Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sea Fan-tasy at East Coast Park

What a fan-tastic way to explore the sea fan-tasy of East Coast Park on a good low spring tide! Such much about the fan pun... simply because there are many sea fans (and of course marine life) on the shores of ECP. Yes you didn't hear wrongly, there's awesome stuffs even on our reclaimed beaches.

The top find of the day must be this Spindle or False cowrie snails (Family Ovulidae) which probably is Pellasimnia cf. improcera. I have never seen it before!

The allied or false cowrie was found attached to one of the branches of this striking coloured red Sea fan or Gorgonian (Order Gorgonacea). 

Here is another species of the allied cowrie with maroon, yellow and black does on its mantle covering the shell. It also has a pretty purplish foot... can you also spot the eye? :)

Though this small rocky shore seems lifeless, dead and boring from far, it is definitely home to lots of creatures big and small.

Thankfully, this time I had the company of Alekx on this trip and it was her first time exploring our shores. She's very pro with plants and thus has well developed keen eyes for nature. In fact, she spotted quite a number of special finds!

Of course to add on to the "feel" of a nature trip will be both a sunrise and the moon set (previous photo).

Back to the fan-tastic topic of sea fans... We did not get to see the sea fans until the tide went to its lowest during the trip. But it was worth the wait!

At the deeper ends where the strong waves were crashing, there are lots of sea fans of all sorts of colours living among hydroids.

This is a rarer one which is purple, though not very well developed.

Sea fans are named as such due to their shape and branching patterns... need I say more? Haha! They add colours onto the shore just like flowers to a garden.

What intrigues me on this colony of sea fan will be this black twine-like feature that looks like tying a knot around the sea fan. I have no idea why and what this is!

At the very least, I am familiar and aware that sea fans are home to different kinds of organisms such as hermit crabs that cling tightly onto the branches and also different kinds of spindle cowries such as the red Segal's spindle cowrie (Cymbovula segaliana).

On this trip, I first witnessed what looked like huge polyps of the sea fans. What are they?!

When I had a closer look at the photos back at home, I then realized that they are likely to be anemones with long skinny body columns that attaches to the sea fan branches by some form of adhesion through sand and other materials that entangle the anemone together with the sea fan. Wow!

When they touches the water of the shallow tide pool, the tentacles of the anemone-looking animal opens up nicely like a flower though they face downwards.

Here are some more photos taken from this bizarre yet pretty creature. Maybe someone can enlighten me more on its identity and that will be most wonderful.

Other commensals living among sea fans include the Winged oyster (Family Pteriidae). Here is one on the yellow skinny sea fan.

And a juvenile one on the maroon sea fan.

We also stumbled on a single sea whip which does not look too good given that the bottom part has "died" off, thus showing the wiry skeleton. 

Other than sea fans, which I am most biased with when I visit ECP, there are also small colonies of hard corals such as this juvenile Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.).

Here are some of the other few hard corals that can be found on the shore. The Zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata) on the top left and the Cave corals (Tubastrea sp.) on the top right are more common on this shore than the other species such as the Pore hard coral (Porites sp.).

Alekx found both of the two sea stars spotted on this trip! Bravo! First she found a huge Spiny sea star (Gymnanthenea laevis).

Then she found a baby Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera)!

It was only when I got back home then I realized that there was a commensal brittlestar on the cake sea star. Star on a star!

We didn't see any sea cucumbers except for this only Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) which is very common on our northern shores. 

There was a pole now full of living hydroids and snails attached to it. What amuses me will be this anemone found right on top of the pole.

I think it is my first time seeing the Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) on the sandy part of this shore.

Another surprise will be the animals that made these trails on the sand.

Those trails were created by the Olive snails (Family Olividae) with intricate patterns on their shells. These snails are usually spotted on better shores, so it is a good sign for East Coast!

During our exploration, Alekx spotted two of these Miliaris cowrie (Cypraea miliaris)! These cowries are not very often sighted too.

It was fun for us to witness how this tiny living Scallop (Family Pectinidae) open and close its bivalves continually.

There were quite a number of crabs running about on the shore such as this tiny yet cute Swimming crab (Family Portunidae) trying to threaten me by waving its claws.

I also came across a Maroon stone crab (Menippe rumphii) among the rocks from the seawall.

And a pretty Sally-lightfoot crab (Grapsus albolineatus)!

To end off, here's sharing with you Alekx's great find of the Blue dragon nudibranch (Pteraeolidia ianthina) that we seldom see on mainland shores! This is NOT a photo of the actual one sighted on this trip as it unfortunately got swept away by the waves. A consolation for that would be a photo taken from a previous trip at Little Sisters Island.

Nevertheless, it is fantastic to see so many different kinds of marine life on East Coast. This shore was previously badly hit by the oil spill in 2010 and it has since been recovering slowly but surely. 

Though it was more stunning in the past with feather stars, special slugs, flatworms, featherstars and soft corals, I do hope that with time the glory will return. 

More photos of the trip here:

1 comment:

ale said...

haha! they were just waiting for one of us to spot them la! i seriously don't regret getting up early for them though! the cake starfish is super cute. :D

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