Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Surprises from Sekudu in not-so-low tide

Though the tide was not so low, we still stumbled upon several surprises on our final predawn survey to Pulau Sekudu this year! It was worth waking up for this 3am morning trip.

One of the surprises would be to find the source of the stray lone Common sea stars that we sometimes see on Sekudu. There was many of them found in a particular area and many of them are mating! This is a good sign. :)

Though the name of this sea star is Common sea star (Archaster typicus), it is no longer as common in the past, especially in Chek Jawa after the mass mortality event in 2007. Sekudu will be the last stronghold of the Chek Jawa Wetlands to seed missing organisms of the main Chek Jawa shore.

Though the tide is not-so-low, I still managed to find the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) at the minimum tide level at some part of the coral rubble that was sticking out.

And walking along the edge, I found 10 other of these majestic sea stars! Here is a collage of 9 of them.

Like the previous trip, I saw the Eight-armed sand star (Luidia maculata) though this individual has only six arms.

I also came across two Crown sea stars (Asterina coronata) found near rock boulders.

Another surprise for this trip will be this strange brightly looking blob on top of encrusting ascidians. What exactly is it!? After I tried to touch it, it shrunk inside a hole among the ascidian and thus revealed that it is probably an anemone which we have not seen before.

I also came across yet another unknown sea anemone and this particular anemone is quite small and is also in bright orange.

Throughout the trip, I was on the lookout for the green version of the Haeckel's anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli) which I have never seen before personally. This Frilly sea anemone (Phymanthus sp.) that is commonly found in the south looks like one. 

It was only towards the end of the trip that my whisper of prayer got answered when I stumbled upon this tiny green version of the Haeckel's anemone!

The Haeckel's anemone is known to sting very badly and of course I didn't dare to be a live bait to test it out myself. The tentacles are very pretty in green.

Sekudu is also home to many of these Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodacylat haddoni) which can be pretty crowded at certain parts of the shore.

For one particular of the Haddon's carpet anemone, there were 3 fish that were swimming close to it.

Upon closer observation, I realized they are the Kite butterflyfish (Parachaetodon ocellatus). This is not the first time we have seen them associated with the carpet anemones. There must be some kind of symbiotic relationship.

I went to check out the huge boulder that we looked at last month and was glad to see that the two Long spined black sea urchins (Diadema sp.) are still there! In fact, I realized that they can move quite fast together within a short period of time.

There was this Feather star (Order Comatulida) that was stuck to the same boulder. Putting it in a pool of water allows us to have a better look at this graceful looking creature.

It was nice to come across two of these baby Thorny sea urchins (Prionocidaris sp.) that look more cute and endearing that the grandfather versions.

There were a few clumps of the Pink flowery soft corals (Dendronephthya sp.) at the coral rubble and sometimes we can find the well camouflaged False cowries on the soft corals!

There was even a Tiny colourful brittle star (Ophiothela danae) on another colony of the soft coral though two of its arms are gone.

What else can be found near rocks and coral rubble on a not-so-low tide? Many encrusting and branching sponges are present in Sekudu and I even saw a juvenile Copperbanded butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus) swimming near one.

Many of the Sea fans or Gorgonians (Order Gorgonacea) are rather short and stunted and this large one seems to be toppled over. I didn't really check if it was uprooted.

The Reef octopus that we sometimes see on Sekudu is usually more commonly seen in our southern reefs that on northern shores.

Some feeding business is taking place here! Who is eating what? It is actually a Tiger moon snail (Natica tigrina) having a snack on a clam. You can see the foot enveloping the prey in this photo.

Here's a nicer photo of how the tiger moon snail looks like when it is not feeding.

A number of sea slugs were sighted and that includes the Sponge nudibranch (Ategema spongiosa)...

And the Rose nudibranch (Dendrodoris fumata) where both of which were also found on our trip last month.

I was quite surprised to find the Lined chromodoris nudibranch (Chromodoris lineolata) on the seaweed. This is how it looks like when it is relaxed.

The last special find of the trip would be this slug that we do not know of its identity. I found it among the seagrasses.

The underside is kind of plain with no patterns. Looking forward to find out its identity from our experts!

And here's a last look at the frog structure that gave Sekudu the name as Frog Island. Unfortunately, the head of the frog is sort of naturally "vandalised" by droppings.

Thank you Nparks for giving us permission to document Pulau Sekudu. As part of the Chek Jawa Wetlands, this island is out of bounds to the public.

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