Monday, August 20, 2012

Big Sisters' Island - Seahorse Mission: Completed

It was a great morning trip to Big Sisters' Island (Pulau Subar Laut) on the second day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. To make the trip even better, we had a special guest joining us in today's trip - Prof. Paul Erftemeijer.

The mission for today's trip was to look out for seahorses, and we succeeded! Ria found two tiger-tailed seahorses (Hippocampus comes).
Tiger-tailed seahorse

I was so excited about it. Now I have one item less on my wish list. The two seahorses are very shy as they keep looking downwards. It was difficult for us to get a good photo of these two lovely fish (seahorses are fish). This was the best image I got.
The other seahorse
There were a few pretty fish I saw on shore today, some of which I managed to get the best image during this trip.
Head-stripe goby (Amblygobius stethophthalmus)
Broad-nose halfbeak (Family Hemiramphidae)
Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus)
Juvenile threespot damselfish (Pomacentrus tripunctatus)
On the high shore nearby the head-stripe goby a fan worm opens up in a pretty manner.
Fan worm
I happened to chance upon this hairy crab (Family Pilumnidae) holding onto a variegated creeper snail (Family Cerithiidae)
Hairy crab holding a variegatd creper snail
From the image, the operculum of the snail is gone. It could be that the crab had ripped it off or it was just holding onto an empty shell. Unfortunately, the crab let go of the snail after this only image I took. Hence I could not observe it for a longer time.

As usual, the shore is full of the smooth snapping shrimp (Alpheus sp.) and I could hear them snapping every now and then.
Smooth snapping shrimp
There is a vast variety of corals on the shore but I only managed to take photos of a few. It was my first time seeing a mushroom hard coral.
The smooth branched montipora coral (Acropora sp.) looks quite pale.
Closeup of circular mushroom hard coral (Fungia sp.)
I am not very sure but the following images looks like the merten's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii)? Based on the description on the tentacles the images fit the features of the merten's carpet anemone best. Do inform me if it is incorrect identification.
Tentacles with body column
Very long, thin and smooth tentacles 
Another large anemone I saw will be the giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea).
Body column of giant carpet anemone
Closeup of the tentacles
The whole trip, I encountered four octopus. They never fail to escape my eyes not matter how well they blend in with the environment. The first octopus I saw was showing me a dark red colouration on its body. I also captured a video of the an octopus trying to reach out to another octopus.

I'm not sure of what snail this is but my guess is a spider conch (Lambis lambis) based on its spikes on the shell. Unfortunately, my lens was too close for the shell to have a full image of the whole shell for better identification.
The conch shell has be empty for a long time from the look on the shell.
Throughout the trip, I only saw one nudibranch and 2 flatworms. One of the flatworm would have been missed if not for closer observation as it was only the length of my pinky fingernail. It was really small.
Pinky fingernail size blue-lined flatworm (Pseudoceros sp.)
Starry flatworm (Pseudobiceros stellae)
Black phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella nigra)
Underside of black phyllid nudibranch
The greatest find of all by the team would be the file clam (Lima vulgaris). My photo did not turn out well because my flash batteries died and I had to resort to using my compact camera.
File clam
Well... this is the end of the morning shore trip and the shore team will be taking a long break till November. Kok Sheng shared more about the many feather stars he saw.

The comprehensive marine biodiversity survey expedition begins in October and I hope to blog about my part in this expedition. Look forward to seeing the various specimens being collected.

Posts by others on this trip:
Ria - Mission seahorse at Sisters Island
Kok Sheng - Feather star an coral garden at Big Sisters' Island

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Last trip to Cyrene reef for the year

It's the last trip to Cyrene reef for the year. We had great weather and sea conditions today.
Cyrene reef is a submerged reef located in an industrial triangle consisting of Pulau Bukom, Jurong Island and PSA Pasir Panjang Port.

The team had fun finding many exciting critters on Cyrene.

My first find will this this interesting small crab.
The crab is slightly bigger than the seagrass.

