Friday, February 20, 2015

Celebrating the year of the sheep at Cyrene Reef

It's the first day of the Lunar New Year and this year is the year of the sheep. It is also another round of intertidal exploring around Singapore.

Before I share about my evening journey on this first day, "Shaun the Sheep", a Costasiella sp. slug from Cyrene Reef would like to wish all readers a Happy Lunar New Year.
Costasiella sp. slug
Cyrene Reef is a submerged reef locating in the middle of an industrial triangle in the south of Singapore. The industrial triangle consists of, in clockwise order, Pasir Panjang Port, Bukom Island and Jurong Island.

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Despite being located in the industrial triangle, Cyrene Reef has plenty of interesting marine animals to see.

I have been to Cyrene many times but each time I visit Cyrene, I tend to go to the same spot to look around. This time, I decided to check out the southwestern part of Cyrene, where we often sight the black-tipped reef sharks, in hoping to see one. All the way to the southwestern most tip of Cyrene, I did not encounter any sharks but two blue-spotted fantail rays scurried away from me while I was walking. Many times, we get frightened by marine animals that sting or bite, but in today's trip I was frightened by a pair of seagrass filefish.

One of the few filefish I encountered. This filefish is not afraid of me.
The sandbar at Cyrene is rapidly changing. Once a little hill of Cyrene, it has now become rather flat. On the sandbar, there are many star imprints on the sand. These are not marks made by fallen cosmic stars but done by marine stars - the common sea stars (Archaster typicus). 
Common sea star
Nearby, in a shallow pool of water, I found a juvenile common sea star. It is so cute.
Juvenile common sea star
Ria showed me the orange-mouth olive snail (Oliva miniacea), which is only seen on Cyrene, and I witness how fast this burrowing snail is.
Orange-mouth olive snail, overview
Orange-mouth olive snail, underside
Olive snail starting to burrow
Spire of olive snail
Siphonal angle of olive snail, you can see its eyes and siphon
Burrowing olive snail with it's siphon out
Continuing my southwest walk, I came across different types of hard and soft coral colonies. I am not very good with corals identification so I will try my best.
Turbinaria sp. 1
Unknown 1
Unknown 2
Favid coral 1
Turbinaria sp. 2
Brain coral?
Cauliflower corals, Pocillopora sp.
Leathery soft coral, Sacrophyton sp.
There was also a colony of the leathery sea fan. They look like some art sculpture in the sea, supporting by wires.
Leathery sea fan
Long stem with visible polyps
Central wire-like structure
Along the way, I came across one polka-dot nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) and two ornate leaf slug (Elysia ornata).
Polka-dot nudibranch
Ornate leaf slug
There were a few red egg crabs (Atergatis integerrimus) but many of them are very shy.
Faded red egg crab
Looks like the usual hangout place is much more exciting than this coral area. This is where the knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) like to hangout.
Knobbly sea star
Another knobbly. This looks like it is doing star jumps
While walking, I saw a rubble flinched. It was a spider conch (Lambis lambis). This poor conch has its shell covered with Hairy green seaweed (Bryopsis sp.).
Spider conch with bryopsis seaweed
Spider conch, underside
Spider conch eyes
The most fun marine animal I saw today has to be the strawberry slug (Costasiella sp.).
For a scale, this is how small the slug is, it is on a broken sand dollar skeleton.
Strawberry slug
Close up of the slug
Top view
To increase the challenge, I saw a skeleton shrimp among the bryopsis seaweed.
Skeleton shrimp
Ria alerted me to a large slug, the Forskal's sidegill slug (Pleurobranchus forskalii). The slug comes is a variety of dark colours and pretty patterns, but the one I saw was almost black that I could not find any pattern.
Forskal's sidegill slug
Another great find by the team was 4 juvenile pentaceraster sea star (Pentaceraster mammillatus), out of which, I saw two of them. One of them had a red madreporite. It reminds me of the SG50 logo. Alas, none of us saw the adult pentaceraster sea star. It is good to know that there will be future generations at Cyrene. 
Pentaceraster sea star 1
Close up of the underside
Pentaceraster sea star 2
Red madreporite
Today was the first time I actually saw the blue dragon nudibranch (Pteraeolidia ianthina) in the intertidal region.
Blue dragon nudibranch
Blue dragon nudibranch
Before we ended the trip, Chay Hoon showed me an interesting two tailed slug. 
Two tailed slug
Two tailed slug, it wants to burrow
Jianlin picked up a box crab.
Box crab, front view
It was a great evening with my shore friends out at Cyrene Reef on the first day of Lunar New Year.

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