Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Feeding time at Hantu

What's ugly, sneaky, and has a BIG mouth?

Eh... sorry, I'm not refering to that ugly neighbour of yours who sneaked around, eavesdropping on others, and broadcast rumours to the entire neighbourhood.

I'm talking about something that is much cuter...

Ugly but adorable...


A frogfish.

We had the pleasure of encountering a frogfish at Pulau Hantu last Sunday. The last time we saw one here was about a year ago. Probably a bit hard for you to figure out how it looked like from the photo above since it was so good at camouflaging, so here's a photo of another frogfish I took last year. But then again, for all you know, it may be the same one...


So what's so cute and unusual about the frogfish? First of all, it has a lure growing on top of its head, which it wriggles about to lure its prey, which are usually other fishes.

Secondly, it has limb-like pectoral fins with an elbow-like joint, which allows it to sneak around slowly without its prey noticing it.

Thirdly, it has a BIG mouth. It usually swallows its prey in one gulp in a split second. So in fact, not only is its mouth BIG, it's fast too.

An encounter with a frogfish is never complete without witnessing its BIG mouth in action, and of course, capturing that on video. So bascially, it's feeding time!!!

But... that proved to be quite a challenge.

We had some problem catching the correct fishes, as a frogfish usually doesn't feed on bottom dwellers like gobies, since its eyes are nearer to the top of its head, and it can't exactly see the bottom dwelling fishes most of the time.

And when we finally caught the right fishes...

The first fish was swallowed before the tape started running.

The second fish was swallowed before I could move my hands out of the shot after dropping the fish near the frogfish.

Tide was rising, and eventually we decided to move the frogfish to another spot to avoid the murky water from the rising tide.

And finally, we managed to get a good shot for the third and fourth fish.

Indeed, we had a great trip last Sunday.

Did not have the time to explore the lagoon and coral reef much, as I had to help with Wildfilms, so also did not really take many photos. However, still managed to grab a few nice shots of the usual suspects :)

Common sea star, starfish, Archaster typicus

A pair of common sea stars (Archaster typicus) indulging in R(A) activities. The male, which is usually smaller, gets on top of the female. Their reproductive organs do not actually meet, and they just release sperm and eggs at the same time. This behaviour is believed to increase the chances of external fertilisation.

Striped hermit crab, Clibanarius infraspinatus

An orange striped hermit crab (Clibanarius sp.), lazily hanging out of its shell. Hermit crabs are not true crabs actually. A true crab has a hard, shortened abdomen which it folds under its hard shell for protection. A hermit crab, on the other hand, has a soft, long abdomen. This is why they have to live in empty shells for protection.

Gong gong conch, Laevistrombus canarium

A gong-gong (Strombus canarium) peeping out of its shell. What cute little eyes they have! Gong-gongs, like other conches, have long and narrow operculums (or trap door) which they use to push and hop around, like little pole-vaulters.

Elbow crab, Family Parthenopidae

An elbow crab (Family Parthenopidae) which looked so much like the surrounding sand and mud that I almost missed it.


Heading towards the mouth of the lagoon, we also saw lots of hard corals and soft corals. The hard coral on the left is probably a favid coral, while the one on the right is an omelette leathery soft coral (Sacrophyton sp.). These corals are colonial animals, and the two colonies you see above may have hundreds or even thousands of little coral animals (aka polyps) living in them.

Gigantic carpet anemone, Stichodactyla gigantea

There were a number of these gigantic carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) at Hantu. The one above had a shy false clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) which refused to come out. I only saw its tail for a moment. Related to the corals and jellyfish, anemones have stinging cells which they use to sting fishes and other animals which happened to get too close to it. And while it looks like the omelette leathery soft coral, it is actually a single animal, not a colony.

Barrel sponges, Xestospongia sp.

There were several barrel sponges (Xestospongia sp.) at Hantu too. Sponges are simple animals which practises filter feeding. They have many tiny holes to suck in the sea water. Any microscopic edible particles in the water, dead or alive, will be captured and eaten. The water will then be pushed out of bigger holes along with any wastes. It's somewhat like a filter system, whereby only the edible things are kept.

And on the way back to the shelter from the lagoon, we found this snake slithering among the grass.

House snake, Lycodon capucinus

I always keep my torch on and my eyes carefully scanning the surrounding when I had to walk on the grass around these islands in the dark. I've seen giant centipedes, huge millipedes, and of course, land hermit crabs. But this was the first time I saw a snake.

Not sure what snake this is though. Perhaps anybody reading this who is familiar with snakes can help to ID?




From the BP/Science Center book, A Guide to The Amphibians & Reptiles of Singapore, the snake looks like a House snake(Lycodeon aulicus).


Opps! Should be Lycodon aulicus.


Opps! sorry again, should be lycodon capucinus. There's a revised section in the book. :P

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Hahaha... Thanks! :)

Siyang said...

Wow snake! Always some thing new, thats whats so fun abt it =D Now I know gonggong are conches too. Can they leap with their operculum also?

Siyang said...

Er, forget my earlier question. Obviously I didnt pay attention to ur entry, u already mention it does leap ;p

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...


Helen said...

Hello Ron, I asked my friend who is very good in snake and yeap it is a House Wolf Snake! Common in buildings and love to
snack on geckos.

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Hmmm... there r not many buildings on Pulau Hantu though... Unless u include the shelter or... the toilet???