Sunday, April 04, 2010

First Intertidal Walk at Pulau Hantu on 2 Apr 2010

This was the very first time we had a guided intertidal walk on Pulau Hantu, and we were really lucky that the weather was fine, despite earlier weather forecast saying that it might rain!

Located to the south of the main island of Singapore, Pulau Hantu actually comprises 2 smaller islands - Pulau Hantu Besar (Big Ghost Island) and Pulau Hantu Kechil (Little Ghost Island). Legend has it that 2 great warriors had a fierce battle at sea, and many people died. The spirit of the sea was very upset with this and intervened, and created a whirlpool that sucked in both warriors. The warriors continued fighting and eventually they killed each other. The gods felt it was wrong for the spirits of the sea to interfere in human affairs, and thus the two dead warriors were transformed into the two islands of Pulau Hantu.

The two islands are now very much reclaimed, but many marine life managed to settled here and hence there are usually lots of interesting things to see here.

Elbow crab (Family Parthenopidae)
There were many elbow crabs (Family Parthenopidae) in the sandy lagoon. They are very well-camouflaged as they trap sediment on their body, allowing them to blend really nicely into the surrounding. They got their name from the shape of their pincers, and the way they usually place them.

Spider conch (Lambis lambis)
We saw a few spider conches (Lambis lambis) too, and a number of dead ones too. This snail has 2 eyes on stalks, allowing it to peep out of its shell to look out for dangers before it starts moving around. It also has a long, sickle-shaped trapdoor, which allows it to hop around like a pole-vaulter.

Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea)
There were several giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) too. These sea anemones have sticky tentacles which sting small animals that have gotten to close to them. The tentacles will then transport the prey, acting like a conveyor belt system, to bring it to the centre of the animals where the mouth is located.

Octopus (Order Octopoda)
We saw a few octopuses (Order Octopoda) too! The octopus is said to be one of the smartest invertebrates, and are known to be able to solve puzzles and learn by observation! It is also able to spray a black ink to confuse predators, and change its colours to blend into the surrounding!

Red feather star (Order Comatulida)
The stars of the day must the many red feather stars (Order Comatulida)! We can usually find a few of them on a trip to Pulau Hantu, but I saw like almost 10 of them on this trip! The participants were all quite excited to see these pretty animals, as we don't usually see them on other intertidal walks. Feather stars got their name from the the fact that they appear like balls of feathers, due to their feather-like tentacles. The feather star uses these tentacles to trap plankton and tiny organic matter in the water column for consumption. The mouth is located at the middle of the animal.

Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica)
There were quite a few magnificent anemones (Heteractis magnifica) too! This is the sea anemone that is featured in the movie "Finding Nemo" as Nemo's home. Unfortunately, we did not find any clownfish among the anemone on this trip.

Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica) and stinging nettle (Chrysaora sp.)
Instead, I found a stinging nettle jellyfish among the tentacles of one of the magnificent anemones. Guess this unfortunate jellyfish may end up as the food of the anemone.

Stinging nettle (Chrysaora sp.)
The stinging nettles (Chrysaora sp.) were in season, and we saw many of them. They were seriously every where! These jellyfish can give rather painful stings, and in fact, a friend of mine unfortunately got stung by one while swimming in one of the lagoons in Sentosa recently.

Sand-sifting sea star (Archaster typicus)
While we saw a few jellyfish in Pulau Hantu's lagoon, what caught our attention was the many sand-sifting sea stars (Archaster typicus)! This is probably the most common sea star found in Singapore, and can be found on most our southern islands and a few northern shores. This sea star is often wrongly identified as an Astropecten sp., especially in the aquarium trade.

Funeral nudibranch (Jorunna funebris)
Today was really a nudibranch day, as we saw quiet a few of them! Among them was this funeral nudibranch (Jorunna funebris), which got its name from the black-and-white coloration. "Nudibranch" means "naked gills", refering to the exposed gills on the back of most species.

Black margined glossodoris nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata)
There was also a black margined glossodoris nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata). Its bright yellow and black coloration serves as warning colours to tell predators that it is poisonous. Nudibranchs are basically snails without shells, and they have lost the shell for good reasons, such in the case of this nudibranch, which is poisonous.

Pustulose phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa)
I also found this pustulose phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa) on a rock, and it is also a very poisonous nudibranch.

Gymnodoris nudibranch (Gymnodoris sp.)
One of the guides found this Gymnodoris nudibranch (Gymnodoris sp.). This nudibranch feeds on other slugs, and the one above certainly appeared to have eaten something! Being hermaphrodites with both male and female reproductive organs, many nudibranchs fertilise each other while they mate. In the case of Gymnodoris nudibranchs, they often attempt to eat up each other while mating! As such, the one which got eaten will serve as the father and also provide nutrients for the mother and its future generation, while the other will serve as the mother and lay the eggs!

Despite this being the first time we had a guided walk on Pulau Hantu, it was a really great trip with lots of interesting sightings. Thanks to all the participants for being such enthusiastic nature lovers, making this walk such a successful one!

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