By Tanvi Dutta Gupta
Today we present another listicle, this time shining light on MacRitchie’s most beautiful organisms. It’s a diverse bunch – ranging from snakes to butterflies to birds to spiders – and represents the wide range of stunning biodiversity MacRitchie harbors. Most of the species are seen regularly on our walks, too!
Without further ado, and in no particular order, 10 of MacRitchie’s most beautiful organisms.
Malayan Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgata)
Yes, a snake. Indeed, most of MacRitchie’s brightest colors are of the scaly kind – though such variegated hues aren’t often the sole result of wanting to attract mates. The reason of this herp – the Malayan Coral – is easily explained by its other name: the Hundred-Paces Snake. It’s so called because if it bites you, you have one hundred paces before you die. Bright warning colourations are often nature’s way of telling other creatures to stay away.
Don’t let such venom scare you, though – if you manage to spot this elusive reptile, you will be lucky. Their first reaction, upon seeing humans, is to flee. Unless you threaten them by, for instance, stepping on them, they’re not going to bite you. And if they don’t flee, they instead hide their head in a coil of their body, which is not only the reaction of a little baby (and come on, you can’t deny they’re cute) but also one more reason not to scream. And on top of that, while they’re not nocturnal, they’re not usually seen as the day wears on and becomes hotter. You’re most likely to encounter them basking in the mornings across the path, and even then rarely.
Twin-barred Tree Snake (Chrysopelea pelias)
Colors aside, twin-barred tree snakes possess the added advantage for inclusion on this list of being able to fly.
Ok, so not fly as such – but they can flatten their body and glide from tree to tree, which would be enough for any superhero movie, I would think. But unlike their similarly gliding relative, the Paradise Tree Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi), their habitat is restricted to mature rainforest. Without the home provided by MacRitchie, their population in Singapore has the potential to fall rapidly.
Common Flashwing (Vestalis amethystina)
Common Flashwings are the epitome of not judging animals by their initial appearance. Their wings appear transparent in most lighting – but when the sun lands right, they turn a glistening iridescent bluish-purple.
They’re a common resident of clear forest streams, and the male and female are not as overtly different as other species of damselfly. Unusually large for most damselflies, they’re a distinctive species, and regularly seen on walks!
Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting)
Singapore has four species of resident kingfishers (with a further thre
e dropping by during the migratory season), and this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful – and, therefore, hardest to find.
They nest around forest streams, and indeed a station during our walk is the abandoned nesting holes of these kingfishers! Males and females take turns literally digging out the earth from stream banks with their bills, all in preparation for eventually laying their eggs, though nesting is fraught with difficulties – snakes, rain, human disturbance, and the like.
Their population in Singapore, however, is small. The streams in MacRitchie Forest provide valuable habitat for this endangered species.
Five-bar Swordtail (Pathysa antiphates itamputi)
This stunning butterfly is another denizen of our nature reserve, its long, sword-like tail distinctive when puddling.
Veiled stinkhorn (Dictyophora sp.)
Don’t let the name of this fungus throw you off: basket stinkhorns are one of the most beautiful mushrooms you can come across in our rainforests. Their delicate, almost bridal veils, which come in a variety of colors (ranging from orange to pink) make them a coveted find. They grow for only a half-day at a time before falling apart, providing a handy meal for butterflies and other feeders.
Their major drawback is that, quite frankly, they stink (expected, given the name.) Still, if you can hold your nose for long enough, it’s easy enough to understand their place on this list.
St. Andrew’s Cross Spider (Argiope sp.)
The St. Andrew’s Cross Spider is a common forest species, so named because its eight legs aren’t spread out but rather held together in pairs. Its beauty, however, extends beyond its body into its webs – it constructs elaborate lines of bluish-white silk to make it appears bigger, creating a lovely tapestry. It’s practically a seamstress.
The reasons for those lines are debated; some theorize they break up the web, making them more confusing – and therefore less visible – to predators. Others hold the decorations reflect UV light, attracting insects at night. Still other say they are a warning to birds to not attack, because the sticky web will take ages to wash off. Regardless, they add an abstract quality to the beauty of the forest.
Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)
Emerald Doves are a ground species, seen usually rushing across a forest path – good looks at them are few and far between, despite being fairly common. Their brilliant color makes them a memorable find, regardless of the length of the sighting.
They’re solitary creatures, maintaining loose territories without any outright dominance displays. They rely on fallen fruit and seeds, mainly, though their destruction of the seeds following eating makes them one of the few forest species not playing a major role in seed dispersal.
However, their popularity as pets (because of their beautiful color and soothing call) could pose potential problems for them in the future.
9. Mycena illuminans
Glowing. Mushrooms. Seriously, fungi shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to the quest for the most beautiful creatures in MacRitchie. While not as overtly colorful as some butterflies or snakes, their understated grace earns species like this a definite place on the list.
Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)
Leopard cats are the closest species in Singapore left, looks-wise, to big cats, like the tigers that once roamed the island. And while your chances of seeing these elusive and nocturnal creatures are, quite frankly, abysmal, to not include them would be to exclude one of the most stunning animals in MacRitchie. They were considered extinct in Singapore until a fishing bycatch in Pulau Ubin proved their continued existence. They are a symbol of hope for the wild treasures reserves like MacRitchie could still continue to harbor.
What do you think is the most beautiful organism in MacRitchie? Which of these have you seen? Comment and let us know!
Sign the petition to protect MacRitchie Forest and its beautiful inhabitants from the Cross Island MRT Line – http://tinyurl.com/lta-crl