bizarre mangrove dwelling sea slug, the Mangrove St Andrew’s Cross Spider, the Mangrove Big-jawed Spider– those are only a few.

While this spider may not be endemic, or even moderately rare, it serves as a reminder of Singapore’s diversity, even in the harshest of conditions.