Monday, March 12, 2012

More feather star commensals at Little Sisters

I'm back at Little Sisters Island with Mei Lin as she continues to work on her giant clams. Unfortunately, the giant clam on this island could not be located and has been declared as missing or dead. :(

My attention was diverted to look for commensals living among the feather stars that can be found on this island. And viola! Here's a tiny brittle star found moving along the arms of the feather stars.

It is quite interesting to think of the fact that two echinoderm relatives live with each other though they are not exactly of the same type.This is a photo showing the entire brittle star on the crinoid.

And zooming out a little more, this is how the red Feather star (Order Comatulida) would look like. You can easily tell that taking photographs of commensals is no mean feat! Both the feather stars and brittle stars are moving and it is really tough to get both in proper position for documentation.

Sometimes on the underside of the feather star where the claw-like appendanges (cirri) branch out, you can find weirder commensals such as this Myzostomida worm!

The commensal worm was moving very quickly today and it went into playing hide and seek with me.

This photo shows the bristley appendanges of the commensal worm if you look at its tail. As such, this worm is not just a blob as previously thought to be.

On another feather star is yet another commensal worm, this time a bright red one that camouflages perfectly with the red feather star. This worm seems to have jagged edges by the side and resembles the marine flatworms.

I nearly spent one hour trying to take the above photos and thus did not really have much time to explore the reef today. In addition, the tide was not as low as expected and the strong winds made it even harder to check the corals.

As such, underwater camera does a better work at capturing images of the reefs. It's amazing to find so many stunning feather stars!

Here's one swaying its arms with the strong currents off the channel between the two sisters island. It perched itself nicely on top of the Pore coral (Porites sp.).

Here is another one with its arms curled up found on top of zoanthids.

Alrighty, I guess you have had an overdose of feather stars. Above are a couple of photos of the corals taken with the big camera on the higher shores.

With a bit of time left, I quickly had a check on the lagoon.

To my delight, I saw this pretty Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) with "band" patterns.

Here is a closer look at the banding patterns found nearer to the edge of the anemone. These patterns are not commonly sighted as compared to the other individuals of the same species.

On this carpet anemone is a pretty Five-spot anemone shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)!

This Haddon's carpet anemone is much smaller as compared to the previous one.

This anemone-looking creature is not a true sea anemone though they are commonly known as peacock anemones. This creature is a cerianthid.

All too soon, it is time to leave with a view of the both jetties of Little and Big Sisters Island. :) This is the first morning low tide trip of the year and I look forward to more fantastic trips to explore our shores!

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