Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spectacular coral reef of Kusu

Yes, we have spectacular coral reefs just 15 minutes away from our city centre!

Kusu Island is home to a dense fringing reef outside its seawall made up of anemones, hard corals and soft corals. The cityline is just not very far away.

It's the first time I have a look at the reefs outside the seawall. And it was a pleasant surprise to find such a huge variety of hard corals.

And of course, we were all very relieved the oil spill has not yet hit Kusu Island which is actually closest to the spill among the southern islands.

Most Singaporeans will not imagine that we have colourful reefs that are crowded with life just right at our very own backyard.

It is so closely packed that I hardly had space to walk around without damaging the fragile reef.

Here is a good mix of soft corals, sponges and hard corals that thrive together very well!

There are some corals that are rather plate or leafy-like. My favourite will be the green colony of the Lettuce hard coral (Pavona sp.).

At some parts of the reef, there are also Circular mushroom corals.

An uncommon coral will be this huge boulder of the Moon coral (Diploastrea heliopora). The corallites are regularly spaced out and give an overall regular tidy pattern.

Other than the Moon coral, it was great to also find two colonies of the rare Brain anchor coral (Euphyllia ancora). The colony has meandering corallites that resemble the folds of a brain.

Another uncommon coral that was sighted among the reefs will be this Trumpet corals (Caulastrea sp.). The corallites are long and tubular, quite trumpet-like.

These two colonies of Acropora corals (Acropora sp.) is not just purely corals but is also home to some living creatures among the branches of the coral.

What a delight to find the Broad-barred acropora goby (Gobiodon histrio) within the coral! It's my first time seeing it!

Study has shown that this fish almost never leaves its coral home and stays despite low oxygen levels in the water and even when the coral is exposed at low tide. To do so, the fish is able to breathe air! And indeed I noticed this in another colony which is high and dry.

Not only are there gobies living among the Acropora corals, it's also my first time seeing this very pretty shrimp on the coral polyps. It has striations on its body and what seems to be a long projection/snout in front.

On a colony of the Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.), James found a couple of crabs also living among the branches of the coral. They are very very cute indeed!

Near the edge of the reef flat, I found two Feather stars (Order Comatulida)! This one is in black.

While a stunning red one is also found at another part of the coral reef.

Found among the Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) is this gliding Orange-edged black flatworm (Pseudobiceros uniarborensis).

From what I've seen at the reefs today at Kusu, don't you agree that our shores are full of life? There are even different animals living on top or within each other!

There were two first time records of sea anemones found at Kusu today! The first will be this Pizza anemone (Cryptodendrum adhaesivum) which has a commensal Five-spot anemone shrimps (Periclimines brevicarpalis).

The anemone shrimp was also found living on this rare Leathery anemone (Heteractis crispa) that Marcus found. Not sure if the whitish coloration is due to slight bleaching.

Among the rocks, I came across this longish version of the Stonefish sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora).

The top find of the day is probably this mating pair of the Spotted reef crab (Carpilius maculatus) spotted by James. This crab has a distinctive pattern of large spots on a pink body. And it is my first time seeing them!

It's amazing that after visiting the shores for so many trips, I can still see new findings with subsequent trips.

The trip ended with a breath taking sunrise over the corals that were soon covered by the retreating tides.

Such a wonderful coral reef we have in Singapore and that will be such a shame if the oil spill were to eventually reach our southern islands. As our shores are facing threats like the oil spill, let us also not forget about the other existing threats such as sedimentation, destructive fishing, littering etc. Just look at how driftnets can kill marine life such as the 3 dead Blacktip reef sharks at the Project Semakau team found today.

Let us not only start to appreciate our shores when it is facing danger but to do what we can to spread the word around that we have such nice marine habitats.

More photos of today's trip here:

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