Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nemo, Fantail Rays and Giant Clam at Terumbu Bemban, CMBS

It's the second day of reef survey for the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) Southern Expedition. At 3am, bigger group of staff, scientists and volunteers gathered at the dinning area for breakfast. There are 3 teams heading out for reef survey this morning, all to different locations - Big Sisters' Island, Terumbu Bemban and Beting Bemban Besar.

It was important to sort the teams right before boarding the 2 boats by Summit Marine System. Terumbu Bemban and Beting Bemban Besar may just be next to each other, but efficiency in transporting the correct people to the correct location is crucial as we have limited time on the exposed submerged reef due to the low tide window.
Pre-departure briefing and boat sorting.
Image by Ivan Kwan
I covered Terumbu Bemban today with 9 other members. I did not take much photos as I was busy collecting animals or rather playing chase with some animals. However there were some animals that I could not resist not photographing.

One of the interesting animals was a hiding Anchor tuskfish (Choerodon anchorago). It has pretty coloured spots on its cheek.
Anchor tuskfish
On one of the Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) I saw about 5 False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) of various sizes. They were wiggling around at various spots on the Giant carpet anemone.
False clown anemonefish
Wriggling away
I did not notice a shrimp on the Giant carpet anemone until I processed the photos. I am not sure of the identification of this shrimp. Can you spot the shrimp?
Shrimp with Fals clown anemonefish
When working before sun rise in our submerged reefs, it is very important to know where you step. In ankle deep pools of water there may be Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma) resting around. The rays have venomous spines near the middle of their tails and is capable of piercing into our feet through the booties if we are not careful. However close encounter with these gentle creatures is possible.
Blue-spotted fantail ray
Close up on the body.
Fantail with visible spine at end third.
Here is a video of the Blue-spotted fantail ray moving in the shallow pool.

Today, we are treated with great sun rise over Pulau Semakau on Terumbu Bemban.
Sun rise
As we were about end the trip, Rene spotted a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) along the reef edge facing Beting Bemban Besar. A GPS reading of its location was taken. Giant clam is also another animal that makes me excited about.
Fluted giant clam.
I think I attempted to collect an octopus for at least 4 times before I finally succeeded. It was not easy as the octopus is very smart and escapes quickly.

That is all the reef survey I am doing. The rest of the reef survey sessions clashes with work commitment. However I will be back at base camp the coming weekend for more volunteering and fun.
Next Sunday is a day off at base camp and some of us are going to spent some time having fun around the place.

Read more about what the other group saw at Beting Bemban Besar on the Mega Marine Survey blog: Starry Day 7 at the Southern Expedition.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

First Predawn Reef Survey for CMBS at Terumbu Semakau

It has been 6 days since the Southern Expedition for the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) started. Yesterday was my first time stepping into the base camp for the expedition, meeting familiar and new faces. I am involved in CMBS as a volunteer since Dec 2010 as a regular volunteer. The Southern Expedition is the second expedition event I had participated in, with the first at the Northern Expedition held in October last year.
Prof Peter Ng takes special transport to base camp, a foldie.
Image from my twitter.
This morning at 3am, a group of volunteers and scientists gathered at the dinning area to get ready for the first predawn reef survey. With two boats from Summit Marine System, about 18 of us landed safely at Terumbu Semakau, a submerged reef just to the north of Pulau Semakau, Singapore's only landfill location.
Getting ready to board the boats.
Image from my twitter.
Armed with pails, many containers of various sizes, fishing nets, small brushes, tweezers and gloves, the experienced group of people quickly moved onto the reef in different directions and started working.

