Aug 2, 2007

Sea anemones of the mangroves at Sungei Buloh

Not quite SO early, but still in the cool dawn, the Anemone Team makes a last wild foray for them 'nems. This time in mangroves of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
It might seem surprising that mangroves would have sea anemones. But Mangrove Maestro N. Sivasothi leads the way to the best patch of anemones in the Reserve. While the rest trudged in the really soft mud, I slacked off and took photos of them from the boardwalk.

Almost immediately, blobs are discovered!The well-oiled Anemone Team of Swee Hee, Trixie and Ivy swings into action. While other anemone hunters fan out to find more blobs.Photos are taken of the action, this last of our Anemone Hunts.And Dr Daphne declares that we have found this pretty white striped sea anemone that I took a photo of some time ago.Altogether, Dr Daphne says we found three species today!One of them is this blob which we have also seen on sea walls and big boulders on other shores. It's a really tough sea anemone indeed! (By this time, I had taken the plunge and joined the team on the mud).

Kok Sheng has lots of stories and photos of the sea anemones seen today on his wonderful creations blog as well as the other fascinating wildlife at the Reserve. So does Ron on his tidechaser blog.

Looking more closely at the mud around the anemones, I realised that the scruffy tangle of roots and leaves were seagrass!And not just any seagrass, but the very rare Halophila beccarii! Which so far, we've only ever seen on Chek Jawa.

Siti of TeamSeagrass was just remarking some time ago that there were records of this seagrass at Buloh. We meant to go look for them, some day, when we had the time (=probably never). So it was a delightful surprise to see them, if by accident. Ron and Kok Sheng helped gather some samples for the herbarium record, and Andy kindly offered to drive them over to Siti.

There were large stretches of these seagrasses, growing mostly on slightly raised but soft mud, under the mangrove trees.This fascinating seagrass seems to prefer rather more fresh water than other seagrasses. There's still a lot more to learn about our seagrasses!

Siva share more on the background of sea anemones and these seagrasses on the habitatnews blog

As we gathered before ending off this brief trip, a large group of students trooped up along the boardwalk.Siva says hi to the students as the team washes off in a mangrove stream. He introduces Dr Daphne as the world expert on sea anemones, here to tell us more about our sea anemones.

One of the teachers asks Dr. Daphne if she had found any 'exotic' sea anemones on our shores. Dr Daphne asks what she meant by 'exotic', to which the teacher replied 'something special not seen anywhere else' (To scientists, 'exotic' means something else). Dr Daphne replied that since sea anemones are so poorly studied, many anemones that she's seen were new and exciting! Well it has certainly been new and exciting for us too! Alvin is filming the hunt and this conversation with the teacher. This is great! Wildfilms just received a request from Dr Daphne's colleague for footage of her in action. Charles Messing hopes to do a television series on biodiversity and wants to feature Dr Daphne in a segment on the diversity of taxonomists and their subjects, and how scientists name new species. Charles Messing is Professor of Oceanography, Nova Southeastern University.

It was really sad for me to see the end of the Anemone Hunts. Dr Daphne is leaving on Sunday and she has lots of lab work to catch up on before she goes. In fact, Dr Daphne had to rush off today because she's giving an interview about our sea anemones! I'm really looking forward to reading about it in our papers.

She's shared so much with us; not just about sea anemones, but also marine biology, and dealing with issues such as home aquariums and raising nature awareness in general. She has also been very inspiring and encouraging. I truly value the short time we spent together and I already miss her terribly. It is very rare to meet someone like her.

We will also miss Dr Daphne for another more selfish reason. Every trip that we've done with her, we've had great weather. Not too hot, not wet. And the wet weather always held off until the field trip was done. Rain and waterspouts only descending when we headed home.

We decide she must have been responsible for this. We hope she can leave behind a little talisman of herself so that we might be able to ward off the bad weather on our trips. At least until the gods realise "hang on, wait a minute, THAT'S not Dr Daphne!"

The trips would of course not have been possible without these people.

The indefatigable Anemone Team who extract intractable and retractable blobs with minimum fuss: Swee Hee, Trixie, Ivy and the amazing Martyn who doesn't ever seem to sleep;

The stalwart wildfilms crew who eschewed slugs to seek blobs and discovered many of the tiny, or obscure, or weird 'nems: YuChen, Chay Hoon, Ron, Liana, Andy; Alvin for filming Dr Daphne and team;

The super-on beachfleas who joined the fray, took photos, and hunted them 'nems: Marcus, Kok Sheng, Robert, Dr Chua Ee Kiam, Annabelle.

Well folks, Dr Daphne's spirit, it seems, will remain with us, because she's given us a list of things to look out for. The Anemone Hunts, apparently will go on yet, if perhaps at a less frenetic pace.

Other blog entries about this trip
Kok Sheng's wonderful creations blog
Siva's habitatnews blog
Siva has also set up a link on Dr Daphne's trip
Ron's tidechaser blog

Update from Dr Daphne:
"Thanks for the kind write-up of today's trip, but I fear it is already out of date. Swee Hee is becoming quite an anemone taxonomist, and when he sorted the wormy burrowers, he noticed one had shorter tentacles than the others and and it had a line of white raised bumps. He was absolutely correct -- so we got four species, not three!!

And when I looked closely at the oral disc, I saw tentacles unlike any I have ever seen!! The animal is greyer, too, so may be the subject of your mangrove photo. Then when we looked at the oral disc of the orange one, the tentacles are quite normal but I saw bumps between mouth and tentacles like I have never seen. I will not say they are new species, but how many people would go through what we did today?...."

Wow! Isn't that exciting?! New anemones all over the place.


YC said...

aaawwww.... now i regret being lazy - seems like you guys had a helluva time! sigh. yeah i'll miss the hunts - they were so much fun and informative!

Liana said...

why so mushy, made me so sad. will be sad to see dr. daphne go too, she is such a patient teacher and is very sweet too. i'm really glad i helped out on the trips and gotten to know her and more about them 'nems. the only thing i'm sorry about is having violated them by the 'nads so many times. poor 'nems, they didn't even get ane-mone for the indecencies XD


It has been a great time learning about anem..nem..mone from Dr Daphne!
Thanks Dr Daphne for sharing so much about them. :o)

Yup! I am going to miss her.