Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Struck at Beting Bronok

Today we were struck in one way or another at Beting Bronok (BB), a mysterious reef that we only rarely visit.

It was dawn over BB and it looks totally all too peaceful and the landscape was too nice to behold. The place was poles-apart from the concrete jungle of urban Singapore.

Getting to this part of the reef requires one to cross a water channel as shown in the above photo. From far, the channel looks innocently small and easy to cross. Chay Hoon saw us and wanted to cross over the water channel. She was exclaiming about her great nudi finds at the same time. Ria later reminded her to beware of stingrays.

And almost immediately after that, poor Chay Hoon got struck by a stingray. It was agonising for Chay Hoon because the stingray took a long time to remove its spine. She lost a lot of blood and we had to quickly apply first aid and then evacuate her.

On the boat back, Chay Hoon looks pale but she was really brave throughout the whole course of the uneventful stingray strike. She has seen the doctor and now is resting at home. Get well soon Chay Hoon!

Just before all these took place, we were in another way star-struck by the diversity of marine life at BB.

One major difference from the previous trip was the proliferation of zoanthids in many parts of the shore. These are probably the Button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.).

The special part about BB will be that the rare Baler volute (Melo melo) can be found in good numbers on this reef. The Baler volute is listed as 'Endangered' in the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore due to habitat loss. They are also overcollected to be eaten.

I was totally wow-struck when I saw the largest Baler volute I've ever came across. It was about 25-30cm across! I wonder how old it is.

BB is one rare shore where there are many of these stunning-looking Onyx cowrie (Cypraea onyx) all around the coral rubble. The pretty shell is seen from the top when its body or mantle is not overlapping it.

This is how a cowrie looks like with the mantle covering the shell. I am not sure if this is also the Onyx cowrie because I didn't check out on the shells and the underside.

Nevertheless, A number of us encountered this different looking cowrie that is different from the usual ones we have seen in Singapore shores. From the underside, this cowrie has a black tooth-like shell opening.

Talking about being star-struck, there are many stars at Beting Bronok. Among the most is not the sand star but the numerous Biscuit sea stars (Gonodiscaster scaber) that can be encountered easily with just every few steps distance.

Though the gang saw a really large Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera), I only saw this juvenile cake sea star with yellow tips on its arms.

Like Changi, several of the Spiny sea star (Gymnanthenea laevis) can be found.

BB is one of the few remaining Singapore shores left that still has several of the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus). In the past, Knobbly sea stars were among the most common large sea stars of Malaya. I heard that they were numerous at Changi Beach in the past. But now, only their juveniles were only sighted once in a blue moon at Changi. Many times, Knobbly sea stars are harvested from the wild for the live aquarium trade. They are now listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore.

It was heartening to find a couple of the Scaly sea star (Nepanthia belcheri) which I've not seen for some time already.

When it is dark, there were so many brittle stars partying out at this new moon night and this particular brittle star is slightly special. There was a tiny shrimp with blue eyes on it. the shrimp could be a commensal of the brittle star.

And even the brittle star can also itself be also a commensal to the blue sponge which eventually was used by the Sponge crab (Family Dromiidae)! As you can see, the shore animals are heavily dependent on each other.

Even the Decorator or Velcro crab (Camposcia retusa) makes use of another animals by attaching living sponges as a disguise. They tend to move slowly so that they do not look like a crab.

This crab snips off bits of sponges or seaweed and selects suitable shells and debris. These are then stuck firmly onto the fine, hooked hairs which densely cover its body and legs and thus act like the 'velcro' after which it is named.

But the most special crabby find will be my first encounter of this Domed elbow crab (Cryptopodia fornicata).

This unusual looking crab looks like a horseshoe crab from its underside. It has a domed body that covers its spindly walking legs. And this crab has eggs with it.

There were many carpet anemones on the shores and I had an encounter with this elegant looking Glass anemone (Dofleinia sp.). The transparent tentacles and oral disk are covered with small bumps that are white, sometimes reddish.

At a softer part of BB, we stumbled across a soft coral garden full of Ball flowery soft corals!

And some of these soft corals have cute white and green Commensal snapping shrimps!

Away from any soft coral, I found this weird looking shrimp that is also white in colour that I've not seen before anywhere. Could this be a special find?

Other than the Bally flowery soft corals, there are also Pink flowery soft corals at the low water level mark of the coral rubble area. Beside it is my only find of a Sea fan (Order Gorgonacea) out of water. I only saw a couple more submerged in deeper waters.

I wish over time, BB will recover to its former glory where there were abundant sea fans.

Talking about commensalism previously, the Painted porcelain crab (Porcellanella picta) is also another commensal on the sea pen. This tiny weeny polka dotted crab is just so cute!

James and I saw this Flowery sea pen (Family Veretillidae) and we didn't note the Semper's armina nudibranch (Armina semperi) at the base of the sea pen until we processed our photos at home! Yes the Semper's armina nudi is known to eat sea pens. Probably I was too sleep deprived to look at these tiny surprises.

Talking about nudibranch, Beting Bronok is probably the best northern reef to find a wide variety of them, some of which are rare in Singapore. Below are the several nudibranchs I've seen this morning.

The ever-stunning Blue dragon (Pteraeolidia ianthina).

The Starry mouthed nudibranch (Bornella sp.) was swimming while we were looking at it. It swims by flexing its long body from side to side.

A cool purplish looking Denison's nudibranch (Dendrodoris denisoni). It was rather large!

Rose nudibranch (Dendrodoris fumata) spotted by Ria, which was my first time seeing it.

Other sea slugs spotted include this Bushy slug (Polybranchia orientalis) that looks just like seaweed. It is a sea slug and its leaf-like extensions can shed off if they are stressed.

Some of the Hairy seahares (Bursatella leachi) at Beting Bronok are different from those that we usually see. These are purplish in colour.

I also found a couple of unknown dark green flatworms.

This is another the unknown greenish flatworm that is larger the the previous one.

James has a keen eye for small creatures and he saw this tiny Kite butterflyfish (Parachaetodon ocellatus). Can you see the tiny transparent looking shrimp above it?

Another special fishy find will be the Brown spotted moray eel (Gymnothorax reevesii) which is only commonly seen at BB. Too bad I only caught its tail.

The rest of the team saw plenty of other amazing and rare creatures! Here are their blog posts:

1) Ria's Back to BB
2) Chay Hoon's personal account of her stingray event at her Stingrayed @ Beting Bronok
3) Mei Lin's Much to see, and much to beware of

I hope I'll still be able to visit BB soon! Can't get enough of its beauty in the short couple of hours. And most importantly, hopefully Chay Hoon will recover quickly too from the stingray injury experienced today.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow these pictures are really amazing! Well Done

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