Friday, January 01, 2010

Exploring Tanah Merah on New Year's Eve

It's New Year's Eve, and I was out on my own at Tanah Merah.

Burnt Murex (Chicoreus brunneus)
I started with the rocky area, and among the first animals I saw was this Burnt Murex (Chicoreus brunneus). This murex feeds on clams by secreting an acid to soften the shell before drilling a hole through it using a tongue-like structure called a radula.

Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum)
I found this Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum) near the sea wall. This sea urchin has venomous spines, which break easily upon contact. It feeds on algae.

Turban Snail (Turbo sp.)
Realised that I had not taken any photos of Turban Snails (Turbo spp.) for quite a while, and so decided get a few shots. The common name was given as the shell was shaped like a turban.

Oyster and limpets
There were lots of oysters and limpets stuck to the sea wall.

Volcano Barnacles (Tetraclita sp.)
There were lots of Volcano Barnacles (Tetraclita sp.) stuck to the sea wall too. Barnacles are actually crustaceans, and appear like little shrimps in their juvenile stage. They eventually find a hard surface, stick their heads to it, build the wall around them, and filter tiny organic particles from the water using their hairy legs.

Sea Fan
There were a few small sea fans too, but I did not see any allied cowries on them.

Allied Cowrie (Ovulidae)
On the other hand, I found many soft corals with allied cowries (Ovulidae). The one above was found on a pink soft coral.

Allied Cowrie (Ovulidae)
Here's another on a yellow soft coral.

Allied Cowries (Ovulidae)
On some soft corals, I even found 4 or 5 of them. Here's two of them.

Tube anemone
I saw a few tube anemones too. They are so-named because they live in a tube made from mucus and sand.

Anemone Shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)
There were a few Haddon's Carpet Anemone with anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis), The bigger female looks like it has a parasitic isopod on the left side of its head.

Cockles (Cardiidae)
I saw a number of cockles (Cardiidae) today.

Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
And here's a Spider Conch (Lambis lambis), so-named due to the long spines extending from the shell. The long curvy structure at the shell opening is the operculum, which helps to block the "doorway" from predators. In the case of conches, it is use like a "walking stick" which helps the snail to hop along as well.

Sand Dollar (Arachnoides placenta)
There were a few Sand Dollars (Arachnoides placenta), which are the "flattened" relatives on sea urchins. Their spines are very short and tiny, which are used to help help them move around and even burrow.

Gigantic Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea)
There were a few Gigantic Carpet Anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) but I did not see any clownfishes.

Moon Snail (Polinices mammilla)
Several moon snails (Polinices mammilla) were spotted, burrowing just under the sand, probably searching for little clams or snails to feed on. They got their common name from the rounded shapes and white shells of many species.

Sand-sifting Sea Star (Archaster typicus)
There were probably thousands of Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus), which can burrow into the sand to escape from predators to find food. They feed on tiny decaying matter in the sand.

Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
Another burrower will be this Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra). I found 2 of them. This is the sea cucumber that is served in Chinese restaurants, but note that they must be properly processed to remove the toxins in them before they can be consumed.

Stonefish (Synanceia horrida)
Shore trips can be dangerous, and that's why we always advise members of the public to followed guided tours. Can you see an animal among the dirt and rocks above?

Stonefish (Synanceia horrida)
Brushing away the sand revealed a Stonefish (Synanceia horrida). This is one of the most venomous fish in the world! It has a venomous dorsal spine, and anyone stepping on it will get the spine poked through his/her foot, releasing venom into the wound. While they seldom cause death, the experience is still going to be extremely painful, and will probably land you in hospital for a few days. The pain may also persist for up to a few months. If there are complications such as secondary infection, it may even cause death.

Sole fish
Another master of camouflage is this sole fish. It is very flat and can flap its body to stir up the sediments, which will eventually settle down covering the animal.

Fan Worms (Sabellastarte spp.)
Near the sole fish were a pair of fan worms (Sabellastarte spp. or sp.?). The feathery fan is actually tentacles growing on the head of the worm, which is used to collect plankton and tiny decaying matter in the water. Most of the time, you can only see the tentacles of the worm, as it lives in a tube made from mucus and sand.

Leaf Slug (Elysia ornata)
Leaf Slugs (Elysia ornata) appear to be in season, and I saw many of them. They appear like a leaf, and hence their common name. These slugs are partially "solar-powered", somewhat like our hybrid cars on the road. They suck the sap of seaweed to feed on, and is able to retain the chloroplast (subunits in cells which can photosynthesize) in its body for photosynthesis, supplying the slug with food!

Synaptid Sea Cucumber (Synaptidae)
I also saw many Synaptid Sea Cucumbers (Synaptidae). Indeed this longish animal is not a worm but a sea cucumber. It has a mouth rimmed with tentacles, and it lashing these tentacles around to pick up tiny decaying matter form the surrounding.

Porcelain Crab (Porcellanidae)
One of my favourite animals at Tanah Merah must be this porcelain crab (Porcellanidae). Have gotten the name from Peter previously, but left it in office. This procelain crab is usually pinkish red in colour, and red is "merah" in Malay, certainly making it a nice mascot for Tanah Merah!

This porcelain crab is also much larger than the other porcelain crabs that I have seen else where. Most I have seen are less than 1cm wide, but for this one, the carapace itself is almost 2cm wide! Cheated a little here, as I did not actually managed to take any nice photos this time round as they were really fast, so this photo was from a previous trip that I did not blog about. Haha :P

In any case, this was certainly a great trip, with lots of interesting findings as usual!

1 comment:

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