Monday, June 16, 2014

How is Beting Bronok doing?

Beting Bronok (BB) is a remote and special reef located in the north. It has been about 3 years since my last visit and I have been hearing updates from recent trips that it is slowly doing not as well as compared to the past. How is this shore now? And did the recent sponge-less situations at Chek Jawa and Pulau Sekudu affect this reef as well?

Today's super low spring tide crosses over into the dawn and we could have a bright daylight view of the reef with a picturesque view of Johor in the background.

Here is a photo from 2008 for comparison. Evidently there are lesser sponges now, in particular the branching sponges.

Nevertheless, we are relieved that there are still many sponges of all sorts of colour that can be found extensively across certain parts of BB.

At certain areas, different types of sponges can be jam-packed with each other but the rest are most by themselves.

Here's a collage of the different types of sponges that were found on today's trip!

I'm also relieved to see the huge Thorny sea urchins (Prionodidaris sp.) are still around and they tend to congregate at the water's edge. BB is the only shore that we see them growing so big and always found in large numbers.

Sadly, the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) that used to be found in higher numbers have either moved away or have died. Even at the lowest tide, I could only find one. Ria's trip last year also only had a single sighting of this sea star.

Similarly, only one Feather star (Order Comatulida) was spotted today.

The Bailer volutes (Melo melo) can be commonly found at BB. Unfortunately, we only came across one today. It was actually feeding on a Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis)! 

Interestingly, I stumbled upon a juvenile version of the Noble volute. It has a dark shell with almost no patterns.

On the flip side, we saw more Sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) on this trip and they are usually found closer to the edge of the reef. Most of them are the Candelabra sea fans (Euplexaura sp.). The sea fan in this photo looks like the Tree sea fan (Family Melithaeidae). 

Hard corals wise, there are many Boulder pore corals (Porites sp.) and I also saw one colony of this Favid coral (Family Faviidae).

It is rare to find the Estuarine moray eel (Gymnothorax tile) out of the water! I only saw one today though we used to find many Brown spotted moray eel (Gymnothorax reevesii) at BB in the past. 

I was excited to find the Marbled Sea Snake (Aipysurus eydouxii) in the deep pool. Though this is a venomous snake, it will not bite unless disturbed. In fact, it was swimming very quickly away from me and thus I couldn't get a better shot of this special snake.

I found two Estuarine seahorses (Hippocampus kuda)! Seahorses are actually fishes and have bones inside as well as outside.

I found yet another seahorse at the area with lots of Button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.). In fact, we noticed that the zoanthids have spread out to cover even wider areas of the reef with each year.

As I walked around the area with zoanthids, I saw this green Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera) that is quite well camouflaged with the background!

Special anemone finds would include this pink Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis). I saw a brownish one at the edge of the reef as well. It's actually my first time seeing this anemone at BB though it has been sighted before by others.

Another first time for me on BB would be the green version of the Haeckel's anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli) which can sting very badly! I saw two today!

And it seems like the black version of the Haekel's anemone is doing well on the shore as I saw at least three on this trip!

Moving southwards from the zoanthids territory to the siltier parts, I was surprised to find green on the substrate.

After a closer look, I realized that there are many Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) growing here! Something different from the previous trips to BB.

More sea anemone sightings include this Alicia sea anemone (Alicia sp.) that was spotted by Chay Hoon at the edge of the reef. It looks all shriveled up in this photo.

Another uncommon sea anemone in the northern shores would be this Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) as they are super common on our southern shores.

Marcus found this unusual Snapping shrimp (Family Alpheidae) with red legs! We wonder what it is.

The Painted porcelain crabs (Porcellanella picta) that reside with the Slender sea pen (Virgularia sp.) are very cute! Especially when one is smaller than the other.

BB is where we would be able to find a good assortment of sea slugs due to its proliferation of hydroids and sponges. Ria found a pair of this Yellow foot nudibranch (Thordisa villosa)!

The Bornella nudibranch (Bornella sp.) swims by flexing its long body from side to side. They are known to feed on hydroids.

Chay Hoon found this pair of Purple foot nudibranch (Atagema spongiosa) which are probably mating. They are so well camouflaged that I missed it when I walked past the area where it was found.

It's my first time seeing this Multi-pustuled Mexichromis (Mexichromis multituberculata)! Thanks Chay Hoon and Ria for finding one each. This sea slug resembles the Purple-spotted yellow flatworm (Pseudoceros laingensis).

This pretty slug is the Hypselodoris kanga nudibranch. One of the identifying features of this slug is that it has yellow dots on its flowery gills.

Also of the same genus, this Hypselodoris nudibranch is likely to be a different colour form / morph of the Hypselodoris infucata. The colour of this individual has darker blue body as compared to the usual ones we see in our northern shores. 

And just before we depart, I was excited to find yet another Hypselodoris slug! This time, it is the Hypselodoris maritima. This species is not commonly found on our intertidal shores.

The 2030 landuse plan by the Ministry of National Development announced that Beting Bronok and Pulau Unum have been granted 'Nature Area' status. Based on our understanding, this status means the area "will be kept for as long as possible until required for development". We do not exactly know the future of this reef with the nearby developments and land use that will go on with years to come.

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