Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sisters with Dan & Gang

Seems like I'm the slowest to put up my blog entry... again. Sometimes I really wonder how did the others put up their entires so quickly. Or was it because I'm ultra slow, since I'm always so long-winded with my blog entries? :P

After reading the other blogs, was considering if I should post an entry actually, since most of the things are already covered by Ria and Siyang. However, eventually decided to do it since this was really a very interesting trip, and also... for my blog's fans. (WAHAHAHHAHAAAAaa... Just kidding, like I have any fans in the first place. WAHAHAHHAHAAAAaa......)

Anyway, just to clarify things in case anyone is not familiar with Singapore's geography, the "sisters" in this entry's title refers to Sisters Island, NOT female Homo sapien siblings.

"Dan & gang" refers to Dr Dan Rittschof from Duke University and his students from US. I had the honour of guiding them at Sisters Island last Tuesday.

Dr Dan Rittschof from Duke Univeresity and his students

This was probably one of the most challenging guided walk I have led (the most challenging one being my first Semakau walk, when I was asked to guide without going through any on-the-job training). Seems like I'm saying this a lot these days, but I did not study biology in school last time. And now, I have to guide a marine biologist with his students???!!!???? Hopefully I didn't do too badly :P

It was raining when we reached Big Sisters, but that didn't stop us from venturing into the big lagoon. The first animal we found were a pair of orange striped hermit crab (Clibanarius sp.), which Dr Dan shared some really interested stories about them and their relatives, the swimming crabs. We then walked along the sandy shore on the edge of the water, and saw several other interesting animals, including flower crabs, moon snails, moon crabs, and a spider conch. As we proceeded into the lagoon, we had our first star find of the day - a diadema sea urchin!

Diadema sea urchin

While I know, and have seen, diadema sea urchins in our waters, I had never seen one on Sisters Island before! And some more, in the lagoon! That just shows how unexplored our islands are! Even though we have visited many of our islands many times, we are still seeing new things every now and then!

More things started appearing when the rain stopped. We found at least five species of flatworms, a polka-dot nudibranch (Jorunna funebris), a few phylid nudibranchs (Phyllidia nigra & Phyllidia pustulosa)a giant top shell (Trochus niloticus), several leaf slugs (Elysia ornata), several black sea cucumbers (Holothuria leucospilota) and a few octopuses. And of course, anemones, zoanthids, corallimorphs, and corals, both hard and soft, were every where.

Ria alerted us that James found a blue-spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma)trapped in a pool, which got many of the students excited.

blue-spotted fantail ray, Taeniura lymma

We decided to take a break while waiting for nightfall, promising more exciting finds as we know more animals come out at night when it's cooler. And after having some 100 plus, cookies and curry puffs, we're back into business again!


And the first animal which greeted our re-entrance was this huge octopus.

Mushroom coral, Fungia sp.

And as per what Dr Dan told us earlier, the mushroom corals (Fungia sp.)were much more active and beautiful at night.


Dr Dan and his students were very interested in fishes, and thus we also found many fishes, including the flathead above.

But no night walks are complete without stars, and we managed to dig out a brittlestar (Class Ophiuroidea) under some dead coral pieces.

Brittle star, Class Ophiuroidea

And yet another exciting find of the day, an eel (or at least it looked like one) feeding on an octopus!

Snake eel

And this was the first time we saw this eel! And in fact, we saw several of them that night!

And yet another exciting find, a pufferfish!


I've seen similar pufferfish with yellow fins when I was canoeing in our northen waters a long time ago, and have also seen a dead one at East Coast when I was rollerblading, probably caught by one of the anglers. Not sure if they were of the same species though, since I never took any photos.

Our walk finally ended as the tide turned. And on our way back, land hermit crabs! This one sitting in a coconut husk.

Land hermit crab, Coenobita rugosus

This was truly a very exciting day, and I have learnt a lot of things from Dr Dan. Looking forward to our next trip to Chek Jawa, and hopefully, I will learn even more things from Dr Dan and his students! :)


Ria Tan said...

You have fans! I'm your biggest fan!!

And your blogs are not long-winded lah. You'll just have to try to keep up with the rest of us. Siyang is the fastest of us all. I think he doesn't sleep at all.

chumly said...

That was great. Fantastic pictures. Thank you.

Ron Yeo said...

Thanks Ria and Chumly :)

TS said...

haha, this intertidal is the most exciting for me, so many new things! And well, no matter how fast my entry is up my pictures are always the most inferior one. ;p One day I will get those huge monster camera that Ria owns. And learn how to edit like u. :D

Ron Yeo said...

Nah... Siyang, your photos are not inferior. Just that I only put up the better photos and hide the rest. Most of your photos were great. Not sure if u want to lug along a giant camera where ever u go though. A lot has to do with picture composition, i.e. how you frame your picture, rather than the size of the camera, unless u r like Ria and need to shoot ultra high resolution photos for record purposes...

Dr. Dan said...

Sparkling clarity. How did you take such wonder shots with metal chop sticks! thank you

Ron Yeo said...

Thanks for the compliment, Dr Dan :)