15 November 2008

Clear skies over Cyrene

Despite the downpour, a determined team gathered to visit Cyrene Reef. And as usual, Melvin arranged for a break in the weather and it turned out to be a clear and cool evening on our favourite reef!
We arrived on sandy shores carpeted with Common sea stars (Archaster typicus)!I've not seen so many of them out and actively about. Perhaps the recent rainfall brought them out? There's much we don't know about our shores.The Star Tracker Team who landed first were already hard at work and had marked out lots of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) with yellow flags.It's amazing just how many stars are on this shore!
Despite close proximity to major international shipping lanes and the Pasir Panjang Container Terminals.The shores are so fascinating, we are oblivious to the surrounding industrial activity. Here's Kok Sheng and Mei Ling having a closer look at a tiny 'Nemo' on Cyrene.Today, the White sea urchin (Salmacis sp.) was back in season. These prickly animals tend to 'carry' things. Like bits of shells, seagrass leaves and seaweeds. This makes them so well camouflaged in the seagrasses that we had to walk carefully to avoid a heart-breaking crunch.Also out in large numbers today were the thorny sea urchins (Prionocidaris sp.) . These pretty pink sea urchins with thick spines armed with little spikes are usually only commonly seen on our Northern shores.

Kok Sheng also saw one long-spined black sea urchin (Diadema sp.) . There are times when this sea urchin is quite abundant on Cyrene. But not today. This is why it's important to visit our shores regularly, to keep up with seasonal changes.

Of course, we saw lots and lots of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus). As poor Sijie remarked "Since when have they given us a break" as he and the Star Tracker team valiantly went on with their study of these amazing stars.What a lovely surprise to see this Knobbly without knobs! Is this Nudistarre, the Knobbly adopted by the Naked Hermit Crabs? WOW! I hope so.This is what a usually knobbly Knobbly looks like.

Kok Sheng and Mei Lin saw other interesting sea stars too: a biscuit star (Goniodiscaster scaber), the first on our Southern shores, and possibly a cake sea star (Anthenea aspera). Cyrene Reef is special in having many echinoderms that are common in the North but less commonly seen in the South.
On this trip, I decided to finally make the long trek to the end of this 1km long reef (marked by the big orange beacon) and see what's there.As with the rest of Cyrene, the outer edge was teeming with large soft corals, here with Pulau Bukom in the background.

Colourful hard corals dotted the shores.And in some places, the competition for real estate is quite fierce, although the battles are slow and silent.This blue sponge was clearly getting the better of the brown coloured blue coral (Heliopora coerulea).Here's a closer look at the war zone. The blue coral has tiny brownish polyps with branching tentacles and is actually grouped with soft corals. Here's more about why this is so, and why it's called the blue coral when it's brown!
Alas, nearby was a boat with fishermen laying down fish traps at the reef.
As I headed back through the seagrasses, I spotted this feathery filefish (Chaetodermis penicilligerus). It's really well camouflaged! Kok Sheng saw a batfish!There seemed to be many young Gong-gong (Strombus canarium) among the seagrasses today. These had thinner shells and have not yet developed the thick flared portion on the shell.Here's a closer look at those endearing eyes and the knife-life tip of its muscular foot. This snail doesn't creep along the ground like their more sedentary relatives. It uses its foot to 'hop' and moves in lurches.Just as we were getting ready to board the "No Problem", Samuel spots a flower crab (Portunus pelagicus) that has just moulted! It's so bright and colourful. And see how much bigger it is compared to its discarded moult on the right.

The rest of the team saw lots of other exciting nudibranchs, fishes and other exciting finds. Andy got video clips of a cuttlefish inking and swimming anemone swimming and more. I'm sure they'll blog about these soon.

Other blogs about this trip

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