Saturday, April 26, 2008

Urchins, sea cucumbers and other creatures of Cyrene Reef

Other than the wide array and abundance of seastars that can be found at Cyrene Reef, there were also other echinoderms and creatures found admist our hunt for the Pentaceraster "superstar".

I found this pencil sea urchin on sandy substrate, which is possibly Prionocidaris bispinosa. This pencil urchin can be found at our northern shores. Somehow, Cyrene Reef is like Chek Jawa of the south.

There were two of such urchins sighted. This one has black spines.

While this one has black and white spines. This one could be Diadema setosum as adviced by Dr Lane. I saw this exact urchin during my last trip and emailed him regarding the ID. He commented that it'll be better for identification if we collect or let him see it. Glad he was there this time round.

Again like our northern shores, Cyrene Reef has also quite a number of Salmacis sp. urchins.

Other than the sandfish sea cucumber that we encountered, this long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) was also brought to Dr Lane for him to take a look.

This synaptid sea cucumber (Family Synaptidae) has something more than meets the eye. Can you see the tiny crustacean on it? Thanks Dr Lane for sharing about this.

That's quite a fair selection of echinoderms found, given the short tide window for our hunting trip. Cyrene Reef also is home to other creatures. Below are some of them that I've found along the way.

While running around, trying hard to find the special sea star, I saw this snail-looking creature which might be a cone snail! Many Cone snails can inject toxins fatal to humans. Sorry for the blur photo as I did not have time to take a proper photo while trying to organise the guys to comb for the special sea star at that time.

I couldn't resist trying to take a photo of this acorn worm cast because we can see its buttock here. Ahhh.

In a tidal pool, something special caught my attention. This about 1cm in length creature looks very weird, it's not something I've seen before online or at any field trips. From the morphology, it looks like a fish.

What is so interesting is that it looks like it is carrying colourful and weird shape-like stuffs on its whitish beige body.

Chay Hoon suggested that its a dragonet (possibly Dactylopus dactylopus) This dragonet is really colourful and cute. Compare my photo with the one here I found online. What an interesting find.

Octopus never fail to make me impressed. They are not only masters of camouflage, they are also good actors! This guy was moving and stopped when it saw me. It became as hard as stone which left me wondering and scratching my head.

This looks like a sea hare. Hare reminds of me bunny Liana who was there too :-)

Towards the east tip of Cyrene Reef, there is quite a large area of reef which there was no time to explore, and I've yet properly visit it too. But there are huge and gigantic boulder-like corals. Wonder how old are they.

This is a beautiful frilly sea anemone (Phymanthus sp.).

Now seems to be the jellyfish season and most of us sighted them around Singapore's waters and reef.

This pinkish looking jellyfish is really huge!

And this one too. Very big. Wow, poor guys that get stuck during low tide.

To end off, here is a stunning red coloured featherstar found by Dr Tan Heok Hui.

Look at how graceful the crinoid is when it swims in the tidal pool.

Cyrene Reef is fascinating and I can't wait to return again. Now back to my books for the week's exams.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Star studded Cyrene

This morning, a gang of shore lovers were out with Dr David Lane, echinoderms expert at Cyrene Reef. We were out to hunt for echinoderms, in particular the Pentaceraster sp. that was found the other time.

Cyrene Reef proves to be really star studded. There are a lot of knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus), at least 15 that I saw today, though I've lost count.

More knobbly sea stars.

This one has the knobs at the centre bent inwards, which I don't really understand why.

Before you get a knobbly overdose, here is one more. This juvenile is quite small. Doesn't it look very cute?

The sandy shores of Cyrene again are star studded! Look at all the star markings by the common seastars (Archaster typicus).

And this particular one is special because it has four arms rather than the usual five.

This star search candidate found by Robin is a cake sea star (Anthenea aspera). I was just telling Jerald cake sea stars should most probably be only found at northern shores. Haha, this living star proves me wrong immediately. Can't imagine what else interesting things Cyrene holds.

An underside of any sea stars is important for identification purposes.

Sam found this cake-seastar-looking star which later as confirmed by Dr Lane is a juvenile cushion star! Wow. The scientific name of this pincushion star is Culcita novaeguineae.

And yes, the underside of the star :-)

Today's trip was like a movie plot with a climax towards the end. Look at everyone gathering, must be something worth the attention.

