Jul 17, 2007

Show me the Mone!

This morning, finally! We get to bring world anemone expert Dr Daphne Fautin to the shore. She is accompanied by the Sea Anemone Team from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, at the National University of Singapore. And of course beachfleas and wildfilms came along too.
For our first visit, I've suggested a particular stretch of Changi which seems the most promising place to find anemones typical of our northern shores. But the shore is covered with very soft, silty mud.

I'm nervous that (a) we won't find any anemones that would be interesting to Dr Daphne; and (b) we will all sink into the mud and die.

So it was really heartening that the minute we got to the shore, Dr Daphne found it worthwhile to talk about even the small icky anemones that are found everywhere.
(All the anemone photos in this post were taken during other trips. It's nearly impossible to take good photos with other people nearby mucking up the water).

From what Dr Daphne shared, these little guys are found in many places throughout the world and have confounded scientists who didn't realise they were looking at the same kind of anemone.

As a result, they been given several different names. One of the names is Diadumene luciae named after the scientist's daughter, Lucy, who found the anemone; which is such a nice story! When it became apparent that many of these little anemones in different places were the same kind, another genus name given was Halipanella which means "world traveller"; also very appropriate. Another species name used was lineata which means "with lines" and thus also a good name as the anemone has a striped body column. So far, it hasn't been possible to get agreement on what to name them, so these anemones are variously called Diadumene luciae and Halipanella luciae as well as Diadumene lineata and Halipanella lineata.

We've been wrongly calling these guys Epiactis sp., a species that is more usually found in temperate areas.

These anemones probably travelled the world in ballast water (the water carried in ships). They are indeed tough little fellows. Able to withstand drying out and all kinds of other unpleasant situations. In Singapore, you can almost always find these anemones on even the most 'beat up' shore.

Other interesting facts are that the anemones are often found in clumps of all male or all female. The anemones found in an area are sometimes found to be clones, so it is possible that one spunky little anemone first started it all off!

Wow! And ALL that in just a few minutes on the first nondescript sea anemone that we saw!

We take a few steps into the receeding tide and Dr Daphne again shares another fact that explodes our earlier conceptions of our sea anemones.

The tiny carpet anemones that we thought were baby carpet anemones (photo on the left) are actually another species called Stichodactyla tapetum! (pronounced 'tap-pee-thumb') . They don't get much bigger, and they typically have the neat arrangement of tentacles like in the photo. So these do NOT grow up to become the big anemone in the photo on the right! Wow!
So what do the babies of the big carpet anemones look like? Probably something like these...
In the anemone on the left, the tentacles are NOT neatly arranged. And the one on the right, you can already see the long-short tentacle arrangement fringing the anemone that is typical of Stichodactyla haddoni.

Alvin found an anemone! And Dr Daphne finds it interesting! (yippee!!). But she's not sure what it is and will have to take a closer look at it in the lab. Sea anemones are positively identified by looking at internal body structures, tiny things like their stinging cells and other complicated details that requires a sample of the animal.
As the sea anemone is removed, it squirts out water in jets from all its little pores! Kok Sheng has a lovely photo of this behaviour and other sightings during this trip on his wonderful creations blog.

Later, back at the laboratory, Dr Daphne will examine the sea anemone. The anemone will then be preserved and kept in the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. Here, it will be available for other students and researchers to study. RMBR has specimens of all kinds of animals, some even collected by Raffles himself. This record is invaluable to scientists. It is like an archive of our natural history.

Here's some photos of this sea anemone I took during an earlier visit to Changi.
We also came across a strange sea anemone that looked like a ball because all its tentacles were tucked up into its body. It burrowed quickly, deep into the ground. When Dr Daphne finally got it, it looked like a little ball with a tail! Again, she will have to take a closer look to find out what it is.

There are even interesting anemones on the big boulders. She said the large brown anemones that lodge themselves in the cracks in these boulders are Anthopleura handi which she had named after her teacher, Professor Hand.
The rocky area was also blooming with sponges of all shapes and sizes. There were even little sea fans growing in the deeper end. We must go back to have a closer look again later. Lots more stories and photos of finds on Kok Sheng's wonderful creations blog.

All too soon, the tide came in and it was time to go. Well, in the end, no one died although the mud was very soft and we were all properly disgusting at the end of the trip.
We're really looking forward to showing more shores to Dr Daphne. And learning more about our sea anemones!

Visit Dr Daphne's website about sea anemones, corals and other squishy relatives: Hexacorallians of the World

From her website, these are the anemones recorded for Singapore
Anthopleura dixoniana
Anthopleura handi
Edwardsia hantuensis
Edwardsianthus pudica
Entacmaea quadricolor
Gyractis excavata
Neocondylactis singaporensis
Paraiptasia radiata
Phymanthus pinnulatum
Scolanthus armatus
Triactis producta

No comments: