May 6, 2008

Changi: a many splendoured shore!

The first of another series of pre-dawn super low spring tides, and an enthusiastic team were out on Changi at 4am! We were there to help Robin of NParks find strange sea cucumbers and other echinoderms (relatives of sea stars and sea cucumbers).
The shores of Changi are crowded with myriad marine life. Here's a bright orange Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) which is quite commonly seen on our northern shores. Next to a small peacock anemone (Order Ceriantharia).

It wasn't too long before we spotted our first interesting echinoderms. There are two in this photo. Can you spot them?
The pink Pencil sea urchin (Prionocidaris sp.) is pretty obvious. But can you see the sand coloured sea cucumber on the upper right corner?

This is one of the strange sea cucumbers Robin is interested in, and he found it!All along, I always thought the sea cucumber (which is regularly sighted on our northern shores) is just covered with sediments. I never really bothered to take a closer look at them. Today, we tried to 'clean' off the sediments, and what did we find out? The sea cucumber is perfectly clean already! It's body texture and colour just perfectly matched the surrounding sand!! WOW! We don't have any idea (yet) what this sea cucumber is.

Changi today was studded with ENORMOUS white sea urchins (Salmacis sp.). These sea urchins have a habit of 'carrying' seaweed, shells and other bits and pieces.This sea urchin has decided to carry the pink string-like egg masses of the many large Geographic sea hares (Syphonota geographica) that also roamed the seagrass meadows there! The egg masses do resemble 'bee hoon'. Next to it is a bright pink Warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps).

I don't see the Warty sea cucumber as often as I do the Thorny sea cucumber.But today, I saw at least five of them. Amazing!

Here's a photo of the Geographic sea hare, next to yet another white sea urchin, carrying seaweeds.On our shores, animals live on animals.The carpet anemones on our Northern shores are usually home to tiny shrimps!
Even a modestly sized anemone can shelter a dozen or more of these transparent little fellows. At night, they are usually busy moving safely among the anemone's tentacles. They tend to hide during the day.

Taking a closer look always reveals delights! Here, I was at first attracted by the small scallop which was showing its brown mantle with many tiny eyes.
A closer look revealed that it was settled on top of a very large Window pane shell (Placuna sp.) which was also showing its bluish mantle!

AND there was a tiny hermit crab next to the scallop. A hermit crab that I've not seen before!Many of our sea creatures are well camouflaged and hard to spot.There are two animals in this photo. Can you see the green prawn and the tiny swimming crab? This is why we avoid stomping in murky waters and try to stick to sandy areas. The seagrasses are simply teeming with life.

Here's some of the amazing seagrass residents that we saw this morning.

Thanks to the presence of super seeker Chay Hoon, we managed to see this Tailed sea slug (Philinopsis sp.). She also found a little fish that looks somewhat like a Stonefish (Family Synanceiidae)!We're not really sure what it is. It looks different from the many little Scorpionfishes (Family Scorpaenidae) that we often see in the area, like the one below.Chay Hoon also found Robin's namesake fish, the Sea robin (Pegasus volitans)!It is also called the Sea moth probably because of it's large fins which are often held out like wings of a bird or a moth.

Other fishes spotted include a pretty Dragonet (Family Callionymidae).I chanced upon this colourful Diamond wrasse (Halichoeres dussumieri).It was hiding its head, possibly in the hope that if it can't see me, that I can't see it. But before I could share it with the others, with a flick of its tail, it disappeared into a large empty shell nearby.

The others also saw lots of flatfishes and other fishes, as well as cuttlefish and octopus, lots of volutes and many other amazing things.

And Andy discovered a HUGE stingray! But I shall leave it to the others to share about that monstrous find as it's a whole story on its own.

We also saw several tiny sea stars. We're still not sure what they are.
Superficially, they seem similar. A closer look at the upperside shows some differences.The undersides are also different.Especially if we take a closer look.It is possible that the one on the left is a tiny Biscuit sea star (Goniodiscaster scaber) while the one on the right is possibly a tiny Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera) . It's hard to tell with such tiny stars. Well, whatever they are, it's wonderful to know that our seagrasses are sheltering young sea stars.

And as a grand finale, Chay Hoon shares this wonderful decorative orange moon snail.We have yet to find out exactly what it is, but have seen it regularly at Changi.

Just as we were heading back, Chay Hoon and I spotted this thing on the very high shore.At first we thought it was a bit of a bristleworm that got chopped up by a fisherman. But a closer look suggested it was an entire animal. Could it be a scale worm perhaps? Although it was rather large.

We decided to put it back into the water. And wow! Instead of creeping about slowly, it started wriggling vigorously! Here it is upside down.
And when it turned over, it was clearly a gorgeous worm!These worms are bristleworms, but in full festive finery! The worm seems to use the bunches of bristles on the sides of the body like paddles. This animal is probably Chloeia sp. which are also called fireworms for a good reason. The bristles are brittle and break off easily in skin, causing a burning sensation and intense itching and inflammation and numbness that can last for days or weeks.

This morning, when we arrived, there were lots of policemen at the park and at least two patrol cars. Particulars of some of our team were taken down. This is good. It will discourage abusers of our parks and shores.

Thanks to everyone who found so many special things and making for a lively outing: Robin, Andy, Marcus, Vyna, Ivan, Chay Hoon.

Other posts about the trip
Changi shore trip with MORE sightings and the giant ray on the career breaker's blog.
Catch of the ray all about the giant ray on the budak blog as well as food on the flat and not bunny and shells, spines and stings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Moonsnail looks like Tanea euzona (RECLUZ, 1844)