16 September 2008

Tuas with TeamSeagrass of Schering Plough

There is a tiny sliver of natural shore at Tuas. It just missed being reclaimed!
And it's very much alive.

This stretch has been kindly adopted by Schering Plough who regularly monitor the seagrasses there as part of the TeamSeagrass effort. I was out with their volunteers for the first evening tide of the year.While the rest did the monitoring, Samuel and I did a quick recce of the shore during this not-so-low fast tide.We noticed the outer shore was thick with Halimeda sp., a kind of stiff green seaweed that incorporates calcium carbonate. I've never seen so much of this seaweed before. Not on Tuas or any other shore. This is quite strange.Here's a closer look at a clump of the seaweed that got washed up. It is made of up several little stiff disks, anchored to the bottom. Lots of animals have take advantage of the thicket of stiff seaweeds.
There were plenty of pink Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis).Skulking among the seaweeds were lots of crabs, including several large Stone crabs (Myomenippe hardwicki). This crab can be identified by its red eyes ringed with green.
Among the seaweeds were lots of little clumps of these flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidea). These are animals and not plants, and each is a colony of tiny little brown individuals called polyps.In the deeper waters, Samuel and I came across a large peacock anemone (Order Ceriantharia). These relatives of sea anemones build a tube to live in. The tube is so cosy that little black Phoronid worms (Phylum Phoronida) often settle with the peacock anemone.Tuas is best known for spectacular sea fans (Order Gorgonacea). And it didn't disappoint despite the not-so-low tide. Here's a beautiful orange colony next to a purple branching sponge.A little further down among the coral rubble was another nice orange one. Alas, we didn't see any of the little snails that live in these sea fans.

As the tide turned, we head back to the sandy shore to check it out. There's lots to see, but you need to look carefully. What seems to just be a clump of seaweeds, is actually a swimming crab (Family Portunidae) with not only green seaweed growing on it, but also little barnacles on its back! Barnacles have feathery feet to gather food, and these were busy feeding.
There was a pair of Tiger moon snails (Natica tigrina) that look like they were mating. These moon snails are not often seen on our other shores but regularly sighted at Tuas. So it's nice to encounter them.And who can resist those little eyes of the Gong-gong snail (Strombus canarium). There were plenty of them on this inaccessible shore, safe from the kind of collection pressure seen on other shores.
Today, there were lots of sand dollars (probably Arachnoides placenta) on the sandy shores. They came in all sizes, from the size of 10cent coin to larger disks about 6cm in diameter. These animals are relatives of sea stars, and you can clearly see the five part symmetry especially on the underside (the animal on the right).Kok Sheng who is currently studying sand stars (Astropecten sp.) had wanted to come but couldn't make it. So I made it a point to look for these stars. I saw only two, and they were not very large, about 6cm in diameter. I didn't see the ones that were plain, without these pretty brown lines down the arms.

Other sightings included several carpet anemones in good shape.

The Schering Plough volunteers attempted to cross over to the beacon, but the water was too deep. Along the way, they saw a large sea star! We'll just have to wait for the photos and blog entry on TeamSeagrass for more about their sightings.
Alas, I also came across a bleaching hard coral. But there were plenty of little hard corals (Turbinaria sp., Oulastera crispata mostly). There's ongoing reclamation at the tip of Tuas which hopefully doesn't affect these shores or the beautiful Malaysian shores opposite Tuas at the Sungei Pulai estuary.

We'll just have to keep coming back to check up on this interesting shore at Tuas.All too soon it was sunset and we rounded up our little excursion. Here is the Tuas beacon, with Pulau Merambong, the island in the distance. Pulau Merambong belongs to Malaysia and here's some background about it.

A few more field trips are upcoming this week, but it's been a slow month as there aren't any good low spring tides this time of the year.

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