Thursday, January 24, 2008

The wilder side of Sentosa, without the alcohol (24 Jan, 2008)

:: Bumped into a friend at VivoCity Foodcourt, whilst having dinner with Kenerf after our evening explorations down Sentosa's shore. He was surprised to hear that we were out taking pictures at Sentosa on a weekday evening (Wah no need to work one! So shiok!). Anyway, we showed him the photos and first thing he said was," Eh, you all go Underwater World ah?" Ha! Well, to enjoy Singapore's natural native heritage one doesn't really need to fork out dosh for exorbitant admission fees or require air-conditioned and simulated environs. Just get a pair of booties and head out to the nearest shores at the next low tide and you can really see some of the spectacular marine life up close and personal, and not from behind a 10 inch perplex glass. ::

:: Today, Team Sea Grass had a monitoring session. I rushed down from work and arrived at 6.30pm to see familiar bodies crouching over grassy lush meadows. ::

:: Just as people think that there is nothing to see on Sentosa, when people see these rocky shores, they are even more convinced that there are no corals like these found there. And even if pointed out that these large masses are corals that are alive...they will probably be skeptical. Well, ignorance is a good thing I guess. Then the inhabitants of this shore can be left alone. ::

:: The hard corals seems to be doing well though some of the bigger boulder shaped ones seemed to have eroded at places and seaweed growing amongst the crevices and tops. Anyway, the reason why some of them are in this fluorescent neon green has got something to do with the algae, the energy from the sun and how our eyes view things. Also the reason why people want these corals in their tanks..cause they are SOOOOOOOOO PRETTY *cringe* ::

:: Corals are not plants. Well not entirely. They are animals but algae lives in the tissue of the hard coral in a symbiotic relationship which benefits both organisms. ::

:: The leathery soft corals seems to be doing well.::

:: Dead corals are usually white and dry and looks like dessicated dung. Corals that are alive are usually...well, brown or green or looking like rocks. However, they are very much alive, as you can see above. The coral polyp or the animal part of the coral usually comes out at night and wave their tentacles through the water gingerly, to capture tiny plankton foolish enough to swim by.::

:: More coral species found on Sentosa ::

:: Mushroom coral.This coral actually moves. Here, you can see the polyps.::

:: Rose coloured Petra, Jordan...but much tinier. ::

::The Tanjung Rima beacon.Eerie!.::

:: This is probably a colony of zoanthids. Actually they remind me of alien barf or skin. ::

:: Black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota). Sea cucumbers, when threatened, spit out their digestive track, which is this slimy sticky mess of goop that confuses the predator or thing that was messing around with it. The digestive system then grows back. That I find most convenient. Imagine us humans needing to excuse ourselves from a less than desirable suitor. All we need to do is puke our guts out on said (sexual?) predator and then run away to grow a new stomach another day. Also a very good way to loose weight and look like Kate Moss ::

:: The highly venomous red egg pretty but so deadly. ::

:: I personally find sponges intriguing. Such simple creatures yet they come in a myriad of shapes and sizes. This is probably a barrel sponge. We subsequently found another one which had tiny brittle stars living in it. Sponges are animals, not vegetable or mineral (some people I know should be classified as such instead) ::

:: Have always wanted to see this nudribranch and today, we saw three of 'em! The Polka-dotted nudibranch (Jorunna funebris).It breathes through them flowery gills above its head (or body)::

:: Whilst figuring out how to capture two polka-dotted nudibranchs in a frame (obviously i failed miserably), another creature that I always wanted to meet, the marine spider, scuttled across my bootie and stood indiginantly above the water surface a few centimeters away, as if taunting me to dare take it's photo. Quickly, I snapped several shots of this beautiful arachnid specimen before it decided that it had enough. It lives in air pockets amongst the rocks, coming out during low tide to hunt for prey. ::

:: Found this flat worm which I thought was a nudibranch. ::

::Then nearby, found this tiny hairy slug (no bigger than a fingernail) which was feeding on the green hairy sea weed.

::I dont know what worm this is. Ribbon? Flaccid? Orange? ::

::Weiling and Siti found this two gorgeous Copperbanded butterfly fishes
(Chelmon rostratus). Siti termed them the Bragalina of the reef for we were snapping shots like paparazzis as they fleeted from one side of the pool to the other, swimming side by side and sticking their beaky mouths to the surface of the water, blowing tiny bubbles. Such camera whores actually. ::

::A juvenile swimming crab. Was catching beach fleas to eat ::

::Found this odd looking crab amongst the hairy sea weed. It has one pincer bigger then the other and a diamond-shaped thorny carapace. ::

:: Just as I was lamenting "Why no octopus tonight?!", Kenerf found one. Someone said before that they were relatively common on Sentosa ::

:: Sentosa was the first shore where I did my first sea grass transect last October. It was also the first time meeting the NParks team and the Naked Hermit Crabs. Such fond memories. With the construction of the IR nearby, I do hope that this shore will be here for a little while longer. Such a pity that an entire stretch of the shore had to make way for the IR and before more people can discover its marine splendours. Ah, such is progress! ::

