Sunday, July 26, 2009

Project Semakau July Survey

It had been raining for the past few days, and I was really worried that it might rained again during the July Project Semakau survey.

Fortunately, we had a bright and sunny start, and the weather stayed good for the rest of the survey :)

We found quite a number of interesting organisms again during this survey, and here are some of the things I saw while running around doing the coordination work.

I found this pipefish stranded on dry sand, and quickly put it back into a tidal pool. Pipefishes are closely related to seahorses, being from the same family, Syngnathidae. The family name means "fused jaws" in Greek, and this trait is something which the all members of this family have in common.

Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes)
Both seahorses and pipefishes are also rather special that the males are the ones getting pregnant! The Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes) above that we found during the survey is a pregnant male. Female seahorses lay their eggs into the males' brood pouches, and the little seahorses will eventually hatch in the pouches.

Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
We saw lots of Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus) during the survey, and they come in various colours, ranging from whitish ones like the one above, to pink, orange, red, brown and even black ones!

Dead sea star
I was rather shocked to find this dead sea star on the sand. What has happened to it? Was it half eaten by a predator? Or was it trapped in some tidal pool full of fresh water from the rain and died from the stress? Hmm...

Malayan Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
Fortunately, we had a pleasant surprise too, when we saw this huge Malayan Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) right at the edge of the reef crest, about 500m away from the secondary forest!

Curryfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus hermanni)
Another nice sighting was this Curryfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus hermanni), which was rarely sighted on Semakau. Update: After examining the various photos closely, we decided that this is probably Holothuria scabra var . versicolor instead. Apologies for the error.

Curryfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus hermanni)
Here's a close-up of the skin.

Chromodoris lineolata
The Chromodoris lineolata nudibranch was still in season, and we saw several of them. This pretty sea slug feeds on sponges. The one above was somewhat upside-down with its mouth (the whitish circle on the left with two orange structures by the sides) facing upwards.

Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.)
There were quite a few Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.). This is how it usually looks like, with the tentacles facing upwards. This jellyfish has symbiotic algae which can make food from the sun and pass on some of the nutrition to the former. The algae apparently photosynthesizes better with the jellyfish being upside-down.

Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.)
Here's how it looks like with the bell on top.

Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria)
Towards the reef edge, I also found this huge Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria) which was about 50cm wide. I usually see such huge ones when I go diving.

Striped Eeltail Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)
Towards the end of the trip when we were heading back to the main road, we saw a huge school of Striped Eeltail Catfish (Plotosus lineatus) forming various interesting formations and shapes as they swam around.

Striped Eeltail Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)
With some imagination, this looks like a soaring eagle :P

Striped Eeltail Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)
And this looks like the head of a small deer :P

We also found this conch during the survey. Not sure which species it is. Guess we will have to wait for our mollusc experts to take a look at it.

Glad that once again, we had a successful survey :)


The Beachcomber said...

Nice blog! That shell in the end is a juvenile spider conch ( Lambis lambis ). Thank you for sharing your finds!

yk said...

the fish formation is really beautiful, pity i missed out on that!