Monday, July 27, 2009

Tanah Merah: life behind the seawall

Just before I spent most of the time checking out the corals beyond the seawall, I was exploring the sandflat that lies just behind the seawall. Despite being a reclaimed shore, there were still lots of animals to sight!

One of the frequent crabs that usually forage in the darkness will be this reddish Horn-eyed ghost crab (Ocypode cerathophthalmus). They probably got their common name because they are active only at night, and they move so swiftly over the sand that you usually literally only get a fleeting glimpse of them.

As its name suggests, this bluish crab is a Blue swimming crab (Thalamita sp.) which is also particularly active at night.

On the rocks behind the seawall, I chanced upon this cute tiny swimming crab as well. It has a nice shade of brown and orange coloration on its carapace.

The last crabby find from this short exploration of the sandflat will be this unknown crab that looks like a swimming crab. It has bright blue pincers.

From far, it is difficult to spot these near-transparent shrimp that I only got to see when I squatted down. The male is transparent with a pair of long pincers, often longer than his body.

At this Tanah Merah shore, it is not difficult to find many of these banded fan worm. When in the waters, they extend their tentacles to filter feed. This looks very graceful!

When out of water, they can still stretch out from their tubing but their tentacles are all "joined" together instead of extending outwards.

Tanah Merah is not particularly rich in sea anemones but it was still pleasant to see this Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni).

Tanah Merah is instead rich in molluscs like the intricate and amazingly-patterned Dubious nerites (Clithon oualaniensis). There's also a tiny dead cone shell.

If your eyes are sharp in the previous photo, you might have also spotted this tiny yet pretty goby resting among the "sea" of shells and snails.

Talking about cone snails, I also found a bigger shell that is also dead. So far, we have not seen them alive intertidally. Hopefully there will be a day where we can find an alive cone snail.

It's quite funny though to see the dubious nerites on the dead shell. They seem to be everywhere on this shore.

The prettiest snail found that morning must be this Pink moon snail where its body is colourful with a pink, red or bright orange front portion. The foot of this snail has a white margin and a pattern of white bars and red spots. I think this is the prettiest moon snail out of the many species that can be found in Singapore.

Last but not least, Tanah Merah is also well known for being fishy! Ria last saw many fishes during an earlier trip.

As for this trip, we got to see a couple of these Flatheads (Family Platycephalidae) which are like a cross between a crocodile and a fish.

Swimming among tidal pools are other small fishes and a cute little half beak that has white bands.

It was surprising to find both a huge Peacock sole (Pardachirus pavoninus)...

and also a tiny one as well! Peacock soles are not that commonly sighted on our shores, so this is really a great find.

The best fishy find will be this Brown sweetlips (Plectorhinchus gibbosus). Though the tiny ones we see on the shores are about 2cm, they can grow up to 70cm! They are called sweetlips probably because of their thick lips when they grow up. In addition, they can also change colour rapidly from pale patterns to dark.

Tanah Merah is one of the few reclaimed lands that support a huge variety of life as seen from all our previous trips. There's lots of room for exploration on this gigantic shore and I'm looking forward to future trips!

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