Friday, August 9, 2013

First living sighting of the deadly cone snail at Cyrene

The title for this blog post is a play of the two contrasting words: living and deadly. It was quite an adventure for us at Cyrene Reef yesterday because we first landed on a stormy and windy weather. Thank God the rain didn't really get to us though our geared-up ponchos were flapping incessantly with the strong wind.

What made the real action happened was when Russel found our first sighting of a living Cone snail (probably Conus magnus) at the coral rubble. He was not aware how deadly it could be!

So thus he went about holding the snail to look at it and took photos with this innocent-looking snail. Thankfully he was not harpooned with venom that could potentially kill him. It was later that Sam reminded him that this looks like a cone snail.

Putting the facts that this snail is deadly in nature (which is almost all it is known for), the cone snail can be quite cute-looking! :P From this photo, you can actually see the two eye stalks peering "innocently" at potential prey.

Here's how the underside looks like with an orange foot coming out from its conical shell. Cone snails used to be common on the shores of Singapore but shoreline developments and reclamations have wiped them out quite a fair bit... to the extent that after 6 years of exploring our intertidal shores, this is my first time seeing a live version.

So much about the hype from the cone snail, Cyrene Reef remains starry-ful which matches well to the National Day spirit. Here's a photo with Mei Lin admiring lots of the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) that crowd around this part of the shore. There sure are many of them on this special submerged reef.

We saw two six-armed versions of the Knobblies and this particular individual is bright red in colour.

We saw two Pentaceraster sea stars (Pentaceraster mammilatus) and they look like the usual ones that we have been finding on our previous trips.

This other individual has many small knobs that are pale yellow in colour. The body is also in pale blue... thus making this a pale-looking sea star? :P

As usual, there were many of these Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) on the sandy parts of Cyrene.

A new sea star sighting for Cyrene would be this Astropecten sea star that we have seen before on Changi East. Cyrene indeed is an echinoderm haven!

I came across this sea star that has rotted considerably and cannot exactly tell what species it is. Though its size is similar to that of a knobbly sea star, the segmented parts of the arms seem to suggest that it could be something different altogether.

Moving on to molluscs, there are many snails sighted on this trip such as this Ram's murex (Chicoreus ramosus) that was found by Russel.

This is the underside of the huge murex. We have seen this murex before at Changi and Mei Lin has seen a larger one during her diving.

As this Eggwhite moon snail (Polinices albumen) was in the water moving about, there was an opportunity for me to take a photo of this snail with its body extended out like a full moon. Most of the time, I would be too impatient to wait for its body to come out if it has retracted inside its shell.

The Grey bonnet snails (Phalium glaucum) used to be very common on Cyrene and I only saw two on this trip. Perhaps they are seasonal in nature?

Though we find many small olive snails on our sandy reclaimed shores, this larger Olive snail (Oliva miniacea) is probably only commonly found on Cyrene Reef.

Ria found this whelk with a pretty white foot that has black markings. Can you find its operculum at the back of its foot?

Similar to a previous trip to Cyrene, I get to witness again how the China moon snail (Natica onca) can use its body to envelope around a clam of its equivalent size to try and feed on it.

A dead Tun snail (Family Tonnidae) shell was found that is inhabited by a shy hermit crab. Too bad we didn't get to see the living version.

I shall end off the post with animals that look loooong. The Synaptic sea cucumbers used to be common on Cyrene but I only saw one. Probably the rain or wind has made these sea cucumbers burrow or hide?

A Peanut worm (Phylum Sipuncula) was seen in the process of burrowing. In the past, peanut worms were once so plentiful in Singapore that they were collected and fed to ducks.

Though we didn't get to find any seahorse, it was good to come across the Seagrass pipefish, which is a relative of the former.

A splashy surprise would be this huge long fish that swam around the shallow tide pools. It probably is a garfish.

The nervous fish was very sensitive to my movement but it later decided to stay still and this allowed me to take a closer look at its colourful body.

I'll be back tomorrow at Cyrene for seagrass monitoring. Hopefully, the weather will be kind and that more of the usual suspects would be back in action on the shore.

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