Jul 18, 2007

Any mones on Chek Jawa?

Another early morning start and a small team were out at Chek Jawa to learn more about the sea anemones there. What a glorious sunrise as we checked out the area near the beacon which has seagrasses, and a sand bar. Out with us today were Dr Daphne, the anemone team, Kok Sheng and the CJ project team, and YC the super seeker.

As always, a visit to Chek Jawa is an anxious look for recovery from the devastation of the floods earlier this year.The carpet anemones are doing well in this area. There are many of them and all looking healthy in their normal shades of dull green or blue, bright green and purple.

We don't collect any of the big anemones. Dr Daphne says it is unnecessary as we can identify them readily. She also emphasises that these anemones are homes to many other animals. Tiny shrimps may live on the anemone, immune to their stinging tentacles. Other animals live under the carpet anemone: snapping shrimps in their burrows, sea cucumbers and even some fishes.

Dr Daphne shares that carpet anemones can live for 100-200 years! The anemonefish that live in these anemones can live for 20-30 years!

How tragic that these ancient animals are often trampled upon, or removed unceremoniously for the aquarium hobby, where they usually die a cruel and slow death.

We look for Stichodactyla gigantea, which Dr Daphne says has pointed tentacles that vibrate constantly. Alas, every potential candidate turns out to be Stichodactyla haddoni which has stumpy rounded tentacles, as well as a fringe of long-short tentacles.

We also didn't see any of the tiny Stichodactyla tapetum that were so plentiful on Changi the previous day.

The coral rubble area remains desolate. With very few sponges (there were more and bigger sponges on Changi), and little else.

As the sun rose, we progressed into the seagrass area near the public walk route. Alas, the carpet anemones there are not as plentiful. And some still show signs of stress.Dr Daphne says this pus-yellow colour indicates 'bleaching' in the sea anemone. That means the sea anemone has lost its symbiotic zooxanthallae (tiny algae that live inside the anemone and shares with the anemone the food it produces from photosynthesis). She also adds that the colour of the sea anemone is due to the animal and NOT the zooxanthallae. Some of the colour might be a kind of sunblock.

As we reach the pontoon of the boardwalk, YC shows Dr Daphne an odd looking animal. She is glad to see it and proclaims it a sea anemone! Incredible! She will have to take a closer look to find out exactly what it is.It was really tiny! Dr Daphne says one of her students who was specialising in this anemone often got specimens from other people. Unfortunately, among these specimens were animals which were NOT sea anemones, such as sea cucumbers, peanut worms and even polychaetes. So studying sea anemones is not that easy!

Where did YC find the cute little thing? He shows us where and how he found it, as he proceeds to try to find more. Wow! That's true dedicated hunting-seeking. In the end, he found a few more tiny TINY sea anemones. I could hardly see them myself.

On the pilings of the boardwalk were also tiny banded sea anemones. Very pretty little things that look like blown glass! They nestled among barnacles and oysters and even inside the shells of dead barnacles. Dr Daphne will take a closer look and figure out exactly what they are.

We briefly check out the seagrass lagoon and can't find any anemones. We even look for the tiny sea anemones that settle on seagrass blades and only find a few of them.

On the rocky shore, are the very common Banded bead anemone that we always show to our visitors. What exactly are they? Dr Daphne takes a few to find out for sure. Finally, we will know what they are!We even check out the mangrove area for sea anemones.
Alas, none were found.

It appears Changi has MORE kinds of sea anemones than Chek Jawa!

Could this be due to the devastation of the flood early this year? The carpet anemones certainly did very poorly at that time, and possibly the smaller sea anemones were similarly affected. And perhaps they haven't recovered yet? Kok Sheng and his CJ project team are monitoring this recovery.

It certainly suggests that all our shores are special. Even a mucky and supposedly 'beat up' shore like Changi can have stuff that a more celeberated shore like Chek Jawa does not.

We've been lucky the last few days and the weather has held until AFTER we were done with the field trip. Today, the rain came in only on our way back on the bumboat. And with the incoming weather, a waterspout! It was enormous: compare it with the boats on the horizon.
We lost sight of it when the rain started falling around us. Wow!

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1 comment:

YC said...

grin - looks like we werent the only ones to spot the water spot - its in the news today! our pics were so much better lah hahah!