Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kusu Island: Anemone City

Last Sunday, I was back on evening tide trips this year and visited Kusu Island or also known as the Turtle Island.

Before Kusu was reclaimed, some people say it looked like a turtle. Made up of two ridges on a reef, one ridge the head, and the other the back of the turtle. Unfortunately, the shape of the turtle is not evident now.

Nevertheless, one can find marine life creeping back into the lagoon especially during low tide. The first sight that greeted us was the green carpet of blooming Sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) seaweed. I will share with you what dwells there in a short while.

Instead, I first headed off towards the lagoon mouth to have a good look.

And I noticed this boat with a kayak attached to the back. I wonder what are they doing so near to the reefs. And yes! The cityscape is just at the back. Our living reefs are just only 15 minutes away from the city.

Kusu Island is an anemone city as one can easily find numerous anemones, especially the carpet anemones. Here is a Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) that is having a feast on a crab! These anemones have stinging cells on its tentacles and that's how it can catch prey without having to be mobile.

Here's another Haddon's carpet anemone with a lovely pair of Five-spot anemone shrimps (Periclimines brevicarpalis).

Here's a closeup on the pretty shrimps.The female is often larger and more brightly marked with large white spots on the back.

Another species of carpet anemones that are abundant on Kusu will be the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea).

The best part of Kusu's anemones must be the exceeding numbers of these Magnificent anemones (Heteractis magnifica). I have never seen SO MANY of these anemones on the same slate of rock before. There's actually a False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) swimming somewhere but they are usually too shy to be photographed.

What looks like anemones but actually are not will be these Corallimorphs (Order Corallimorpharia).

I had a check at the corals within the lagoon and am glad that many of the branching Montipora corals (Montipora sp.) are still there.

Though the coral bleaching is recovering, we could notice that some corals did not survive the ordeal and had died. Thus, I feel that the section where the corals are is not as densely packed as before.

Sorely missed will be the large colonies of Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.) which used to be very commonly found in the lagoon previously.

I flipped a few rocks to check what lies beneath and was surprised to see so many baby Pimply phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa). This is the first time I've ever seen so many at one go.

Chay Hoon also found this pretty Denison's nudibranch (Dendrodoris denisoni).

As well as the Starry flatworm (Pseudobiceros stellae). :)

Ria showed me her find of this Remarkable sea cucumber (Holothuria notabilis) which we usually only find in our northern shores such as Changi and Chek Jawa.

And I later found this Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.) which also is a common resident of northern shores. Looks like the silty or sandy substrate in the lagoon is good home to these cucumbers!

There were a couple of moon snail sightings such as this small Pink moon snail.

Marcus and Liana later found this uncommon Spotted moon snail. It's body is pale with lots of small dark spots.

Somehow, there were quite a number of these Black-lipped conches (Strombus urceus) within the lagoon that evening.

And it was nice to see this sea moth (Pegasus volitans)! Their large pectoral fins are often spread out, thus they resemble moths. In addition, they have a long stiff snout and a bony outer skeleton, like the seahorse.

Back to the sea of blooming Sea lettuce (Ulva sp.), there were a number of different organisms that one can spot among the seaweed such as many of these small Sentinel crabs (Macrophthalmus sp.).

Or even the much larger crab like this Horn-eyed ghost crab (Ocypode cerathophthalmus).

Once in a while, I also came across some of these Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) among the seaweed. Haha!

During the trip, I made an attempt to climb out of the seawall to look at the promising coral reef outside. Though the tide level was ok to wade in, the passing boats created lots of giant waves that made me abort the attempt. Maybe next time when we get to Kusu on a much lower tide. :)

More photos of the trip here:

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