Saturday, June 26, 2010

A starry night trip to Cyrene!

I'm not talking about the unreachable stars high up in the sky but the sea stars (aka starfish) that can be found at our reefs. This morning was our first ever night (predawn) trip to Cyrene and it was also considered to be my extended birthday party with the marine life at one of my most favourite reefs in Singapore!

Of course, landscape shots can only be taken after sunrise. How many sea stars can you find in this photograph?

Cyrene Reef is a very special reef because it is so so starry! This reef has one of the most number of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) in Singapore. Knobbly sea stars are listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore.

I have heard stories that they were once littered all over Changi Beach but such scene is now gone at our mainland shores due to poaching and other impacts.

It was sweet to see quite a number of baby Knobblies, which shows that the population is constantly growing.

I was on the hunt for special echinoderms and of course the special sea star that belongs almost entirely for Cyrene Reef must be the Pentaceraster sea star (Pentaceraster mammilatus). Other than Cyrene Reef, it was only spotted also at Pulau Semakau. This individual that I found is actually a juvenile!

There are some sea stars that look like a hybrid between the knobbly sea star and the Pentaceraster sea star.

Here's another one. We still have no idea what they are exactly!

This is also another hybrid-looking sea star that has features of both knobblies and Pentacerasters.

While searching for stars on the seagrass meadow, I was glad to have found this juvenile Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera). It's only my second time seeing the Cake sea star at Cyrene.

Cyrene Reef is like the Chek Jawa of the South because it houses creatures of the northern shores like this cake sea star. I don't think we have seen the cake sea star in other southern shores.

At many parts of the sandbar, one will definitely not miss stumbling across patches of numerous Common sea stars (Archaster typicus).

That's not all for the stars! This is a juvenile Cushion star (Culcita novaeguinea) that tends to be in the seagrass meadown when they are young before heading out to the reef edge when they grow bigger.

It was nice to have found all the above sea stars by myself! Which means my "star-radar" is still working. Hahaha!

Talking about Cyrene being the Chek Jawa of the South, this Purple sea cucumber (Family Cucumariidae) is also usually only found in the north.

This must be the biggest Fringe-eyed flathead (Cymbacephalus nematophthalmus) that I've ever came across. This fish has a flat head and a delicate fringe over its eyes.

The nudibranchs that I saw today were first-times that I've seen at Cyrene.

Firstly, I found a black blob and went to take a further look only to realize it is a nudibranch!
After checking with Chay Hoon, she said that this is a Dendrodoris nigra. Though she has seen this nudi in Sekudu before, it's my first time ever seeing this slug!

Geraldine on the other hand found this large Spotted foot nudibranch (Discodoris lilacina). I've forgotten if I've seen this slug before. But this is a species that is usually only also found in the north.

Chay Hoon later found this really stunning and pretty Starry mouthed nudibranch (Bornella stellifer). It looks totally gorgeous!

Instead of having one gill, this nudibranch has multiple feathery gills along its appendages. This slug swims by flexing their body sidewards. I may upload the video and share with you all on another post later. So stay tuned!

Last but not least, we saw a couple of this Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis).

James brought his UV illuminator and it was fascinating to see how the anemone glow in the presence of UV!

Later during the trip, I had a pleasant find of a bluish-purplish Snaky sea anemone!

It is probably the prettish Snaky sea anemone that I have came across on our shores!

Wah, Cyrene is not only just starry as the literal full of sea stars, but also starry in terms of star-studded finds of other interesting creatures. Definitely hope that this reef will remain for our next generation to enjoy!

Are you also as fascinated by Cyrene like me?

Feel free to read more about Cyrene Reef in the dedicated blog here:

There's also a Facebook group for Cyrene Reef named "Cyrene Reef Exposed" that you can join!:

Last but not least, more photos of today's trip here:

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