And yes! We found the champion of the star search. The new record in Singapore named as Pentaceraster sp., possibly Pentaceraster tuberculatus. This is the seastar Dr Lane was particularly interested in looking for. All thanks to Vyna who found it.

This charismatic star also has a beautiful underside.

Look at the pinkish tube feet coming out from the seastar arm. How cute.

Today's really a superb trip, I have much more to share, another time okie. Watch out, coming soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spectacular sunrise from Cyrene

Cyrene Reef is located in the middle of a busy shipping lane surrounded by West Coast of mainland Singapore, Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom. Despite being near to so much development, it is suprising how rich the marine life Cyrene holds.

Dawn trips to this wonderful place also comes with a spectacular sunrise (provided there is no "power-failure sunrise"). Can you see the sun peeking over the cityscape?

Below are a series of sunrise photographs taken in order from Cyrene Reef. Enjoy God's creation at your very own doorstep. No need to go overseas to enjoy breath taking sunrise views.

God's mercies are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Surprising Cyrene

Cyrene Reef holds plenty of suprises though it is always under-explored. I believe more can be found in this rich biodiverse reef if we get to visit and document it more extensively. We are glad that Team Seagrass adopted to monitor the lush seagrasses in the reef.

Monitoring seagrass gets more fun each time I do it. Especially if you get to partner with Siti, the head of the Seagrassers, you can learn how to differentiate species properly though the juvenile of one species can look 99% like another species. This is a flower of the sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) that we found along the transect. Ria found a baby knobbly seastar directly in her quadrat. It's really cool to monitor the seagrass at Cyrene.

I chanced upon this prawn or shrimp stranded on the sandbar. It does look that it is cooked because it is red in colour. Haha, but it is still alive and kicking. This one is red maybe because to avoid being seen by predators since red is hard to make out in the dim. These kind of large shrimps are mostly scavengers while smaller ones feed on plankton and algae.

Another shrimp, this time found by Marcus. This snapping shrimp usually tells its presence by their clicking and snapping sounds rather by sight.

This is the first time I get so close with a juvenile long-spine sea urchins (Diadema setosum). This was found among the seagrasses. Can you see its orange rim on its anal cone. This fellow fascinates me by how it continually moves its inner spines, tinted blue in colour. If you see it, do not touch because its long slender spines are very delicate and can break off to cause extreme pain in the victim's flesh.

In hope to find the cushion seastar, I went to explore the reef edge, filled with lots of corals, soft and hard alike. The hard coral shown in this photo is Turbinaria Coral (Turbinaria sp.).

Close up of this Turbinaria Coral showing the individual polyps living together.

This anemone looking creature is not an anemone but a hard coral instead.

Other than the red egg crab, hairy crab sighted, I also spotted this cute swimming crab. They are predators that hunt speedy prey like fishes using their long pincers. You can also see that their eyes are widely apart. It is called a swimming crab because of its paddled-shaped swimming leg (not shown here).

Marcus with his sharp eyes spotted this pipefish (Family Syngathidae). It was hiding among the seagrasses, which they usually do in the day and usually come out at night. They are good camouflage animals, often mistaken as plants of twigs. They can use their elongated mouths to "suck" in small animals floating in the water.

Two seahorses were also spotted! A seahorse is not a horse, but a fish. Haha. They belong to the same family to the pipefish, as featured above. They are actually voracious carnivores sucking up tiny preys. This papa is actually pregnant.

This is the other seahorse. They have a long snout tipped with toothless jaw to suck food. Their tail can curl to find supporting structures to attach to to prevent being swept away by the currents. This is important since they cannot swim fast enough.

Towards the end of the trip where people are already ready to leave Cyrene, Sijie told me he saw a slug among the algae. I thought at first it was a brown looking algae instead! It's good he shouted for Chay Hoon to check it out.

This is the holy grail that Wildfilms have been looking for years! It's the melibe nudibranch that was about 15cm in length!

What is interesting is that it has an expandable hood (the circular portion) at the front with which it can trap and eat crustaceans.

More about this marvellous find at the Wildfilms blog and a video of how it swims at Colourful clouds blog.

All too soon, we had to leave before ending up to get trap with the rising tide that is going to reclaim back the exposed Cyrene Reef.

Siti did not forget to entertain us by posing as if she is going to be left behind at Cyrene. Perhaps she can join the creatures at Cyrene and be a dugong like the photo of Siti lying in a tidal pool taken by Ria on the wildfilms blog. Wahahaha. (No offense intended :P)

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