Apr 22, 2008

Earth Day with Echinoderms at Pulau Semakau

Dr Lane, the expert in echinoderms is in town and asked to visit our shores to check up on our echinoderms. A bunch of intrepid volunteers happily obliged, even though it meant starting out at 4am this morning.

For some reason, it turned out to be more of a Mollusc Night.We saw not one but two cuttlefishes that adopted the same kind of posture when alarmed.Sticking out their tentacles in a branching manner. We're not sure why they do this, but it certainly makes them resemble boring seaweed rather than yummy sotong.

No night trip is complete without octopus sightings, and they were among the first to be spotted.Among the myriad colourful corals, hard and soft, amazing feathery fan worms, flat worms and fishes and other wonderful sightings (which hopefully the others will blog about), we did see a few echinoderms.

Of course the big red Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) were sighted.A nice red one spotted by Sam.
And a really big one by Marcus.

Sam later spotted a 'Garlic bread sea cucumber' our name for the Sandfish sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra). But I suspect he first saw the tiny nudibranchs that were on it.He also spotted another pair of these Chromodoris lineolata mating!

Ivan spotted a big fat bobbly synaptid sea cucumber, one of the many sightings on the trip.At daybreak, Dr Lane decides to check out the seagrass meadows to look for baby Knobblies which we often see in such habitats on Cyrene Reef.Sadly we didn't see any. But we did see lots of the Common sea star (Archaster typicus) almost all of them in mating position.It seems to be mating season on the reef! Debby and the Hantu Bloggers are planning a special trip to check out the mass spawning by our very sexy corals on 24 Apr. Can't wait to find out what they'll see.

In the seagrass area, Marcus and I encounter this humungous nudibranch with flowery bumps on it.It's very pretty indeed! I have no idea what it is.

Alas, we also encountered a driftnet.The guys release several crabs and other marine life before removing half of the net. It was too long to remove all of it.

Earlier on, we also came across a very dead 'Garlic bread' sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra). It was slit and its innards removed. This suggested that people were collecting and processing them on the shore. This one probably fell out of the bucket.

At daybreak, we also noticed that the ominous weather, which had put up a good light and sound show earlier (and which we ignored with determination), had moved off over the mainland. Phew.Daylight also revealed the impact of the petrochemical plants nearby.With the effects going high up into the sky.The boatman took the 'scenic' route home via Pulau Hantu. And we could see more of this special island, which is right next to major industrial installations.Despite this, the remaining natural shores of our Southern Islands are still rich in amazing marine life.

More about Singapore's echinoderms

Do have a look at Dr Lane's wonderful book on our echinoderms ...

Lane, David J.W. and Didier Vandenspiegel. 2003. A Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 187pp.
The IYOR Singapore blog has feature articles on Singapore's echinoderms tooOther blog entries about this trip

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