Thursday, June 6, 2013

Corals galore on reclaimed shores of Tanah Merah

I'm finally back on this stretch of Tanah Merah to survey the corals during super low spring tide on a predawn trip with Ron. This stretch is probably the best coral reef one could ever find on mainland Singapore and the most surprising part is that this is a reclaimed shore!

We started off surveying a stretch that I have not looked at since 2009 and we were excited to see hard corals jammed packed with one another at many parts of the shore.

Here's a view of the various types of hard corals that are doing well on a shore that is murky with only rocks of the sea wall as substratum for the hard corals to grow on. The variety of hard corals that can be found here is reflective of those that one can find on a southern offshore reef.

An interesting phenomenon is that the Boulder pore coral (Porites sp.) have "branching" projections on the top, similar to the Branching pore coral (Porites sp.). Is it because these corals are "reaching out" to the higher surface of the water where there is stronger sunlight in murky waters?

Some special corals found on this shore include several colonies of the uncommon Cabbage coral (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi).

There were also good growths of the Horn corals (Hydnophora sp.) encrusting on the surface of the huge sea wall rocks.

It was awesome to also find Circular mushroom corals (Fungia sp.) among other hard corals such as the Carnation coral (Pectinia sp.).

Other hard corals found include the Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.) and the Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.).

Here's a photo of yet more jammed packed corals with a large growth of the Ringed plate coral (Pachyseris sp.) beside the Pore corals.

In the middle of this photo is a colony of Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) with yet MORE hard corals such as the Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.).

It's amazing how these hard corals can thrive so well on a reclaimed shore with not as pristine water conditions as compared the shores off our southern islands and patch reefs.

One of the reefy animals spotted would be this Brown striped flatworm (Pseudobiceros gratus) which I have not seen for some time already.

There were quite a number of these Eight-banded butterflyfish (Chaetodon octofasciatus) swimming near the corals.

There were many Arabian cowries (Cypraea arabica) found on this trip! All thanks to Ron's keen eyes.

Here's a photo of TWO of them underneath the same boulder.

We also looked at the sandy stretch along this part of the shore and it is still doing well after 4 years of not visiting it. There are patches of seagrasses and also many Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) around.

At the low water level mark are some colonies of the Skinny sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) that are typical found along East Coast Park.

On one of the colonies, I missed out this Spindle or False cowrie snails (Family Ovulidae) until I processed the photos at home as they are pretty well camouflaged.

An unexpected surprise would be to find the six-armed version of the Eight-armed sand star (Luidia maculata)! This individual has a fat oral disk.

With the sunrise over the horizon, we quickly looked at the corals in front of Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and the boulder corals that dot the shore are still there.

There are some colonies of the Acropora corals (Acropora sp.) which are homes to commensals living within the branches.

Such as the Face-banded coral crab (Tetralia nigrolineata) on the left and the Machine gun shrimp (Coralliocaris graminea) on the right.

Unlike the snapping shrimp which only has one such 'snapping' pincer, the Machine gun shrimp has two such pincers which can make the loud snapping sound in probably twice the speed as compared to the snapping shrimp. Therefore, it is aptly named as the machine gun shrimp. :)

A bright snail that we often see on this part of Tanah Merah would be this Fireband Murex (Chicoreus torrefactus).

There were quite a number of crabs scurrying on the shores though they were hard to photograph. Glad I was able to take a shot of this bright but poisonous Red egg crab (Atergatis integerrimus).

A first sighting on this reef would be the Long-spined black sea urchins (Diadema sp.)!

Probably also a first sighting for Tanah Merah, this Feather mushroom hard coral (Ctenactis sp.) is usually only found on good reefs.

Though the shore is dominated by hard corals, there are also some soft coral representatives such as this Omelette leathery soft coral (Sacrophyton sp.)...

the Smooth leathery soft coral (Sinularia sp.)...

and also the Black-and-white leathery soft coral (Cladiella sp.).

Here's a final look at the corals just off the Ferry Terminal.

Ron and I also quickly took a look at the usual shore at the lagoon and I spotted this interesting sighting of anemone shrimps inside a Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.)!

These are the Anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) that we usually find on the Haddon's or Giant carpet anemone. 

I realized that I have not blogged about the Soldier crab (Dotilla sp.) for a long time and here's a good look at this intimidating looking crab. :)

It was a great trip to check out the corals and know that they are doing very well on Tanah Merah!

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