Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back to Little Sisters after two years

After two years of absence, I'm finally back to Little Sisters with a bunch of friends. I still remember the totally black frogfish found back then.

After three consecutive trips with no sunrise to look at, today's trip was splendid for its sunrise and good weather.

There was a particular spot where there are many Feather stars (Order Comatulida) of different colours, but stunning red in majority. This underwater shot shows FOUR large red feather stars together!

And it looks even prettier and attractive when found in shallow waters. I saw all sorts of sizes ranging from real tiny ones to huge ones like this.

James found a black feather star curling up its arms with their cirri (claw-like appendage) to grip onto a rock.

And I later also saw this bluish green patterned feather star. Wow, Little Sisters is filled with feather stars! I found out that Ivan also saw one that is white with patterns.

At some parts of the reef where there is lesser seaweed, a colourful garden is unveiled, crowded with sponges, zoanthids and soft corals.

And here we have more sponges including the pink Barrel sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria), Smooth blue sponge (Lendenfeldia cf. chondrodes), corals and zoanthids.

However, most other parts of the reefs are rather covered with Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.) and Hairy green seaweed (Bryopsis sp.). This made exploration bit more tedious as animals tend to be hidden from sight. Nevertheless, we still managed to spot several interesting creatures!

Ria brought Mei Lin to check out the resident Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) and we were relieved it was still there! However, Ria noticed that it seems to have "sunken" in while later we thought probably there was some sand that moved in to cover bit of the base.

Under a pile of rocks, I noticed the underside of a large cowrie and upon a closer look it was an Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica)! Seems that I get to see this cowrie quite often now.

Another interesting snail will be this bright orange coloured Fireband Murex (Chicoreus torrefactus)! They have the ability to drill through shelled molluscs and suck out the flesh of their poor prey.

Among the huge mass of Hairy green seaweed (Bryopsis sp.), I spotted this Arrow-head spider crab (Menatheius sp.). It is quite good at camouflaging itself when in the rubble but when it is now on top of the seaweed, the crab is much easily sighted.

Ivan (the younger as we named) is doing his final year project on frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) so we were helping him to spot them. On the left is the more commonly found Banded frilly anemone while the right photo shows the less commonly found Smooth frilly sea anemone.

There are many fishes that were darting or swimming around the tidal pools and here some interesting ones to share.

There were a couple of filefishes including this Bristletail filefish spotted by Liana...

and this Feathery filefish (Chaetodermis penicilligerus) found by Ria. Filefishes have a stiff dorsal spine and leathery skin instead of scales.

Liana also spotted this cute little Longspined scorpionfish (Paracentropogon longispinis).

This small and well camouflaged scorpionfish has venomous spines so do not try to handle it! Its venom is only used for protection from predators and not to catch prey.

Another well camouflaged fish must be this Three-spined toadfish (Batrachomoeus trispinosus). As their name suggests, they can croak like a toad but do not also try to touch as they may bite!

At the sandy lagoon, I was glad to find Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) for the first time at Little Sisters.

And there were quire a number of moon snails that were prowling on the ground. We are not too sure of the id of these snails though.

It's my first time seeing this kind of Peachia anemone (Peachia sp.) with a whitish oral disk. It looks very cool to me.

Soon it was time to leave this little yet charming island. When the sunlight shone onto the coastline, the island look really magnificent. I just like the looks of a natural coastline.

It was quite a good trip. The rest of the team saw lots of other fantastic critters and I'll leave the other animals for them (Ria, Liana, James, Ivan, Mei Lin and Geraldine) to blog.

See you another time Sisters!

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