Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last 2008 seagrass monitoring at Semakau

After a rainy and wet Semakau trip on Thursday, we were blessed this time with a cloudy and cool weather. Most importantly there was no rain.

I am delighted to be back at the Semakau intertidal area during low tide. This place is so beautiful.

And what is our mission today? We had our last of 2008 Teamseagrass monitoring today at the lush seagrass meadow of Semakau. I was one of the team leader of Site 2 together with Michelle who assisted me a great deal. My team for the transect was with Ian and Alex. Though they are first timers to Semakau, we did a great job measuring and assessing the health of seagrasses.

And within one of our quadrats is a black lipped conch (Strombus urceus)! You can see it's white shell at the top right corner.

After the hard work of monitoring seagrasses in a perpetual soaked area, with our bottoms wet, we got to explore the reef a bit with the remaining time left.

I saw this living scallop, though it's tentacles are not showing out in this photograph.

There was yet another bivalve that is about 2cm in length and unidentified. It has a brown interior though. Could this be a juvenile of any known bivalve or something new altogether?

Talking about molluscs, nudibranchs are also molluscs. They are simply snails without shells. Michelle found this cute pair of juvenile polka nudibranch (Jorunna funebris).

On the reefs, there are many Phymanthus sea anemones and also hard corals that make the reef colourful.

Other hard corals spotted include this White grooved brain coral (probably Symphyllia sp.).

And the neon green faviid coral that I will never get bored looking at because of their attractive colour.

The solitary sunflower mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis) was also spotted in many numbers and they do look very similar to anemones. What was puzzling was that Ian said he saw tomato anemonefishes swimming out from the sunflower mushroom coral and he thought it was an anemone.

My longing to see the stunning tomato anemonefish was fulfilled when Marcus called me out. It's not a common thing for him to call me over, so it must be a special find! Indeed he showed this very pretty green Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica).

The main reason he called to me is that there is a big tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus) living inside the anemone. Wow!

Marcus added that this anemonefish is very friendly as it will come out for a while if you hover shadows of your hand above the anemone etc. He even showed a photograph he took of the stunning looking anemonefish out of the anemone.

That began my half an hour wait at the anemone! Haha, despite his assurance, the anemonefish refuses to come out as much as it would be.

Throughout the course, I managed to still see the tomato anemonefish looking at me!

It turned a bit to reveal it's black-edged white bar located just behind the head. It feeds on plankton (mostly copepods) and also munches on bottom-dwelling algae.

Unfortunately, these fishes are taken in large numbers from the wild for the aquarium trade. Like other fish and creatures harvested from the wild, most die before they can reach the retailers. Without professional care, most die soon after they are sold. The Tomato anemonefish is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore.

Soon, the anemonefish decided to retreat back into the anemone, ending my 30 minutes encounter with this creature. Perhaps it was too stressed after Marcus looked at it in the beginning to come out. Next time then~!

Nevertheless, we also found out that the more commonly sighted False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) is inside this Gigantea carpet anemone. However, this anemonefish is much more shy as compared to the tomato anemonefish. So no photos could be taken.

I later found this Blue-spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma) semi hidden in the sand. If you are not careful, you might step on it! It sensed our presence nearby and started to swim away promptly.

The gang also found a seahorse. Great!

There were several sea cucumbers spotted including this stonefish sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora).

And this beautiful ocellated sea cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus) that I've only seen at Semakau.

'Ocellatus' means 'having little spots' or 'marked with eyes'. However, these are not real eyes but comprise a large white bump with a dark tip.

There is also the not so common Dragonfish sea cucumber (Stichopus horrens).

Robin and friends found a totally black sea cucumber that is not the usual ones we saw. It is highly likely to be Stichopus herrmanni. Check out Robin's blog on this interesting and big sea cucumber.

The team also found a juvenile knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) on the sand bank near the seagrass meadows.

Last but not least, I was surprised to witness this large monitor lizard resting on a tidal pool quite far out nearer to the reef edge.

Unfortunately, time passed too fast (especially when I spent most of my time admiring the tomato anemonefish). Couldn't have time to see the other fantastic resident creatures like the giant clam, cushion stars, adult knobbly stars and the weird new star found recently.

Everyone visiting the Semakau intertidal will have to walk through the secondary forest trail that is mossies infested. Haha, thus we had to walk fast fast to try and avoid being bitten. Here's the newly wed Shufen (auntie now already...joking) bringing our team out towards the main road.

What a great day to end our monitoring of the year! I believe most of us enjoyed the marine life and lush seagrass at Semakau. Looking forward for a good 2009 Teamseagrass monitoring next year.

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