Thursday, April 30, 2009

Back to Jong!

Yes, I'm back to Pulau Jong, one of the smallest island in Singapore. Supposed to go Tanah Merah today but during the last minute, Ron told me there's a boat space so here I am to my most favourite island of Singapore.

Why is this island my most favourite out of the numerous in Singapore? Because it is uninhabited, untouched and most important it has such a spectacular natural coastal landform!

Unfortunately, when we arrived there in the morning, the ominous clouds emerged from the southwest and covered the entire area! Thus, it was a long wait before the clouds cleared. Thank God that the second wave of rain and lightning did not head out to Jong and thus we could land on Jong.

Soon, the sun returned and one will be amazed to see that the intertidal area is many times bigger than the island itself! It is like a huge playground.

The reefs off Pulau Jong are well known to house both abundant and diverse number of soft corals. It is amazing that such beautiful coral reef exist in the middle of the surrounding petrochemical plants at Pulau Sebarok, Pulau Bukom and the landfill at Semakau (background of this photograph).

Different species of soft corals come in different sizes and patterns.

This one is what we usually call as the "dead man's finger" because it looks like many hands sticking out from the ground. Otherwise it is also called the smooth leathery coral (Family Alcyoniidae).

There are also soft corals like look like flowers, like this Asparagus flowery soft coral (Family Nephtheidae).

Strangely, it was mind boggling to find this smooth soft coral with neon yellow-green coloration on it. Is it bleaching, dying, or just another type of soft coral?

I went to check the maxima giant clam (Tridacna maxima) that was found during the trip last November. Yes this stunning clam is still there and still surrounded by soft corals. Though this time the tide was lower, this the mantle was less exposed to prevent dessication and stress.

OK, so there are many soft corals. Ah this seems to be a hard coral. Actually not! The Blue coral (Heliopora coerulea) in this photo is actually not a hard coral. Despite producing a hard skeleton, these corals are more closely related to soft corals. Blue corals are considered living relicts of fossil species known from more than 100 million years ago.

The blue coral is named this way because its internal skeleton is blue while the outside looks mostly brown in colour. Still, I managed to find this colony with blue coloration.

Sometimes, the blue coral can be home to Banded fan worm. Here you see that the blue coral is not blue.

Quite confusing right? Not blue, but called blue coral. Not soft, but is not a hard coral. Haha!

OK finally the real hard coral thing. The pinkish coral beside the blue coral is a hard coral that is probably the Boulder pore coral (Porites sp.). Think it's my first time seeing it pink.

This starry and flurry pretty coral is actually the Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.).

And I also came across two colonies of this Acropora coral (Acropora sp.). When underwater, their tentacles are extended and look very beautiful.

Another coral with nice polyp tentacles sticking out will be the Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.) where individual corallites are actually quite well spaced apart.

Of course there are also many of the more commonly seen faviid coral (Family Faviidae) that have neon green colours.

Enough of corals?

Here's something else.... a jellyfish that I spotted when I first landed at Jong.

Siyang found this Mosaic reef crab (Lophozozymus pictor). Despite looking yummy, since it is red, it is the most poisonous crab in Singapore!

I stumbled upon this anemone which I am unsure of its identity. It does look similar to the Frilly anemones (Phymanthus sp.).

Jong today was a disappointment to me, being an echinoderm fan. Couldn't find the cushion star. Instead, there are plentiful of this Black long sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota). No more other echinoderms already, though Ron saw the stonefish sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora).

Nevertheless, this island has quite a fair variety of nudibranchs!

Like this Phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa).

I also found three Black-margined nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata). WHERE is the the third one? The third one is actually beneath the right hand side nudi, possibly mating was in the process. Can you see a fringe of darker yellow behind? That's the third one.

The Hairy green seaweed (Bryopsis sp.) in Jong is home to many slugs like this Polka-dot nudibranch (Jorunna funebris).

Another slug that can be found in seaweeds will be this tiny wenny Dermatobranchus nudibranch (Dermatobranchus sp.). It was most difficult to photograph in the seaweed given the strong wind and waves today where the seaweed was swaying nonstop!

This is another tiny slug with the seaweed and it is Thuridilla gracilis (Thanks Siyang for the id).

And one more really tiny slug... All these slugs were challenging to photograph... but it's good to know that seaweed are good homes to these creatures.

Time past so fast and we had to leave the island before getting trapped with the incoming tides. See you next time Jong!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Crabs, fishes and echinoderms at Changi

Other than the delightful cartoon slug, weird snails, there are plentiful of other life teeming at Changi!

It has been close to a year ago since I've seen this Pebble crab (Family Leucosiidae) on the shores. It seems to be uncommon. Unfortunately, some of our pebble crabs are listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore.

