Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sekudu with the Sea Anemone Team

Today, the Sea Anemone Team was out on our shores again seeking anemones! This time, our destination was Pulau Sekudu.

One of our main objective today was to find this little reddish brown anemones that look like zoanthids.

The team easily found quite a number of them at the coral rubble area, but collecting them turned out to be much less easy.

As the anemones were firmly attached to the rocks, the team had to do a lot of digging to get the rocks out, or try to break off the part of the rock that had the anemone attached.

Luckily, I had a much easier job removing the one below.

It was attached to a small piece of rock, and so I easily picked the entire piece of rock and gave it to Dr Daphne's assistant :P

There were other species of anemones around, but we didn't have to collect them because they were more well-studied or the team already had enough specimens.

There were a number of Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni), thought much, much fewer than those days before the freshwater floods in January.

Several swimming anemones (see above) were spotted among the seaweeds too. I remembered handling one of these anemones last year at Pulau Hantu, and it started dropping its tentacles, and I felt really guilty about it. Was reading the Wildfilms blog just now and understand that these swimming anemones can drop off their tentacles on purpose if they are scared. Luckily, each tentacle can eventually regenerate into a complete new swimming anemone! But note that this is some what uncommon among anemones, and in fact most anemones can't do this.

There were lots of pretty peacock anemones in the shallow waters, but as these were not true anemones (they were from a different order), the team did not collect any of them.

Alvin spotted this little nudibranch, and asked me to help hold the lights while he took a few shots.

It's an Atagema intecta, which feed on sponges. But while we were filming, I noticed another colourful blob on a nearby rock.

It's another nudibranch!

Had initially thought that it's a Hypselodoris kanga, which can also be found on our shores. However, after a check at Sea Slug Forum, I think it's most probably a Hypselodoris infucata instead.

The gills of the H. infucata are simple two dimensional leaf with a red line along the internal and external edge. H. kanga's gills are triangular in cross-section, which means there're three edges to each gill, one on the inside and two on the outside.

Apart from the wildlife that we spotted above, I also saw a few geographic seahares, lots of salmacis sea urchins, many swimming crabs (a few were even mating), thunder crabs etc.

But still, what I've seen today was hardly even a shadow of what we got to see at Pulau Sekudu before the flooding in January which destroyed much of the wildlife of our northern shores.

Things were certainly improving, and we were seeing signs of recovery here and there. But when will our northern shores return to their former glory? And what if we get another massive flooding again this December?

Dr Dan, who visited Chek Jawa in February this year, had told me during his visit that he's sure things will come back, but we must be prepared that not all of them will come back, and in fact, we may see new things showing up. That was because after the flooding, the habitats were changed.

So far we haven't seen any knobbly sea stars at both Chek Jawa and Pulau Sekudu after the flood. Will they come back? Or will some new things replace them?

Only time can tell, I guess. But I certainly miss those beautiful sea stars...

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