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Beware! Man-eating Anemone! (22 Jan , 2008)

:: Yes, it does seem about the right time that I had a blog. A blog specifically to write about my jaunts with Team Seagrass, Naked Hermit Crabs and Koh Sheng's CJ project on Chek Jawa to various shores and nature spots on Singapore . And the wonderful, amazing and sometimes peculiar things(and people) that I encounter during these trips. ::

:: Was back on Chek Jawa on Tuesday after Sunday's Team Sea Grass monitoring (which left me with an ugly tan line which gave the impression that I was wearing a big sports bra) to volunteer for Kok Sheng's CJ project. What we volunteers do is monitor key species on Chek Jawa (which suffered losses in a mass death last January due to the monsoon) and collecting data for Kok Sheng. Anyway, its just another excuse for to visit Chek Jawa and play in the sun while the rest of the world are stuck behind their desks. * grin* ::

:: Herons, egrets and other shore birds can be seen feeding on the intertidals while at House No. 1. The sky was a shocking blue, and as the tide receded out, pools of water amongst sand bars and rocks filled with the glint and glitter of sea life. ::

:: The Chek Jawa Boardwalk. The public can sign up for guided walks with NParks on this almost lost shore. Here, July puts up " Research in Progress" sign. ::

:: Intrepid volunteers from Team Anemone braving the mid-day heat. Kok Sheng was the star of the day, where the team from Channel 8 came to film a programme on volunteers who work to save the environment. And in Mandarin! (what do you call a sea star in Mandarin? Hai Xing?) ::

:: This tiny crab is called an Elbow Crab, Why? Look at its pincers... ::

:: Sea Hares are in season at Chek Jawa. Have always wanted to see them and I was in luck. There were everywhere. Sea Hares are molluscs and have an internal shell. They are also hermaphrodites. How lucky eh? Above, right, the sea hare is seeking shade from the sun by attempting to burrow under the dead flower crab. ::

:: We saw this brittle star on the sand bank. One of the many STARS of Chek Jawa. ::

:: Found this empty mass of egg sacs. Well Ria and I were arguing whether if it was an empty one. I thought it probably looked liked squid eggs. But subsequently Ron told me that (below) were unhatched octopus eggs so probably all the babies have hatched and swam away. Anyway, I thought the egg mass look rather like a black sea cucumber. ::

:: The carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni)were doing well. In fact, we saw many of them...some really big. ::

:: Was told that these carpet anemones can grow to 1m in length. Told Ria imagine if we just left them alone, to their own devices, evolution might allow them to grow to an immense size...and well, who knows, maybe one day we might hear of killer carpet anemone devouring unsuspecting Chek Jawa volunteers. *snort* ::

:: One of my favourites denizens at Chek Jawa. The peacock anemones, in various shades of shocking orange, green and pink, usually comes out of their tubes when its cooler in the day, waving their dainty tentacles through the water to snare unsuspecting prey. ::

:: View of the House 1 below the boardwalk. Large meadows of sea grasses could be found here. Maybe a transect here next time? ::

:: Besides the usual barnacles, drills, whelks and sponges found on the pillars of the boardwalk, we found a few bunches of pink soft corals. Ria pointed out a certain species of cowrie/snail which looks exactly like the warts and bumps of the soft coral lived amongst its fronds, but alas, even though we molested a few, we didn't find any. ::

:: Chanced upon this meter long monitor lizard scampering away into the cliffs as I approached. They are fairly common on Ubin and are mostly scavengers. ::

:: Mussels. Found in clumps usually under the boardwalk and pontoon. ::

:: These are sand dollars, the currencies of the shore. If only! I'll be rich! Related to sea stars, sea cucumbers and sea urchins (Echinoderms), sand dollars are found on the sand bar, leaving their trails, leading unassuming lives, eating detritus..until someone accidentally steps onto one of them. Sounds like some people I know.. ::

:: As the day got cooler, the sea cucumbers start popping out from their burrows. From Left: the sandfish sea cucumber (holothuria scabra) also affectionately known as the garlic bread sea cucumber (thanks Ria), the ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.) also known by the Malays as gamut, and the slimy smooth sea cucumber that reminds me of something sexy that I really shouldn't say on this blog. ::

:: Tube worms by the thousands resides on the sand bar. When the tide comes in, the worms come out, displaying their feathery tentacles to feed... ::

:: Ria found a nudibranch (Armina barbai) and since I am rather new to this Latin  identification for creatures, I remember its name by calling it Armina's Babi. Anyway, I have been told that it exudes a strong medicinal smell when molested/threatened. And below, I found this nudibranch Dendrodoris denisoni near the pontoon...argh, my clumsy tongue can't keep up! ::

:: Found these sea hares doing the nasty while two sand stars scurried away...the orangy mess of threads are the result of the sea hares amorous activities. ::

:: Thus was a lovely day thanks to Kok Sheng and Ria and everyone else. And this blog post is really hard to do. Urgh! I actually have a video of a train of sea hares in an orgy but its taking too long to upload so...maybe later when I get a hang of this whole blogging thing. ::