14 November 2008

Pulau Jong with Giant Suprise

Yesterday, an intrepid team braved a landing at Pulau Jong.
This amazing shore is thick with colourful soft corals.Many of them are HUGE!There's this strange soft coral that seems to be the strange soft coral that I've only seen at Cyrene Reef.The water was rather high, oops, so it was difficult to get to the hard coral zone. But this reef also has lots of hard corals.And where there's good reefs, there's lots of little critters.Like nudibranchs (on the left is Phyllidiela nigra) and flatworms (on the right a small unidentified flatworm with blue lines). Chay Hoon, the Master Nudi Spotter of course saw a whole lot more, including a nudi on a nudi! See her colourful clouds blog for all the photos and stories.

The high water gave me an excuse to thoroughly explore the rockier parts of this shore.Which was full of Ox-tongue nerites (Nerita albicilla), large Ribbed turban snails (Turbo intercostalis) and Spotted top shell snails (Trochus maculatus). Chee Kong also saw lots of other kinds of snails.I surprised a Red-eyed reef crab (Family Eriphiidae).
One of its pincers is enlarged and armed with molar-like "teeth" to crush snail shells (photo on the right). The other pincer has slim 'fingers' that act like chopsticks to remove the snail after its shell is crushed (photo on the left). Even though we are far far away from the mainland, this submerged reef has spiders! This is the Marine spider (Desis martensi). At high tide, it hides in air pockets among crevices of submerged rocks. It emerges at low tide to hunt. It can 'walk' on water, scuttling rapidly over the water. Its hairy feet prevent it from breaking the water surface tension. This spider is listed among the threatened animals Singapore.And what a delight it was to see a really large Giant clam! Giant clams are among the largest bivalves to have ever existed on our planet! Unlike most other bivalves, the giant clam harbours symbiotic zooxanthellae (a kind of single-celled algae) in its fleshy body. The zooxanthellae produce food through photosynthesis. To maximise its "farm", the clam exposes these alga to the sunlight by facing the shell opening (and thus the body containing the algae) to sunlight. We were really lucky to have with us today, Mei Lin who is studying these animals and whom we affectionately call 'Giant Clam Girl'.
We crowd around the clam to have a closer look and film and photograph it.
All this attention made it a bit nervous. So it closed its valves and retracted its fleshy mantle. A little later on, it also squirted poor Andy! The Giant clam has a siphon to expel water and Mei Lin is studying how this is used by the animal. I guess she should add to the purposes, shooing away the paparazzi.Mei Lin also shares with us that this might be the more rarely encountered Tridacna maxima, and not the more commonly seen Tridacna squamosa. This is because the outer shell is not as prominently fluted. Also, it is bright blue on the underside of the fleshy mantle. But she says she'll have to check further to confirm this. She adds that Tridacna maxima was so far only seen at Raffles Lighthouse! So this may be a very special Giant clam!
[update: in her brand new blog, Mei Lin confirms that this is indeed Tridacna maxima! She has also provided lots more info about this special animal. Alas, it is considered "functionally extinct" in Singapore. Sigh.]

The team spread out far and wide and saw lots of other interesting stuff too!

What makes all this marine life extra surprising is the location of Pulau Jong. This little 'char siew pau' shaped island lies next to Pulau Semakau, the location of our landfill.Next to Jong is Pulau Sebarok, the 'petrol station' of our port, where serious bunkering activities goes on.And Jong is also right next to Pulau Bukom, with major petrochemical industries (in the photo, Pulau Bukom is in the background of Pulau Jong).Here's a closer look at the industries on Pulau Bukom on the way in to Pulau Jong.Global warming in action with added brown streak of haze across the sky.

Landing on Pulau Jong is tricky because of the strong currents there.And the waters today was quite choppy.Fortunately, Melvin was in charge with a NEW little boat, with a name we just love! This is exactly the attitude we have when approaching these wonderful but hard to reach shores. And the boat indeed lives up to its name.
After hunting diligently, Melvin found a nice calm spot on the reef, whereupon we jumped out of the boat. And Andy saw a nurse shark swimming by! Wow! And thank goodness, all made it safely to higher ground without stepping on stonefish or stingray.
The water was super clear, and super cold. Brr.
The water was a bit high today, but the weather held. With the wonderful company and fantastic support from the Dolphin team and Melvin, it was a great day out!

Other blog posts about this trip

1 comment:

  1. wow i cant believe this is singapore. i would really love to go on a trip like that! it looks so fun.



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