Saturday, March 14, 2009

Soft sediment creatures of Tuas

Here is the third post on my Tuesday Tuas shore trip. Previously, I have blogged about the gorgeous gorgonians and also the lively coral reef and coral rubble creatures around Merawang Beacon.

Another habitat of Tuas will be the soft sediment shore that has seagrasses and algae cover. Despite being located beside Schering Plough, the shore is well monitored and looked after. Team Seagrassers from Schering Plough do monitor the seagrasses there regularly.

There was a proliferation of the Halimeda seaweed at the soft sediment habitat of Tuas and that supports a number of creatures.

Like the Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis) in red (left). There are also the Black long sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) which is less frequently found here compared to the coral rubble.

Like the coral rubble, there are also mats of zoanthids that dotted the shore.

The first record of the plain sand star (Astropecten indicus) at the Tuas shore! All of the previous sightings were only the painted ones (Astropecten sp.). These sand stars seems to be restricted to shores bounded by the Straits of Johor...hmm.

I found this elegant looking Glass anemone (Doflenia sp.). Unfortunately, I didn't get a good capture of this pretty anemone, see Ria's post for a nicer photo :-)

The Nparks team sighted this Spearer mantis shrimp (Harpiosquilla sp.) which is colourful with shades of blue, yellow and green.

Armed with sharp spines, the pincers extend and retract much faster than an eye blink and the sharp spines impale soft, fast-moving prey like fish and prawns.

Hiding near a rock crevice is a hairy crab (Family Pilumnidae). They are usually found at southern shores so I think it's my first time seeing them at northern shores.

I do feel that Tuas shore is like a combination of the northern shores and southern shores to a certain extent because there is a good mix of coral reef and soft sediment creatures.

An Estuarine sea horse (Hippocampus kuda) was sighted among the Halimeda seaweeds! It's always a special find to sight the charming sea horse.

Also found among the hard Halimeda seagrass is Diamond tuskfish (Halichoeres dussumieri/nigrescens). We later brought this distressed wrass back to a tidal pool. We were careful in handling this fish has sharp teeth and can give a nasty bite!

Free from poaching pressures, the shore was dotted with numerous gong gongs (Strombus canarium)!

On top of peacock anemones which I didn't found time to photograph, there are also huge Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni).

Soon I found something special which has been also sighted before by Samson the last trip.

Despite the numerous common Cake sand dollar (Arachnoides placenta), there shore also is home to the much rarer Laganum sand dollar (Laganum depressum) which I definitely preferred more.

If I'm not wrong, these are the yellow horned sponge which are not common at other shores except Tuas.

Now it is time for corals! Both hard and soft.

We have the ever resilient Zebra coral (Oulastrea crispata) that can be found even at the most beat up shore.

There is also the larger colony of boulder coral (Porites sp.) submerged at the deeper levels of the shore.

How about the softies?

I saw this leathery soft coral that looks quite different from the smoother surfaced encountered at our southern shores.

The colony is usually thick, disk-like with a highly ruffled edge. In some, there are many bulbous or short finger-like projections. A check with the wildfacts page revealed that this is the starry leathery soft coral.

Soft corals are aplentiful especially for the Spiky flowery soft corals. They are very common only at Tuas and the spikey soft coral do house a lot of different tiny creatures. Only if I have all the time of the low tide to look closely at them. :-)

It was a treat to have many of the Ball flowery soft corals at Tuas. They are usually numerous only at remote shores like Beting Bronok. Don't you think they look like cauliflower?

The soft coral was a great hiding place and there was a tiny colourful brittlestar just within it!

Sometimes they can be rather colourful with stunning red colours.

More of these cute little ball-like soft corals.

Last but definitely not the least, a special find by Ria. A Melibe nudibranch (Melibe viridis)!

The melibe is a large nudibranch that has an expandable hood which it uses to trap small prey.

There's just so much in this narrow stretch of shore that escaped reclamation! The trip ended with a glorious sunset and a terrible thunderstorm.

How can both sunset and thunderstorm come together? Find out why in my upcoming last post of the Tuas series of blog posts. I will share with you some nice landscape photos of this lovely shore.

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