Jun 7, 2008

Zoanthids of Changi

6am and we're at Changi with Dr James and the Zoanthid Team. We had hoped to bring Dr James to another Northern shore but there were complications and Changi was the best alternative.

Wow, we find large patches of what is possibly Zoanthus vietnamensis, due to the bright "Hello Kitty" or "Bandung" pink.We also come across some green ones which Dr James will take a closer look at.Alas, there weren't any other kinds zoanthids to be found. But the shores are definitely alive with all kinds of other marine life.

There were lots of sponges.A prickly purple one that I haven't seen for some time.And lots of this pretty bright pink one.

There were also lots of hydroids (Order Hydrozoa) on the shore. Hydroids may look like plants but they are actually animals. More correctly, a colony of tiny little animals.This pale feathery colony gives a very nasty sting. I brushed my hand accidentally against one and ouch, it really hurts.This orange one grows in bushy tufts on hard surfaces. We didn't test whether it stings.
And here's a dark orange one that might be hydroid, or something else altogether. I have no idea.

There were also lots of sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) or gorgonians on the shores! How nice to see them back in force.
There were bright red ones with skinny long branches.And colourful orange ones with thick branches. Sea fans are also colonial animals made up of tiny little polyps.Here's a closer look at the tiny white polyps that make up this orange gorgonian. The polyps are supported by a central rod made of a tough but flexible protein called gorgonin that is similar to the material produced in the horns of animals.
There were lots of these little antennae like colonies.
There were white ones too with star-shaped openings where the polyps had retracted.
Gorgonians provide places for animals to live, like this tiny hermit crab clinging to a small gorgonian. Today, however, we didn't really see any of the ovulid snails that are often found on the sea fans, as we were busy looking for zoanthids.

And one strange colonial soft coral.I don't really know what this is.

This may look like zoanthids,But they are hard, and indeed, they are hard corals. Dr James says they are Tubastrea sp., a kind of coral more commonly found in caves as they don't need sunlight like most other hard corals.

The tide was really low today and we found that the shores were covered with lots of relatively large colonies of Zebra coral (Oulastrea crispata)!All this life means there's things for other animals to eat and places for them to shelter.

Chay Hoon found another Hypselodoris sp.But only one this time.

Sijie also found some Crown sea stars (Asterina coronata), and there were the orange sea cucumbers with dark stripes, purple sea cucumbers that cling to rocks and one Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis). There were also a few short-spined black sea urchins (Temnopleurus sp.) . The hard surfaces were covered with all kinds of life, including large swathes of Green mussels (Perna viridis).

Among the living garden of hydroids and gorgonians was this orange sea horse!And Chay Hoon also found a large feather star or crinoid.A closer look revealed a brittle star on it.We're not sure if this is the kind of brittlestar that lives with feather stars. Or perhaps it just accidentally ended up on the feather star.

The exciting trip was cut short with incoming wet weather. Fortunately, we were spared the deluge that hit poor Kok Sheng and his sand star team at Pasir Ris. We were safely at breakfast when the rain finally reached us.

Looking forward to a final day of zoanthid hunting tomorrow!

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