19 January 2010

Double delight: Launch of two new Singapore nature guidebooks

Today is the long-awaited launch of two new guidebooks on sponges and mosses by the Science Centre Singapore.
We are treated to delightful talks by the authors. Dr. Benito C. Tan starts off by sharing the beauty of mosses and other tiny plants that we often overlook.

Indeed, they are gorgeous!
These ancient plants don't have flowers and disperse by spores instead of seeds. In mosses, the spores are held in a capsule on a stalk with a little cap.
Mosses have teeth! That can move to control the release of spores.
In contrast, liverworts (which are not mosses) don't have such teeth.
You can find out more about our liverworts and hornworts from Dr Tan's other guidebook.
Well, back to mosses, they come in all sizes from really tiny ones to those that Dr. Tan initially mistook for small pine seedlings! But these grow in the mountains.
Some look like miniature coconut trees!
Here's more of the many varieties Dr. Tan shared with us.
Dr. Tan has given them easy-to-remember common names! Who can forget the 'Dancing Lady Moss' after we see this photo?!
In nature, they are found in mysterious moss forests. And carpet river banks.
People plant mosses too. Such as in the famed moss gardens of Japan.
They can be used in terrarium planting, as well as in aquariums.
While sadly, some of Singapore's mosses are endangered,
Dr. Tan nevertheless has discovered species of mosses new to science in Singapore! We still have so much to discover in our wild places. Wow!
Then it was time to welcome Lim Swee Cheng as he shared about the sponges of Singapore.
Our sponges come in a bewildering variety of shapes and colours. Wow!
As always, the typical question Swee Cheng has to answer is "Can eat or not?". Chim Chee Kong's delightful drawings clearly show that most sponges are not good to eat. This is because many have glass skeletons which are not fun to chew on or even to touch. Swee Cheng himself is very careful about handling them.
Swee Cheng shares about some special Singapore sponges. The gorgeous Neptune's cup sponge is described from our shores!
This sponge can grow so large that one was used as a bathtub for a child!
Alas, this sponge may no longer be found in Singapore. There have been no reliable records from Singapore for more than 100 years. The last specimen seen is with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. This specimen is now on temporarily on display at the Science Centre Singapore.

Another sponge from Singapore is this one named after Singapore. This remains commonly seen on many of our shores.
In his survey of our Singapore sponges, Swee Cheng even discovered a sponge new to science! Its name means 'Sea comet with roots', so appropriate! In addition to this new species, Swee Cheng also found 40 new records of sponges in Singapore, raising the sponge list for Singapore to a grand total of 102! More about this find in the Straits Times article about Swee Cheng and his work on sponges in Singapore.
Since the guidebook was published, Swee Cheng has made even more discoveries. The sponge below now has a species name: Suberites diversicolor. It is quite commonly seen on many of our northern shores and comes in many different bright colours. Here's more about this discovery.
Wow! It sure makes me want to go right out to look at our sponges more closely! Here's a longer post I did earlier about Swee Cheng's delightful book.

In conjunction with the guidebook launch, a special display of mosses and sponges will be open to the public at the Science Centre Singapore, 19-31 January. Here's Swee Cheng sharing about the sponge specimens with the Guest of Honour.
A look at the dried sponges. The big one is the last Neptune's cup seen in Singapore waters.
There's also lovely tank displays: One full of marvellous colourful sponges.
Another of beautiful mosses.
So do drop by the Science Centre Singapore to have a look at the display.
You can also buy the guidebooks at the Science Centre Singapore's Curiosity Shop: at $5.35 (Mosses) and $6.42 (Sponges). These books should also be available at major bookshops, particularly Kinokuniya.

From the Science Centre Singapore website: "The SSC guidebook series was initiated in 1981 is in response to the paucity of educational material then on the local flora and fauna. Approximately 160 pages in length, these compact and rugged books contain a wealth of information well-illustrated by many colourful photographs and extremely handy in the field. They are intended for both science teachers, students and nature lovers. A total of 43 guidebooks have been published up to date."

Unfortunately, the link to the guidebooks on the Science Centre website doesn't seem to work.

Links to more

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ria, thank you for this account of the launch! : ) - swee cheng



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