Love MacRitchie Walk @ Venus Loop with Cicada Tree Eco-Place
Saturday 13 May 2017
Text by Teresa Teo Guttensohn
Photos by Zhang Xu Cheng and Teresa Teo Guttensohn (TTG)
“Secretive critters always spark my curiosity,” said Zhang Xu Cheng, one of the Love MacRitchie Walk participants, who came equipped with essential gear – tan hat, light tropical jungle wear, camera, and most important of all, passion for forest critters!
Looks like he’s not the only one whose interest has been piqued by our local wildlife from the relatively big (we first bumped into a Clouded Monitor Lizard foraging), to the not-so-big (a furry Colugo), to the small (forest birds), the smaller (lively freshwater fish), and the even smaller (amazing flatworms and insects)!
OK, so by now we were dying of curiosity, what animal was resting in that rolled up leaf? We all peeked in, saw something tiny burrowing itself further inwards, and Zhang gently took a few shots.
A leaf-rolling cricket! Never heard of that one! Now my curiosity was totally aroused. Besides the leaf-rolling or raspy cricket (Gryllacrididae), what other teeny animals live in rolled up leaves? What sort of and how many crickets do we have in Singapore? I know that crickets do chirp, adding to the beautiful, sonorous forest chorus that makes the rainforest such a delight.
I decided to check with Tan Ming Kai, a local entomologist with NUS who has discovered 35 species of crickets and katydids in Singapore new to science! Awesome work!
According to Tan, “there are as many as 17 species of raspy crickets of the family Gryllacrididae recorded in Singapore, but only nine species have been recorded in recent surveys (Tan, 2012), including seven from the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. It is likely the other eight species might be extremely rare or even locally extinct.”
Crickets, grasshoppers, and katydids belong to the order Orthoptera, and even in a small place like Singapore, there are amazingly approximately 250 species of orthopterans!
And yet, new species are waiting to be discovered each day. 27 species new to science had been described from Singapore since 2011. One could say that our nature reserves, though small, are indeed a precious minefield of undiscovered discoveries.
To quote Tan Ming Kai from an article he co-wrote with Robin Ngiam and Mirza Rifqi bin Ismail, which was published in Nature Watch (2012):
“The importance of an animal species does not rest entirely on its size and charisma. Despite being small and largely inconspicuous, orthopterans provide an important link in the ecosystem.”
Therefore “the conservation of nature areas and nature reserves must continue, in order to maintain the habitat of current populations. Without these conservation efforts, we may end up losing some species of orthopterans or other poorly studied organisms, even before discovering them.”
Special thanks to Tan Ming Kai for his expert input.
Tan MK, Ngiam R & Mirza Rifqi (2012) The Ground-dwelling Songsters of the Insect World. Nature Watch, Jan-Mar 2012: 9-13.
Tan MK (2012) Orthoptera in the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves (Part 2) Suborder Ensifera. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 70 pp.
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