Sunday, July 26, 2009

Coral garden at Tanah Merah

I missed the previous Tanah Merah trip due to a serious bout of stomach flu. But this time, I am thankful for the good weather and the low tide.

With good weather and the super low spring tide, a small team of us managed to get to this part of the shore to explore the coral garden off Tanah Merah. At the background is the ferry terminal.

From my previous trip, I speculated that this is, so far, the best mainland coral reef in Singapore.

And indeed, my return visit continued to surprise me with lots of coral finds. They are everywhere and it is so hard to move around while trying not to step on them. In addition, the rocks are highly unstable and getting a proper foothold is like a test of your balancing acts.

Over here, one can find corals of all sorts exposed only at the lowest of the low spring tides.

Firstly, there are several types of disk or plate-like corals.

And indeed, the common name of this coral species is the Thin Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.). This one is in purplish brownish green shade.

While this one is in bright green in colour. Their circular shape indeed looks like a disc from your CD. There's another green coral beside the disk coral but I didn't notice it until I looked through the photos at home.

At this shore, it is quite common to find good growths of which seems to be the uncommon Bracket mushroom hard coral.

The corallites of this species form a distinctive pattern of parallel lines perpendicular to the edge. There is a 'waist' in the parallel lines at the mouth of the corallite, i.e., the parallel lines merge at regular intervals.

This bluish coral could also be probably another Bracket mushroom hard coral.

Once again, I am not good at coral identification but I would think this is a Ridged plate coral (Merulina sp.).

Another plate-like coral colony will be this brown and bright green coloured coral. This is probably also a Ridged plate coral (Merulina sp.).

There are also other plate-like corals without parallel lines perpendicular to the coral edge. Instead, the prominent parts will be their circular polyps. Unfortunately, I can't seem to make out what species this is.

The last plate-like coral found during the trip will be the rare Ringed plate coral (Pachyseris sp.) which is on the left of this photo.

As you can see in the above photo, there are also boulder-like corals among the plate-like corals.

One of the boulder-like coral colony will be the Brain coral (Family Mussidae). The corallites can form meandering valleys which in a way looks like a brain.

A closeup of another brain coral found along the reef.

Here's two bright green coral colony! On the left is a Favid coral (Family Faviidae) while the one on the right is yet another brain coral called the White grooved brain coral (Symphyllia sp.).

Proceeding to favid corals, there is this particular one that I've not seen before. It has orange ring of wall around each polyp. I wonder what it is.

An interesting sight on top of a pretty Maze hexa favid coral while be this tiny scallop that happen to be position there. I thought this photo was artistic and cute at the same time.

While many favid corals are boulder in shape, there are other types of coral like this unknown green coral colony that is weirdly shaped. There is indeed a lot of room for improvement towards identification of corals.

Nevertheless, it is still a relief to sight familiar corals like this stunning colony of Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.).

Another familiar coral that can be also found on our southern shores will be this Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.) with much longer tentacles as compared to other coral species.

I also had a glimpse of a neon pink colony like the one Ria found at Terumbu Raya but didn't had the chance to take a photograph.

That's not all, there are still more coral species....

Like this Horn coral (Hydnophora sp.) that is usually only found on undisturbed reefs.

Furthermore, the Carnation hard corals (Pectinia sp.) are also residents of Tanah Merah.

This particular colony of the Carnation coral is pretty with bright bluish-green in colour.

And of course, Lettuce hard corals (Pavona sp.) are especially common at Tanah Merah. Not only are they surprisingly abundant, they can also be of huge sizes. Sometimes there are life living within the corals like this orange fanworm.

A surprise during this trip will be the find of many mushroom corals. There are several young recruits of the circular mushroom corals in different parts of the reef.

With recruits, there must also be the larger sized ones like this handsome individual. The reason I said it is an individual is because mushroom corals are a single giant polyp which means it is not a colony of animals but one animal.

An interesting feature of this mushroom must be the single slit-like mouth in the centre of the upper surface which often has banded 'lips' around it.

The last hard coral in this blog post will be the ever spectacular Acropora coral (Acropora sp.). As mentioned before, larg colonies like this one in Tanah Merah can only be more commonly seen on undisturbed and remote Southern reefs.

Unfortunately, this is also the only species of corals that we noticed coral bleaching occuring during the trip on some of the colonies. According to my friend who works on corals, it could be due to stresses like the rain that poured during low tide exposure the day before. But if given correct conditions, it is possible for the corals to recover. Let's hope the Acropora corals will get well soon.

The healthy specimens look just so pretty underwater!

Though not as common as hard corals, there are also soft corals off Tanah Merah. This colony beside the jetty is particularly huge!

And they look like dead hands coming out of the seabed. Haha.

At another stretch, I found a large colony of leathery soft coral beside branching green sponges.

With coral reefs, there also exist animals that live on the reef.

It was a delight to encounter this pretty octopus that quickly escaped from my sight among sensing my presence.

Echinoderm wise, Ivan found this long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) that can be commonly found on some southern shores.

But the best echino-find will be this stunning feather star that I found. At first, it was all curled up and I thought it was some kind of a pimply nudibranch from far. Hahaha.

Somehow, the only anemones encountered at the reef will be the Bulb-tentacled sea anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor). This one has neon-green tips.

At the deeper waters, I saw another one with tapering long tentacles. But I missed the orange nemo at the bottom, which again I only found out when I processed the photos.

Thanks to James, he found another of the anemone, this time also with a stunningly cute tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus). This must definitely be the top find of the day.

It's amazing that one needs not travel offshore to experience magnificent reef experiences. May Tanah Merah stays this way for all of us to continue and marvel at how animals can colonize a reclaimed shore and establish themselves to become the unimaginable reef it is today. Isn't the creations of God wonderful?

1 comment:

Ria Tan said...

WOW! The reefs at Tanah Merah sure are fabulous.

Though I would never get the courage to get close enough to look at them they way you have.

So thank you very much for sharing this!

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