Monday, July 27, 2009

Exploring an Unexplored Part of Semakau

Last Saturday after the Project Semakau survey, a group of us stayed back for BBQ that night and also to check out the fireflies. The next morning, we decided to explore a part of Semakau's shore that we had never explored before. As it was not too faraway from the main NEA office, we decided to walk there instead of troubling the NEA staff to drive us there.

Cryptic Rock Star (Cryptasterina sp.)
We soon reached the area we wanted to explore. The moment we climbed down the sea wall, we saw a Cryptic Rock Star (Cryptasterina sp.). And I told the group, this was probably a good sign, and certainly, it was!

Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.)
Just a short distance away, I spotted an Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.).

Hell's Fire Sea Anemone (Actinodendron sp.)
And not too faraway, a Hell's Fire Sea Anemone (Actinodendron sp.).

Squid Eggs
As I was looking at some squid egg capsules, I heard some others shouting to me a distance away.

Stonefish (Synanceja horrida)
They have found a Stonefish (Synanceja horrida)! This was only the second time that we found this highly venomous fish on Semakau.

Red Swimming Crab (Thalamita spinimana)
After taking a few photos, we carried on to explore the shore. There were lots of very aggressive Red Swimming Crabs (Thalamita spinimana).

Banded File Snake (Acrochordus granulatus)
And just then, someone shouted again. It was a Banded File Snake (Acrochordus granulatus)!

Blue Dragon (Pteraeolidia ianthina)
Nearby, we also found a Blue Dragon (Pteraeolidia ianthina).

Bleached Anemone Coral (Goniopora sp.)
While walking around on my own, I found this little colony of bleached Anemone Coral (Goniopora sp.). Not sure what had caused this to happen...

Black Phyllid Nudibranch (Phyllidiella nigra)
Not too faraway, I found another nudibranch, a Pustulose Phyllid Nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa).

Hammer Oyster (Family Malleidae)
And again, one of the volunteers shouted to me, saying that they have found a Hammer Oyster (Family Malleidae).

There were lots of octopuses on this shore too.

Stonefish Sea Cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora)
I decided to move further towards the reef edge, and along the way, I found this Stonefish Sea Cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora).

Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes)
And just nearby was this Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes).

Reef Scene
When I reached the reef edge, I was amazed by its beauty! There were so many different types of corals!

Merulina sp. with Fan Worms
Here's another view underwater - it looks so pretty with the fan worms on the bluish green coral, probably a Merulina coral.

Coral Reef
Can you see the sea urchins at the back?

Just then, another volunteer called out to me - she has found a Chiton. It was only about 0.5cm long, certainly much smaller than the one I saw at Raffles Lighthouse recently, but still a nice find :)

Anchor Coral (Euphyllia ancora)
I headed back to the reef edge, and more pretty corals greeted me, such as this Anchor Coral (Euphyllia ancora).

Burrowing Giant Clam (Tridacna crocea)
During the trip, we found several Burrowing Giant Clams (Tridacna crocea), but most of them were out of water. Finally near the reef edge, I found this one submerged with its pretty mantle extended.

Physogyra Coral
And I was pleasantly surprised to find this Physogyra Coral (Physogyra sp.) - my first time seeing this in Singapore!

Magnificent Anemones (Heteractis magnifica)
And another scene that surprised me were the many Magnificent Anemones (Heteractis magnifica). Usually in Singapore, I only see a few of them together, but here, there were easily more than 15 of them in an area less than 10 square metres! So far I have only seen such a scene while diving overseas!

Bulb Tentacle Anemone (Entamacea quadricolor)
There were many Bulb Tentacle Anemones (Entamacea quadricolor) too, and while I saw a few Tomato Clownfish, I did not managed to get any photos of them.

Black Margined Glossodoris Nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata)
As I moved along the reef edge, I came across a few of this Black Margined Glossodoris Nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata).

Soft Corals
Along the reef edge, there was a lovely garden of soft corals too.

Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum)
Tide was soon rising, and on my way back to the sea wall, we came across this Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum).

Spiral Melongena (Pugilina cochlidium)
And just before I climbed up the sea wall, I saw this Spiral Melongena (Pugilina cochlidium).

I was really glad that we decided to visit this part of the shore. In fact, it was probably the nicest shore we have visited on Semakau so far! Will certainly come back here again :)

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 :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wild Abalone at Raffles Lighthouse

Finally, I saw an abalone at Raffles Lighthouse again!

The last time I saw an abalone here, it was not moving at all, and so I wasn't really sure if it was still alive. This time round, it moved! The entire shell was about 6-7cm long. Certainly not as big as the ones you can find in temperate countries, but well, it's our very own native wild abalone!

Yet another exciting find for me today was this chiton. It was about 3cm long, and had really pretty patterns on its shell! I'm a little embarrassed to say that this is the biggest chiton I have ever seen in local waters actually, even though I understand that there are much larger ones (up to 10cm long) in local waters. But still, I was satisfied finding such a pretty one. Must make a trip to find the big ones next time :P

As per previous trips, Raffles Lighthouse is a great place to find different types of feather stars. I saw quite a number of them in different colours - yellow, black, bluish green, and the one above, dark brown.

Among some rocks, I found this stonefish sea cucumber, looking just like a round rock if you did not look carefully.

There were lots of octopuses among the rocks and seaweeds too! Many of my friends were quite surprised to learn that octopuses are very common in local waters.

Giant top shells were another common sight here. In other countries in the region, they were often collect for food, and the shell polished and cut into buttons.

Another giant we saw was this burrowing giant clam. It can grow up to about 15cm wide. Other species of giant clams in Singapore can grow up to about 40cm.

A few nudibranchs were spotted, including this black phyllid nudibranch. Not sure if it was due to the rain water or some predator, it was releasing a whitish fluid when I found it. Phyllid nudibranchs are known to release toxic chemicals into the surrounding water when they are stressed, especially when attack by predators.

Another nudibranch we saw was this Dermatobranchus nudibranch. It is believed that this nudibranch feeds on soft corals.

One of the volunteers found this pretty flatworm, probably a Pseudobiceros sp.

Raffles Lighthouse also has one of the nicest intertidal coral reef in Singapore.

The coral cover can get really dense here, compared to most other intertidal coral reefs in Singapore which are usually rather sparse.

On the whole, it was great to be here again and to be assured the reef was still pretty and healthy! :)