Friday, December 12, 2008

Starry honeymoon at Cyrene

We had our ever first wedding couple having honeymoon at Cyrene Reef today!

Of course the couple is NOT this pair of flower crabs mating on the shore. =_=

The wedding couple is Shufen and Kevin and they are getting married this weekend. Despite this, they are still needed at TeamSeagrass today. Haha.

Thanks to Andy and Nor Aishah, we had a cake and drinks on the boat to celebrate the wedding of the loving couple.

Of course everyone had a great time eating the interesting banana chocolate cake. Of course we had to get down to the main task, which is to monitor seagrasses!

It was my first time meeting Jac from Nparks and it was her first time doing seagrass monitoring and also first time visiting Cyrene Reef. Throughout the course of monitoring, we saw many knobbly sea stars on the seagrass meadow and they even came within our quadrat.

After our finishing our transect, we had some time left to explore this reef that always have somewhere new that we have not properly looked into.

I went to check out the reef area and saw a number of hard corals.

A closer look at this faviid hard coral reveals many individual coral polyps. Each polyp is an animal, so can you imagine how many animals are there in each coral colony.

There are also nudibranchs on the reef like this blue dragon nudibranch that look more purplish than blue.

I also saw this stonefish sea cucumber.

And this cute pair of black-lipped conch.

This part of the reef has plenty of soft corals of different sorts.

Consisting of the flowery soft coral (left) and the leathery soft coral (right).

What surprised me was that I saw a glimpse of a cushion-star looking motif underneath the leathery soft coral. I took a closer look and found out that indeed it's a juvenile cushion star.

That's a real treat as cushion stars are very pretty, this one has yellow and black coloration and pattern on its aboral surface. They are different from other sea stars because they don't have arms when they grow older. This is probably to prevent predators from having a good grip of the cushion star to eat on.

Indeed today is a starry day for the wedding celebration! There were more stars encountered!

Even the flowery soft corals have stars!! You might easily dismiss the flowery soft coral have threads of carrot on top.

Thanks to Chay Hoon's keen eyes, we get to know that these are actually tiny weeny brittle stars that are completely orange in colour. There are a lot of them at this particular flowery soft coral. Why? Hmm...

A closer look of this orange brittle star reveals some kind of rings on its arms. I have never seen this brittle star before. How interesting!

Of course, there are plenty of common sea stars on Cyrene, and this one is slightly special, with six arms.

Cyrene is also full of juvenile knobbly sea stars! Every few steps you take on the seagrass meadows will be encountered with different knobbly stars.

I like this pair of knobbly sea stars that are beige and orange in colour.

I was also looking out for this Pentaceraster-looking star that was last seen in the August's seagrass monitoring trip.

My wish was granted when Robin called me over. He found the exactly looking ambiguous sea star that we do not know exactly what it is. We could only predict it might be a cross between a knobbly sea star and a Pentaceraster sea star.

As Chee Kong, the Star Tracker expert advised, he told us that knobblies tend not to have the spines at the tip of their arms like this one. So probably this is not a true blue knobbly sea star.

I thought today was already so star studded enough to call it a day! Until a short while later, Hannah called Chee Kong and I over and they said they found yet another similar looking star.

A look at the sea star they found revealed a star that indeed looks very similar to Pentaceraster mammilatus, the first record that we found in May. Wow!

What was most attractive is the super orange-red madreporite.

The underside was also very pretty with red and purplish coloration.

The tips of their arms also have spines similar to the ambiguous star earlier on.

Earlier on, a Pentaceraster looking sea star was also discovered at Semakau and it also has a orange-red madreporite though it does not look exactly the same. Haha. How I wish I have the skills and knowledge to identify all these wonderful new starry creatures.

The guys later went on to arrange the three different looking sea stars though for a good comparison.

Towards the end of the trip, Robin found yet another weird looking blondie sea star.

What a great starry day we had!

Last but not least, there are many of this soldier crabs scurrying over the sand bar which amazes me. They are not common in many shores anymore due to habitat degradation.

The trip will not be complete without the adventure to leap onto the No problem boat that provides for our amphibious landings. It was quite a wild and wet adventure with the crashing waves and the high platform to step on to get into the boat. Very fun also.

That's the last Cyrene trip for the year 2008, be back in 2009. And all the very best wishes to the newly wed couple!

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