We usually do not take much notice of small crabs and always assuming that they are the same. However today I understood the importance of close examination. There are many tiny crabs moving around and many of them looked different and interesting. It takes a lot of patients to look at small things.

There were many types of shrimps on the reef as the tide receded. Some shrimps will burrow into the sand when disturbed or senses danger. Some shrimps, like the ornamented snapping shrimp (Alpheus sp.), have their own burrow to hide into. Some shrimps dart around in the water very quickly so that it could not seen the direction it disappeared to.
Sand burrowing shrimp
Ornamented snapping shrimp cleaning its entrance
This snapping shrimp is a good friends with the fish
Another type of shrimp
There were plenty of synaptid sea cucumber and they come in different patterns and colours. In the dark, we could observe the sea cucumber feeding using its feeding tentacles.
Synaptid sea cucumber feeding
One of the feeding tentacles putting food in
Another synaptid sea cucumber of a pinkish colouration with white stripes
Another synaptid with tiger stripes
Nearby the first synaptid sea cucumber that I spotted, there was a sponge filled with many tiny brittle star and a lonely fan worm was nearby. The brittle stars are probably the tiny in-a-sponge brittle star (Ophiactis savigny).
Tiny in-a-sponge brittle star
Fan worm
Not too long later, there a small yellow-banded damselfish (Dischistodus fasciatus) swimming by and also a pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.) was seen on the water surface.
Yellow-banded damselfish
Pygmy squid
There were also plenty of flatworms seen on the reef. The spotted black flatworm (Acanthozoon sp.) and starry flatworm (Pseudobiceros stellae) were all over the place.
Spotted black flatworm
Spotted black flatworm (underside)
Starry flatworm
Strangely I found an isopod each on the underside of a knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) and a pentaceraster sea star (Pentaceraster mammilatus). I am not sure why they were they. Perhaps they were just clinging on for hiding?
Isopod on the underside of a pentaceraster sea star
There were just too many things to find and see. I decided to neglect the knobbly and pentaceraster sea stars today. However I did took some details shot for a record.
Top view of the pentaceraster sea star
Underside surface of the pentaceraster
Tube feet of the pentaceraster
Side profile of pentaceraster
Top detail of a knobbly sea star
Surface details of knobbly
Kok Sheng managed to find a small cake sea star (Anthenea aspera). This sea star is not commonly found on Cyrene.
Top view of the cake sea star
Underside view of the cake sea star
The team found the sea grape slugs that I found yesterday at Lazarus Island. Better still, we found plenty of them here. I also saw 3 blue dragon nudibranch (Pteraeolidia ianthina) at a spot.
3 blue dragon nudibranch
Closer look at one of the blue dragon nudibranch
Sea grape slug, showing part of its body
Sea grape slug moving away
I did not take much notice on the snails. Some just happened to be within my line of sight. I saw a common whelk (Nassarius livescens) burrowing out of the sand probably looking for decaying matter, and a margined conch (Strombus marginatus robustus).
The whelk has just burrowed out of the sand
Underside of the whelk
Whelk with its siphon 
Underside of the margined conch
Close up on the conch. They have cute eyes!
Margined conch shell, top view
I saw this critter that might be the wiggly sand star anemone
Wiggly sand star anemone?
Not very sure about the actual identification but it retrached very quickly into the sand when it senses movement nearby. For a moment I was wonder where it had disappeared to after a blink of eye. With patient waiting the fellow was back up again. I quickly took a few shots of it and later confirmed that it retracts into the sand.

There was another unknown creature. My guess is some kind of peacock anemone.
Unknown animal
There are just simply too many to blog about. Majority of the team members stayed within a small working area for the duration of the trip as there were simply too many things to see. My plan of walking to the beacon failed as I stayed with them, looking for more stuff. Luckily, Ria took a visit to the beacon area and blogged about her sightings.

The next time I visit Cyrene would be next year and I would miss travelling on Alex's boat until November.

Tomorrow I will be visiting Big Sister's Island. Hope that I get to see seahorse.

Post by others on this trip:
Signapore Reef Watch on Facebook


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