Thursday, June 18, 2015

Seagrassy surprise at Tanah Merah

Between Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (TMFT) and the National Service Resort & Country Club (NSRCC) Sea Sports Centre, there is a pretty much sheltered corner which is hardly explored. Many cyclists and joggers use the available park connector running along the East Coast Park and the Changi Coast Road canal to get from East Coast Park to Changi Village. However, none seemed to take notice of what this protected area has to offer in terms of marine biodiversity.

This morning, a small team, lead by Kok Sheng, explored this stretch of shore.One of the scariest task is to cross the wide canal with fast flowing water at low tide. I made a partial attempt and turned back, noting with regret much later that the other side of the canal seems more fun.
Upon reaching the sandy shore, we started exploring the the water edge while waiting for the tide to recede. We were quite excited to see seagrass patches but as the tide receded to its lowest for the morning, we realised how wide and diverse the seagrass area was. We recorded 5 different species of seagrasses: Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), Needle seagrass (Halodule univervis), Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium), Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) and a small Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides).
A small clump of Tape seagrass. Hope more will grow from it.
Thicker blade of the Needle seagrass
Noodle seagrass
Sickle seagrass
With a thick seagrass meadow, there are plenty of hidden gems hiding among the seagrass blades.
One of the most intriguing observation was the presence of numerous tiny sea cucumbers.
Tiny sea cucumber 1
Another tiny sea cucumber
More tiny sea cucumbers. Notice that they can be found inside such small marine trash bags found on the shore.
There were a few haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni), which I came across, and one of them had a of five-spot anemone shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) couple.
Haddon's carpet anemone, with a female five-spot anemone shrimp at the top right.
Female five-spot anemone shrimp
Similar to the seagrass patch next to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, this seagrass patch is full of the tiny dubious nerite snails (Clithon oualaniensis). These pretty tiny snails comes in various shell design and it is impossible to find two with the exact same design. They are hanging out in any possible locations on the shore.
On seaweed
On broken crab pincer
Hitchhiking on a hermit crab
Hiding among the seagrass blades also was a crab eating another crab.
Crab eating another crab
The greatest find on this trip would have to be this suspicious looking shell as I wade deeper in the rather murky waters. it turned out to be a Baler volute (Melo melo)!
Melo melo, sumberged
This is one of the rare times that I actually saw a live Baler volute. I'm really lucky today. Kok Sheng told me that this is possibly the first record of this snail along the East Coast, outside of Changi area. This snail is highly hunted for food by shore goers :(
Underside of the snail
Overview of the Baler volute
On a floating marker nearby, a crab without pincer clings onto the base tightly. It looks like a stone crab. The poor crab has some stalk barnacles attached to it's legs.
Crab without both pincers
Goose barnacle?
On the sandier high shore, I came across a common sea star (Archaster typicus).
Common sea star
Also critters like shrimp, small goby and a pebble crab.
Looks like a whip coral goby
Pebble crab
Lastly, how can I forget the numerous hermit crabs on this shore, some with interesting shells.
Hermit crab in a button snail shell
Hermit crab in a conical shell
Hermit crab in conical shell, underside
This orange-striped hermit crab has chosen to go against the norm and used a land snail shell as its home.
Till the next time I am back!
Posts by others:
Kok Sheng - FB and blog
Ria Tan - Seagrasses taking over sandy artificial shores

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Coral Garden of East Coast

Tucked in the far end of the recreational beach at East Coast Park, is a hidden garden. At one of the lowest spring tide of the year the corals quietly peered through the crushing waves along the row of rock bunds, probably placed for a particular reason or use, as the Sun gets ready to rise.
The slowly exposed plate coral against the choppy waves.
Next to a rock wall, boulders of favid corals began to expose themselves too.
Favid coral
However, the disk-shaped (Turbinaria sp.) and plate-like (Montipora sp.) corals appears to be more common along this area.
Other than the corals, which surprised both Kok Sheng and Ria when they first did this shore very recently, there were also patches of seagrass such as the Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) and the Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides).
Long blades of the Tape seagrass
Ria found small patches of the Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium), which are also long, further west of the shore, where Kok Sheng went to explore and found many lovely critters playing among the seagrass.
Image from Ria Tan
I wasn't play much attention to critters as I too focused on walking along the slippery rocks and quite a number of animals took advantage of the murky water to avoid being seen or photographed. I did stop at some points along the way and saw a few critters, including my first sighting of the saron shrimp and I saw at 4 them at one spot.
Saron shrimp
Another saron shrimp
I came across one red egg crab (Atergatis intergerrimus) and a few swimming crabs.
Red egg crab
Swimming crab, busy eating
There were quite a number of the large arabian cowrie (Mauritia arabica) on the rocky areas.
Arabian cowrie, overview
Arabian cowrie, underside
On the high shore, a horn-eyed ghost crab (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) thinks that I didn't see it. The "horns" on its eyes have just started growing so the "horn-eyed" is not very obvious. When disturbed, the ghost crab speeds off on the sand and buries itself quickly. They are stealth moving animals hence the term "ghost".
Half buried horn-eyes ghost crab
Horn-eyed ghost crab
It was a tiring first pre-dawn trip of the year for me with many rock balancing acts. More eastern coral explorations tomorrow morning. Kok Sheng has found more critters in his blog.


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