Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lively Merawang beacon

Just off the coast of Tuas is Merawang beacon that stands on a rocky outcrop.

As I have always said in many blog posts, do not judge a book by its cover. Never think that the rocky outcrop is lifeless and boring by just looking from afar until you go and take a closer look yourself.

For the first time, I got to touch the towering beacon after wading in deep waters to get there.

Just near the base of the beacon are different kinds of barnacles, a first sign of life.

At the coral rubble surrounding the beacon are huge mats of zoanthids (Palythoa tuberculosa).

Tuas is well known to have plenty of hydroids (Class Hydrozoa) which we do not really know of its detailed indentification. They can inflict painful burning stings which takes a long time to recover. Therefore, it is important to be fully covered with long pants.

This looks like the fluffy hydroids.

This one looks like the stinging hydroids.

And this pretty pink one looks like the candy hydroids.

Interestingly, there a Green mussel (Perna viridis) stuck on a mat of Melted chocolate ascidian.

Also on the ascidian are many Sponge synaptid sea cucumber. They are small and numerous!

Another sea cucumber, this is the much bigger Black long sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) that is quite common at the coral rubble area. They tend to be close or underneath rocks.

Feathery fan worms are aplenty too! There are both the orange and banded brown ones on the coral rubble.

If there is a hard substrate, sponges will not be a miss unless the shore is really atrocious. There are many weird looking sponges including this one. Probably we will get a better idea when Swee Cheng's sponge guidebook is released in the future.

Beside this blue sponge is this cute little thumbs up sea squirt (Polycarpa sp.) which indeed squirted water when I was observing it.

Most part of the coral rubble area was submerged but a view from the top reveals it simply like an underwater colourful garden full of sponges, soft corals, sponges, hard corals, sea fans etc.

And I was surprised to find this branching sponge that is as big as a potential sea fan. It is stunning. You can also see the soft coral (in brown) beside the sponge.

A closer look at this gigantic sponge reveals that it is a great hiding place for animals like the brittlestar. Can you spot it?

Unlike northern shores like Changi or Pasir Ris, there are many hard corals over at Tuas.

Like this magnificient disk coral (Turbinaria sp.). It does look like a disk from its shape.

This is another disk coral that is larger and in a greenish-grey shade.

A hard coral is a colony of many individual polyps. Each polyp is an animal and they are each very beautiful.

When submerged underwater, the tentacles are fully extended outwards and it looks really lively!

How about soft corals?

Soft corals are aplenty at the coral rubble as well like this pretty Pink flowery soft coral (Family Nephtheidae). Out of water it looks flaccid and rather lifeless.

But when submerged they look stunning, making the underwater coral reef garden more colourful!

As you noticed in this post, most animals spotted are immobile but I still managed to spot this Ornate leaf slug (Elysia ornata) crawling underwater.

The coral rubble and reef area surrounding Merawang Beacon is so exciting! Rarely can you find a mainland shore that is as stunning as this. Probably because this shore is protected from public access and therefore the reef animals and plants can thrive.

The Tuas shore also has other habitats like the soft sediment part of the shore which I will blog about it soon. Watch out for this space!

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