Monday, February 9, 2009

First 2009 Semakau guided walk

Yesterday was the very first 2009 Semakau guided walk by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. And with the clear skies good weather, we toured around the Semakau landfill with a video presentation before hitting on to the shores for the best part of the trip: the intertidal walk!

I had the privilege to be assisted with Weijie, who is an OJT. Interestingly, it was also his very first time to Semakau! Thus, he was probably as excited as the visitors :-)

He did a great job sharing mainly about mangroves, sea stars and sponges (in this photo) with the family in our group.

Today was indeed a great start to our 2009 guided walks because we saw a wide variety of creatures despite the hot sun.

We saw several kinds of sea cucumbers like the garlic bread/sandfish sea cucumber and the synaptic sea cucumber that the kids thought it was a worm or snake. I particular like this ocellated sea cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus) which were only sighted only in Semakau so far.

The hunter seekers and other shore lovers found several clammy finds like this living scallop.

A heart cockle (Corculum cardissa) was found! It has been some time since I've seen this pretty cockle that looks nothing near to the blood cockle we see in our dishes.

On the other side was a even nicer pink-purplish coloration on the bivalve. Unfortunately, due to habitat degradation and overcollection, these pretty heart cockles are rather rare. Good thing is that we can still find them at Semakau.

Another of my favourite animal (also Mei lin's top fav) will be this fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) .

If you look closely you can spot its siphon and the eyespots on the mantle as marked by black dots. Mei Lin is currently researching on this squirting behaviour because they apparently can see predators and squirt water at them!

The clammy finds of the day ends with this small clam embedded within a coral!

Yes, the clam was found in the lettuce coral (Pavona sp.). It's my first time seeing this, previously I only saw clams embedded between the Acropora corals.

We had a bit of time to explore with the participants and I also encountered this pretty coral in green.

A closer look suggests that this is the Carnation coral (Pectinia sp.). Correct me if I'm wrong.

While the hunter seekers found a spider conch (Lambis lambis), soon I found another one myself.

We had quite a crabby time around with sightings of flower crab, red egg crab, hairy crabs etc. But this is the most exciting crab find, the mosaic crab (Lophozozymus pictor) as also known as the most poisonous crab of Singapore! There are several documented deaths caused by eating this crab despite the red colour may mean yummy to human beings. In fact, red usually means danger! Cooking it for many hours does not destroy the toxins.

Nudibranchs are definitely a delight to look at during a guided walk and I spotted this bright orange gymnodoris nudibranch (Gymnodoris sp.). They are known to eat other nudibranchs! Wow.

I was also thrilled to see this really stunning Ceratosoma nudibranch (Ceratosoma sp.) that is not commonly seen, except sometimes at Semakau. We also saw other nudis like the polka dotted one and the phyllid nudibranch.

A tigertail seahorse (Hippocampus comes) was also found by the intrepid hunter seekers! They are known to ambush to catch their prey instead of chasing after them.

Now for the echinoderm surprises of the day...

My first time seeing this heart urchin (probably Maretia planulata) is definitely something worth remembering!

The mouth of the heart urchin is on the underside. Unfortunately, this heart urchin looks not active.

Semakau is well known for these gigantic knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) that never fails to attract attention from all ages.

Now is the find of the day for me....

Finally I got to witness this special star that was first sighted during the launch of Project Semakau. I was hunting up and down and asking around on the whereabouts of this star. When I got to the area of where it was last sighted, I walked and searched in circles but to no avail. It was when Ron who came towards me and in no time, he saw the star among the area that I was circling. Haha, I must be quite blind at that time.

This special sea star is a mystery because it has knobs like knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) but yet the patterns on the aboral surface is similar to cushion stars (Culcita novaeguineae).

I would guess it is a sea star from the Family Oreasteridae.

The underside of the mystery sea star.

If you look real detailedly (apologies that it is not obvious from this photo) on the underside, you can find pincer-like structures called bivalved pedicellariae which is also present on their UPPER side. This might be useful for identification.

Of course, we always remember to take a group photo with the magnificient knobbly sea star. I had a really great time guiding this group with Weijie. Everyone was really paying attention and following intently. It's really great to have such kinds of participants. Even the kids were so well behaved. :-)

Well, time passed fast while we were having fun. The sunset fell and another new adventure awaits.

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