Friday, November 27, 2015

How to survive your first visit to Coney Island?

For those who have done their research or heard from others' experience before visiting Coney Island would know that this island is notorious for its sand flies. Sand fly bites are not to be undermined because they are extremely itchy and long lasting. So what should you do before your visit to Coney Island?

A small team decided to visit the intertidal shores of Coney Island since it is now made accessible to the public. What lies on this shore during low tide? And how did we protect ourselves from getting bitten by sand flies?

We were in our usual gear of covering as much skin as possible. That means long pants and long sleeve. To be a little kiasu, a couple of us also covered our neck to minimise skin exposure to the little beasties.

One of the common residents on the shores of Coney Island would be these Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni).

Carpet anemones harbour symbiotic single-celled algae that undergo photosynthesis to produce food from sunlight. The food produced is shared with the sea anemone, which in return provides the algae with shelter and minerals. The algae are believed to give the tentacles their brown or greenish tinge.

There were seagrasses on the shore and we spotted what seemed to be the rarer Hairy spoon seagrass (Halophila decipiens)!

Having seagrasses on the shore would mean the existence of a marine nursery as it supports other lifeforms such as this Plain sand star (Astropecten indicus).

Some of us came across several Brittle stars (Subclass Ophiuroidea). They are the largest group of echinoderms, fastest moving, most nervous. They fall apart easily, thus please do not handle them with your hands. 

Some of these brittle stars like to inhabit within or around sponges such as the ones found on this Purple branching sponge (Callyspongia sp.).

Though the shore is not very rocky, there are some stretches that are hard and one may come across the Thunder crabs (Myomenippe hardwickii).

Only previously found at Punggol and Tanjong Tajam of Ubin would be this Burgundy sea anemone (Bunodosoma goanense). So this marks the third location where this anemone is spotted in Singapore.

Moving among the sand and sometimes easily missed would be this Coastal horsehoe crab (Tachypleus gigas). 

However, they are not true crabs as they are more closely related to spiders than crabs. For first timers spotting these animals, just note that they don't use their tail to sting people. And we do not want to dangle them by their tail as they will be helpless if the tail is broken. 

 Furthermore, the horseshoe crabs provide a substance used to test the presence of bacteria and Singapore scientists made breakthroughs in cloning this substance.

A close cousin to the seahorse would be the Seagrass pipefish. They both belong to Family Syngnathidae. 'Syngnathus' means 'fused jaws' in Greek. Seahorses and pipefishes feed on tiny creatures by sucking them up with their tube-like, toothless snouts. In addition, both of their eggs are looked after by the papas (males) instead.

Here's a snail with two types of commensal residents on its shell. Can you spot the barnacles and a hitch hiking sea anemone?

There are some tide pools on the higher shore with many of these Glass shrimps (Palaemon sp.).

There was also one Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.) found on the sandy shore. These sea cucumbers are commonly found in the north.

We came across a dead Thick-edged sand dollar (Jacksonaster depressum) which means there could be living ones somewhere.

All too soon, it was time to go! It was nice exploring a new shore. And did we get bitten by sand flies? We could only know after we are back at home. As for me, I was completely spared from any bites! Thank God for that. Haha!

So do cover as much skin as possible before your visit to the rustic Coney Island! :)

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