27 May 2009

20 minutes on Cyrene Reef

Cyrene Reef is so rich that even in 20 minutes, there's so much that can be seen!
I was on the Reef today with TeamSeagrass for much longer than 20 minutes of course. But the tide window was short and after I finished monitoring, there wasn't much time to look around. But even in a straight line, short walk to the departure point, I saw all kinds of marvellous marinelife.

The one thing you can't miss on Cyrene Reefs are the abundant Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) that dot the seagrass meadows.I saw ELEVEN of them just in my short quick walk to the departure point! Above are some of them, and you can see they come in various colours and knobbly patterns.

It's important to take and share photos of all Knobbly sea stars that we see with Chee Kong and Sijie of the Star Trackers. They are monitoring these special sea stars on all our shores. They can distinguish each Knobbly by the arrangement of the knobs and are thus able to keep track of them through our photo contributions! So please send your photos of Knobbly sea stars to Chee Kong at chimck@yahoo.com or contribute your photos via their Star Tracker flickr group. See also the Star Tracker guidelines on how to take the photo of the sea star so the photo can be used in their study.

I also came across a fat Cushion star (Culcita novaeguineae) in the middle of the seagrasses.
They are sea stars with very short arms and are quite pentagonal. From above, they don't look anything like a sea star. But on the underside, you can more clearly see their five-part symmetry.

Other echinoderms I saw in the seagrass pools included a very long synaptid sea cucumber (Family Synaptidae) and two fat Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra).

A sand bar that I crossed to get to the departure point was thick with Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) and Common sea stars (Archaster typicus).
Many had buried themselves in the soft sand. Here you can see the little dots probably made by the star's many tubefeet before it settled into the wet sand.

I slowed a little to look for snails that eat sand dollars. I found this little snail in the sand. I have no idea what it is!
There was also this little shell that was occupied by a tiny hermit crab. I also have no idea what it is.
And there was this Pink moon snail, that I have seen on other shores but whose identity I have yet to discover.
It refused to come out of its shell. So I moved along. And chanced upon an Extraordinary sea hare (Aplysia extraordinaria).
The seagrasses are also dotted with large anemones. The most commonly seen were Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) (left photo). I also saw one Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) (middle photo) and one Snaky anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis).
Of course, there were lots of hard and many large soft corals in the rubbly area and reef edge!

Wow, there sure is a lot to see on Cyrene even on a hurried walk.

More about other sightings on this short trip on Mei Lin's Psychedelic Nature blog.

While TeamSeagrass was monitoring, Collin and Robin were tagging pipefishes. It's hard work. First they have to gently seine the pool where these fishes shelter at low tide.
They sure managed to gather quite a few of these large fat Alligator pipefishes (Syngnathoides biaculeatus)!Then a tiny bit of harmless dye is inserted gently into the outer skin of the fish.
Different fishes are marked at different locations so that they can be differentiated.
The dye is a really really tiny spot. With this programme in place, we can learn more about these increasingly rare fishes. Collin hopes to tag our seahorses too. But we didn't find any today.
Well, not ON Cyrene we didn't. However, when we got back on the boat, a seahorse was discovered in a liquor bottle. It was quite dead, alas.

We took a new boat and a new route to Cyrene today. So on the way home it was a good opportunity to take photos of some of the major works happening near Cyrene and other reefs such as Labrador and Sentosa.
There's a huge floating platform with large machinery near Labrador, probably part of the reclamation for the Pasir Panjang Port expansion project that will go on until Aug 09.
Here's the model of the terminal extension that was on display for the Master Plan 2008 exhibition.
The work site (in green) in relation to Cyrene Reefs (highlighted in yellow).

At the mouth of Marina at Keppel Bay just opposite Berlayar Creek, there was a humungous platform with heavy equipment.
This must be the piling works that will happen here until Sep 09.
Here's a closer look at the platform.

We must indeed continue to monitor the health of our shores so that we can understand them better and learn how to better protect them. TeamSeagrass also monitors seagrasses on Labrador and Sentosa. You CAN make a difference simply by joining the Team. Here's more FAQs about the Team and their work and how you can join.

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