Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sidetrack: Chasing Tides in New Zealand

Just came back from New Zealand last weekend, and thought I'll share with everyone some of the marine and intertidal life I saw during the trip :)

The New Zealand shores are certainly very different from what we have in Singapore. One of the most obvious difference was perhaps the kelps stranded on the beach.

They were HUGE!

Kelps are actually brown algae in the order Laminariales, and many marine animals actually feed on them. In New Zealand, I could see kelp forests in most of the coastal area I visited.

At one of the rocky shores, I noticed that most of the tidal pools were covered with coralline algae.

There were lots of mollusks on the rocks. The limpets they have were much bigger then the ones we normally find in Singapore.

I had a pleasant surprise when I saw this little animal among the rocks.

It's a chiton! I've always wanted to see chitons! Have never seen them in Singapore shores. Chitons are mollusks, meaning they are related to things like snails, clams and octopuses. They usually live near the shore, though some species have been found in deep water.

Here's another picture from the top. You will be able to see that it has 8 plates on it's back.

Most chitons eat algae, bryozoans and sometimes bacteria by scraping them off the rocks with their radula. Some species also feed on other small animals.

Walking on the rocky shore, I had another pleasant find - a seastar!

It was quite small, about the size of a 50 cent coin.

Away from the rocky shore, I saw this comical shorebird. It was obviously quite used to human presence, and was walking around examining our legs.

There were quite a few seal colonies along the New Zealand coast too. Here are two New Zealand fur seals.

There was a huge pool of water trapped among the rocks near the coast of Kaikoura, and we saw several fur seals swimming and playing inside.

We also saw several hooker's sea lions at one of the beaches. They were much larger than the fur seals.

But while the adult sea lions look huge and fierce, the juvenile sea lions were really cute.

New Zealand has a resident population of sperm whales near Kaikoura, and so whale-watching was also on my travel checklist. Sperm whales are supposed to be the largest of all toothed whales, and are the largest toothed animals alive. They can grow up 18 metres long!

Whale-watching is basically a waiting game. The ship crew will try to find the whale with a special device, and the ship will just stay around the area and wait for the whale to come up to breathe. We waited between 30 to 40 minutes for the first whale to come to the surface.

Sperm whales are believed to be able to dive up to 3 km deep, and can stay near the ocean floor for up to 90 minutes! So we were actually quite lucky that we didn't have to wait that long. And one top of that, within the short 2 hour plus trip, we spotted not just one, but three sperm whales!

And just before this one dived into the water, I managed to get a shot of it's huge flukes. Not very sharp as it was simply too fast, but still, I'm satisfied!


JC said...

Sure looks alot different to Singapore's intertidal coast. U must have enjoyed urself.

TS said...

Woa... O_O