This Arrow-head spider crab (probably Menatheius sp.) is well camouflaged and I wouldn't have noticed it if I had not squatted down.

Another well camouflaged crab that has the same colour has the sand will be this Elbow crab
(Family Parthenopidae). As their common name suggests, their "elbows" are attributed to their highly elongated pincers that stick way out from the sides of its body.

Also spotted is the horseshoe crab which I didn't bear to dig it out of the sand. So cannot tell whether it is a mangrove or a coastal one. BUT horseshoe crabs are closer related to spiders than crabs, though spider crabs are still closer related to crabs. Are you confused? :D

Other than crabs and the "crab", there are also lots of fishes!

Yes, a seahorse is not a horse but a fish! This is an Estuarine seahorse (Hippocampus kuda) that James had found. How pretty is this yellow seahorse. Ria later spotted another seahorse!

My fishy finds include two flatfishes. One of which is this Tongue-sole (Family Cynoglossidae).

The other will be this Large tooth flounder (Family Paralichthyidae).

Why does both eyes face upwards? Find out more about this, together with other fishy finds of the day at the Wildshores of Singapore blogpost of this particular trip.

The shore was manifested with plentiful of these Hairy sea hares (Bursatella leachii) and we had to thread carefully not to stomp on these creatures. And Ria also did an entire post of the different seahares found during the trip.

Moving away from crabs, fishes, seahares, now is my favourite section: Echinoderms!

In this Changi shore, it is not unusual to find of these comical White sea urchin (Salmacis sp.). They have long tube feet and are often seen carrying all kinds of things from shells to seaweeds. It can quickly gather these things to cover itself.

Underneath is sea urchin you can find its mouth and if you look closer within you will see this eerie worm! It is thought to be eventually eaten up by the urchin, though I suspect there might have some parasitic or commensal relationships.

Well, what is Changi without seastars? Biscuit seastars (Goniodiscaster scaber) are never too boring as they look cute and really like biscuits. There are of course the ever abundant sand stars (Astropecten sp.).

On the other hand, I also found a huge brittlestar!

Changi is well known to be home to various types of sea cucumbers, some of which still unidentified.

I was suprised to find a colony of ascidian on top of this Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis).

And here's one of the several unidentifed sea cucumbers.

Talking about unidentified, I was amazed to find this long alien looking sea cucumber! Could it be another morph of the Remarkable sea cucumber (Holothuria notabilis)?

Other sea cucumbers encountered include the usual Pink warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps), Smooth sea cucumber and the Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.).

OK! Now's exams over... Look out for more constant posts of my adventures!

Weird snails at Changi

There were several snail surprises from the super low tide at Changi. Out of which some are not commonly seen and some unknown and thus weird to us.

One of the many snails found will be this conch snail from the Family Strombidae which I have no idea what species is this. I don't think shore explorers have seen this species before! Could it be a new record?

In fact, it is seems to be intermediate between the usual conches and the spider conch in terms of size. And the shiny underside of the shell is really a beauty. Too bad, these beautiful snails are badly poached to be sold as souvenirs.

Good thing that their upper side is "disguised" with algae and barnacle, making it not so obvious to predators and homosapiens.

Another rare conch snail will be this one that look similar to that found at Tanah Merah recently.

We thought it could be either Strombus succinctus or Strombus marginatus.

Well, taxonomy and identification requires a lot of expertises and skills which I don't have. Ria was wondering if this was not the usual Gong gong (Strombus canarium) since the shell doesn't seem to be thick.

Ah, finally I got to see this really pretty, yet tiny pink moon snail.

The body is colourful with a bright orange front portion, while the foot has a white margin and a pattern of intricate white bars and orange spots. I adore this most among the other moon snails.

Ria found yet another weird snail, a brownish maroon coloured moon snail that we have also not seen before. It seems to have an operculum but I don't know what is the U-shape furrow at its underside.

The usual moon snails were still around like this Ball moon snail (Polinices didyma)

Surprisingly I found a pair of these Oval moon snail (Polinices mammatus) at Changi as well. I don't think we have seen this species at our northern shores as they are usually found at Southern shores.

That's all for the assortment of moon snail surprises... Here's the next one!

I found the hermit snail again which I've seen before at Cyrene Reef too. But I am not too sure whether it is also Semicassis bisulcatum.

This cute snail has a very pretty shell and a siphon that acts like the nose of an elephant. It is able to use its body and foot to elevate itself for crawling. Very entertaining to observe this animal.

There are other usual snail suspects that are not so weird at Changi.

Like this nerite found at the rocky part.

This big and magnificent looking snail is the handsome Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis).

Wow, that was quite a good assortment of snails found at Changi!

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