Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lionfish on Lion City's birthday at Pulau Hantu!

It's Singapore's 49th birthday and the intrepid team celebrated National Day way earlier than many others as we crawled out of our bed for a 3.30am departure to Pulau Hantu!

All the sleep deprivation is worthwhile as the Lionfish made a special appearance on our survey! It is my first time seeing it in Singapore and is likely also the first local sighting on the intertidal shores!

Here is the view of the magnificent lionfish from the back! It is likely to be the Russell’s lionfish (Pterois russellii). An individual has been sighted before off Pulau Satumu in 2001 (Raffles Lighthouse). How appropriate it is to find the lionfish on  Lion City's birthday! Indeed a testimony and reminder that our reefs are very much alive.

Enjoy this short 10 seconds video taken in the dark (with a torch).

Andy Dinesh shared with us that the lionfish was once featured as part of our old 50 cents coin. According to The Singapore Mint, the coin was issued on 1967. Amazing!

Putting the lionfish surprise aside, one of the main objectives of today's survey is to check out the coral bleaching situation. How are the corals doing? I'm glad to see that most of the corals are alright. It's always nice to revisit the reefs of Hantu that are thickly covered with hard corals. 

Though the tide was not very low, I managed to have a peek at the reef edge and there are no major alarms on bleached corals.

I came across one blue Tongue mushroom coral (Herpolitha sp.) and several
Sunflower mushroom hard corals (Heliofungia actiniformis).

However, I still did come across some bleaching corals such as this Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae).

Here's another that is only slightly bleached at the top. The Blue corals (Heliopora coerulea) at the top right hand corner of this photo are not affected.

As from our observation from 2010's bleaching event and also July 2010's survey at Hantu, the Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) are usually hit first. 

All of the Asparagus soft corals (Family Nephtheidae) that I came across looked fine though.

This colony of Ridged corallimorph seems partially affected by the bleaching as well as they also harbour photosynthetic algae like corals.

How is the mine field of Galaxy corals (Galaxea sp.) doing? It looked alright except for sparse distributions of dead polyps. I was surprised when a living Scallop (Family Pectinidae) swam across!

For some reason, I came across many of the large Saw-edged spooner crabs (Etisus utilis)! Here's one crawling across the top of the Galaxea mine field.

At the edge of the mine field are many of the Long-spined black sea urchin (Diadema sp.)!

Here's another one found on another mine field made up of lots of the Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.).

There were other special finds of the day such as this cute juvenile Cushion star (Culcita novaeguinea) where its arms are still visible as pointy projections. When they grow bigger, these sea stars look more like a ball!

Here is the underside of the juvenile Cushion star and I like the specks of green sprinkled across the surface. Gorgeous!!

Another echinoderm surprise would be this really huge sea cucumber! At first I thought it is a Herrmann's sea cucumber (Stichopus herrmanni) but now when I look at it again, it seems to be something else. Would need help to identify this species.

Here's a closer look at the mouth and anus of the sea cucumber, with hope that it will help towards the identification of this gigantic creature.

I have placed my hand at the side as a scale of how long and huge this sea cucumber is!

Another special find would be my first sighting of this flatworm that others have seen before elsewhere. Rene suggested that it is either a Acanthozoon species or Thysanozoon species.

The underside of the flatworm is pinkish. This particular flatworm is particularly fragile, so it's advisable not to handle them.

After spending time outside the seawall, I quickly crossed over to the main lagoon facing Bukom oil refinery to check out what lies out there before the tide turns.

I'm glad that the two resident Fluted giant clams (Tridacna squamosa) are still there!

This is the second one. I did not have the time to check out the third one which the team found outside the seawall.

A Hell's Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.) was found in the lagoon. It is named as such because of its nasty stings!

Here's another anemone with brown-striped body column found on the high shores. I'm not sure what it is.

Chay Hoon found an interesting tiny sea hare on the seagrassum seaweed. Wow! It is really adorable when it stands up while stretching out.

She also found this Aeolid nudibranch that we came across at Terumbu Raya before. It may be a Flabellina sp.

Ending off the National Day trip, Marcus found a Starry mouthed nudibranch (Bornella stellifer)! This nudibranch with white and red is one of the best marine representatives with Singapore colours. Haha.

The tide came back quite high with the dawn and it was time to fulfill our daylight task.

And that is to take a National Day selfie with the drone! Pei Yan has proudly tied two Singapore flags with the drone and it looked really majestic.

And viola! Here's our first ever selfie shot from the shore without having to hold a selfie pod. Haha!

Happy birthday Singapore! :D

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