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

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