Right at the location where we left our personal floatation devices, a Burrowing snake-eel (Pisodonophis crancrivorous) showed itself, very curious at the human presence. I was not even ready with my big camera to take photo of it.
Burrowing snake-eel
In a nearby patch of Delicate feathery green seaweed (Caulerpa sertularioides), a sneaky crab takes a peak to check me out.
Crab hiding under dense Delicate feathery green seaweed
Very well camouflaged on the reef are these little shrimps, which I am not sure of its identity.
Shrimp with red markings.
This morning, Rene found two types of stinging anemones - Haeckel's anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli) and the Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.) These two anemones are able to deliver a nasty sting when touched.  We have to be very careful at what animals we are handling when out on the shore.
Haeckel's anemone with visible area near oral disk.
Haeckel's anemone, with tentacles and visible body column.
Haeckel's anemone, closeup of tentacles.
Fire anemone
One of the interesting findings would be this Leathery sea fan (Family Gorgoniidae) with a wire-like central support through the structure.
Leathery sea fan with polyps extended
Leathery sea fan with wire-like central support.
Seeing the False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) on the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) never fails to excite me. We usually refer the  False clown anemonefish as "Nemo", based on the Disney Pixar's movie 'Finding Nemo'.
False clown anemonefish on a Giant carpet anemone.
As we have already identified the False clown anemonefish, there was no need to collect the fish for research purpose. Dr Daphne Fautin has also reminded us not to collect these fish as they are equally important to the anemone as it the host to them. A false clown anemonefish lives on a specific anemone for life and is not able to survive if transferred to a different anemone host. So it is important not to collect any animals from their habitats for personal rearing.

As the sun rose from the city's skyline, the first reef survey ended as everyone waits patiently for the dinghy to pick us up in groups before heading back to base camp.
Back at base camp.
Image from my twitter.
I will be doing another reef survey tomorrow morning.

For more happenings on Day 6, check out the Mega Marine Survey blog: Sponge Explosion on Day 6 of the Southern Expedition.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Seahorses and Giant clam at Big Sisters Island

Another great day out in the field today as we explore Big Sisters' Island.
As soon as we started, Ria found a pair of Tiger-tail seahorse (Hippocampus comes).
Tiger-tail seahorse (Hippocampus comes)
They stayed very still for us to take turns to photograph them before moving somewhere else when the water level got too low. Here's a video of the seahorse during the outgoing tide.

A reef octopus came out to say "Hi" to me before scrambling into hiding. It is not easy to spot a reef octopus as they can blend into the surroundings very well. Most of the time, we spot the reef octopus when they are moving about.
Reef octopus

There were a few flatworms spotted seen, such as the Spotted black flatworm (Acanthozoon sp.) and the Blue-spotted flatworm (cf Pseudoceros indicus). Flatworms are very delicate marine animals and their body tears easily if mishandled. So it is best to just leave the flatworms alone.
Spotted black flatworm
Blue-spotted flatworm
The commonly seen phyllid nudibranchs in various colours and patterns were seen too. In this trip, I saw the Black phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella nigra) and the Pimply phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa).
Black phyllid nudibranch
Pimply phyllid nudibranch
The other sea slug seen would be the Black-margined nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata). There were a few spotted today.

At the only Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) that I saw, I could not find any wriggling signs of the False clown anemonefish's (Amphiprion ocellaris) presence but I did find the Five-spot anemone shrimps (Periclimines brevicarpalis).
Five-spot anemone shrimp on Giant carpet anemone
I find the Brain anchor coral (Euphyllia ancora) interesting. It is a hard coral with long polyp tentacles, each with a U-shaped tip. You will not be able to tell that this is a hard coral when the polyps are fullt extended. However at low tide, part of the coral is exposed and the polyps retract, exposing the branching corallites with deep valleys between corallites.
Brain anchor coral, with polyps extended.
Brain anchor coral, with corallites exposed and polyps retracted.
Other special finds included a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa), which Mei Lin was surprised as she said that the tracked Giant clam had already be relocated elsewhere. This new found Giant clam was quite some distance away from the tracking marker. I wonder how it got away unnoticed when we frequent this lagoon the most number of times in a year.
Fluted giant clam
Underwater view of the giant clam
Mei Lin spotted a cute tiny Spotted-tail frogfish (Lophiocharon trisignatus), or rather, the frogfish appeared to her. It was a very active frogfish and it took quite some time to settle down nicely on the sandy substrate for us to photograph.
Spotted-tail frogfish
Nearby the frogfish, there was a Spider conch (Lambis lambis) and I caught a video of it trying to flip itself around and moving away.
Closeup overview of the Spider conch, with its eye out.
Closeup underside view.

