08 June 2009

Labrador check up on World Ocean Day

Today being World Ocean Day, it seemed appropriate to have a look at our last natural reef and major rocky shore and special seagrass meadows on the mainland.
There were some bright spots in today's trip such as this pretty Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus) among the lush seagrass beds.

Labrador has the last large meadows of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) and Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) on the mainland. There's also lots of Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis). Seagrasses are important habitats for all kinds of animals, such as this pair of swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) that look like they are getting ready to mate!I also saw one lone Penaeid prawn (Family Penaeidae).
Among the seagrasses are even some hard corals!
As well as some sponges like this blue sponge with spatula shaped extensions. I also saw several sponges with pink puff ball-like extensions (Ocenapia sagittaria) among the seagrasses.
As I head out for the rubbly part of the shore, I came across this odd blob. At first I thought it was a nudibranch. But a closer look reveals that it is a tiny little reef octopus!
There were lots of large smooth tunnels in the hard rubble that look like PVC pipes. These are excavated by the elusive Coral ghost shrimps (Glypturus sp.). However, it's really hard to sneak up on these shy creatures. All I often can photograph is a bright orange claw before the animal slinks back into the depths of its burrow.
But the little snapping shrimps (Family Alpheidae) were less shy. They were also quite abundant, I could hear their happy snappy sounds all around.
In the pools of water left behind by the outgoing tide were lots of little fishes. Some were really tiny, schooling together in tight groups. Others were fat gobies! Like this pretty Common frill-fin goby (Bathygobius fuscus).
And handsome Ornate lagoon-gobies (Istigobius ornatus)
In the deeper murkier water floated what seemed to be a leaf, but is actually a fish! It looks like the Brown sweetlips (Plectorhinchus gibbosus).
James also saw a toadfish (Family Batrochoididae) and a Painted scorpionfish (Parascorpaena picta) which he has uploaded on his flickr. Wow, this is actually my first sighting of this fish on Labrador.
The coral rubble was festooned with a wide variety of seaweeds. And some parts had lots of colonial anemones or zoanthids. There were Broad zoanthids (Palythoa mutuki) (photo on the left) and lots of Button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.) in various colours.
Crawling about were plenty of lively Dwarf turban snails (Tubo brunneus). They have pretty blue-green bodies and long tentacles.
Surprisingly, I only saw one Hairy crab (Family Pilumnidae). These crabs are usually plentiful on this shore.
I was particularly concerned about the return of hard corals. I saw a lot of little Pore hard corals (Porites sp.), and a few larger colonies.
And one small colony of Sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.).
As well a tiny colony of goniopora hard coral with the small polyps (Goniopora sp.).
While this little clump turned out to be a sponge! See the tiny holes in the smooth surface. It's the kind of sponge that is prickly and encrusting.
While on a rock, there was one nice large blue sponge that looks like the kind that is eaten by the Polka-dot jorunna nudibranch (Jorunna funebris). Alas, I didn't see any nudis today.
The tide didn't really go all the way out, and the water was too murky to check out the reef edge. So I'm not sure if there has been recovery there.Before we left Labrador, we saw some intriguing dead shells. The one on the right is a large cowrie, perhaps the Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica) that we used to see on Labrador in the past? While the one on the right seems to be a cone snail shell!

James and I decided to check out Berlayar shore quickly before the tide turned. The soft sand of this narrow shore looked promising for burrowing snails. While we didn't see any, James found these two odd anemones. I have no idea what they might be.
A first time encounter for me outside of Changi and Chek Jawa is this Spotted fanworm (Family Sabellida) holding its fan in the typical flower shape when out of water.
Another intriguing soft shore animal is of course the Acorn worm (Class Enterpneusta) which creates these coils of 'processed sediment'. The dark coils suggest there is mud under the layer of fine sand on the shore.
In the rockier parts of Berlayar, there were some small flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidea), something I didn't see on Labrador shore today.
There were also lots of carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni). Many of the other creatures that I last saw in Apr 09 on this shore were still there, despite the strong smell of diesel in the air.

This is my first low tide predawn trip to Labrador since Jun 08 with Prof Leo Tan.

Although located at the Labrador Nature Reserve, this shore unfortunately has been affected by many massive marine developments including dredging and reclamation. There's a full list of these works on the blog entry of my last trip to Labrador in May 09 during a highish tide.

Let's hope life continues to cling onto Labrador and will return to the full splendour we enjoyed in the past, once the major works nearby are completed.
Tomorrow morning, another predawn trip. This time to the natural shores of Sentosa that lie just opposite Berlayar Creek, here wreathed in the morning mist.

More about this trip on James' brand new Singapore Nature blog!


  1. Hi Ria, thanks for blogging on my behalf! I spotted a filefish but I don't recall spotting a toadfish.

    Also my blog is finally up at http://sgn090608.blogspot.com/

  2. Fantastic to see your blog James! Looking forward to seeing all your wonderful finds!



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