Oh no, this poor Smooth snapping shrimp (Alpheus sp.) has be decapitated. I wonder what happened to the shrimp?
Decapitated snapping shrimp
Today I had some time to venture along the seawall outside the lagoon and I found a Sally-light-foot crab (Grapsus albolineatus). It is my first time seeing this crab. The crab lays close to the surface and stays motionless. It is not easy to spot the crab as does blend in well into its surroundings.
Sally-light-foot crab
Towards the end of the trip, I managed to located one of the seahorse again. With the help of the sunlight and incoming tide, I took another video of the seahorse.

It was a great trip at Big Sisters despite having been here a few times. Every trip brings new surprises and excitements. Ending of the trip, the male long-tail macaques joined the team at the jetty, threatening to take our belongings.
Male lone-tail macaques
You can check out my YouTube channel for more other videos of Singapore's Biodiversity. I'm slowly building up the videos in my channel.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Giant Clam and Handsome Shrimp at Pulau Hantu

It was a great day at Pulau Hantu this morning. The team found about 5 giant clams growing on the outer reef patch!
Photo by Kok Sheng on his Facebook.
However I only see one giant clam with the help of Marcus.
Giant clam, with my size 8 booties as size reference.

It was great to find out from Mei Lin, who studies giant clams, that these giant clams settled naturally on our reefs and they look they are growing well. How exciting. Their shells looked rather white and clean when they are still young.
Overview of the giant clam.
Closeup of the clam.
Attaching well onto a surface.
What other interesting animals did I see today on the reef?

I saw a few Yellow-banded damselfish (Dischistodus fasciatus). Night time provided a good time for me to document fish as they are rather still.
Yellow-banded damselfish
I also had a very clam encounter with a Longspined scorpionfish (Paracentropogon longispinis). It was my first time encounter a real scorpionfish on the intertidal reef. However I had encounter a rather huge scorpionfish during my recent dive last month in the waters of Pulau Hantu.
Longspined scorpionfish
This suspicious blob with tiny bumps on the surface is actually the Alicia anemone (Alicia sp.) when contracted.
Alicia anemone
It looks like the Alicia anemone is in season lately with frequent sightings of it recently. In fact, I saw another larger Alicia anemone towards the end of the trip. Initially, I thought it was a nudibranch but on closer observation it turned out to be the Alicia anemone.
A slightly bigger Alicia anemone.
The Alicia anemone contains stinging cells and its sting can be rather powerful. So far, none of us had experience with the stinging cells of the Alicia anemone so we are not able to describe how painful it is.

The other anemone that delivers a powerful sting is the Haeckel's anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli). We also refer this anemone as the "Darth Vader anemone".
Haeckel's anemone
This cute octopus was waving at me when I approached it.
I only managed to take a shot of this Line chromodoris nudibranch (Chromodoris lineolata) on a sponge before it fell into a crevice and unable to be found. It was my only find for nudibranch but the rest of the team saw many other nudibranchs.
Chromodoris lineolata
A special find for this trip was this handsome looking burrowing red shrimp.
Red shrimp
The identity of the shrimp is unknown but it possibly be a Sicyonia sp.. I did not have good profile images of the shrimp as it was too active moving around in the container. Neither did I have it in situ, which I kind of regret it now. Here are some of the profiles of the shrimp I got.

On this trip, I only managed to spot one False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris). It was so shy that it only appear long enough for me to take two quick shots. Most of the time, I could only see the wriggling activity in the anemone.
False clown anemonefish
Another special find of the day is the young Cushion star (Culcita novaeguinea).
Cushion star.
Here's view of the Cushion star underwater.
Underwater view
As the team was checking out the shore, the sky brightens up behind the refinery island.
Dawn from Pulau Hantu
Pulau Hantu reef in the foreground of the refinery island.
Sunrise at Pulau Hantu.
It was a great trip. Though I saw little, they were very special finds.

Post by others on this trip
Ria - Nudis, Nemos and more at Pulau Hantu


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