07 June 2009

Return to Tanah Merah

It's been a long day that started a 2am today with an astounding trip to Tanah Merah. This time with a larger team, to a larger section of this shore, so we sure saw a lot more!

As Liana shared on her very prompt post (bravo!) there sure were a lot of crabs around this morning, all busy doing their thing. This little Horn-eyed ghost crab (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) was eating another crab! This ghost crab is so young the 'horns' on its eyes are still quite short.

There were also lots of Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus) and this pair was getting ready to make yet MORE flower crabs.
In many crabs, mating takes place just after the female moults, or sheds her hard exoskeleton. Thus, often the male crab will 'protect' a female that is just about to moult in order to ensure that he is the one to mate with her.

This is not a crab but a true spider. It 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. Liana has a great shot of a Marine spider walking on water!

The Marine spider is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. It's great that this spider has settled on a reclaimed shore like Tanah Merah. How does it do this? I have no idea!

Another nice surprise was to see this Long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota).
Although it can be locally common on some of our reefs, it is listed as 'Vulnerable' in the Red List. I have, for example, yet to see this animal on Pulau Semakau. So it's great to see one on Tanah Merah!

Also a nice surprise was to come across some Cake sand dollars (Arachoides placenta). They were quite a good size and vigorously ploughing the rather rough sand.
I also came across three widely spaced apart Common sea stars (Archaster typicus).
As earlier mentioned by Kok Sheng, this is the only location on the mainland that we know of with Common sea stars. These animals are also listed as 'Vulnerable' on our Red List. Yesterday, I saw more of these sea stars in the other section of Tanah Merah, and they were clusterd in mating position there. So hopefully, we can expect more of these sea stars on these shores and perhaps our other mainland shores too.

Marcus also saw a sand star (Astropecten sp.)!

But the most exciting echinoderm find must be the tiny feather star or crinoid, that James found and shared on his flickr.
There are not that many peacock anemones and sea anemones on this shore. I'm not sure why. But today I saw this special peacock anemone with a small mouth and short oral tentacles in a tent over its mouth. So far, I've only seen this animal on Beting Bronok, Changi and Cyrene Reef.James also saw a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea)! He shared a photo of it on his flickr.Today, there were lots of these flatworms that we have yet to identify. They were large and frilly, crawling all over the shores.
Ivan found this very pretty Persian carpet flatworm (Pseudobiceros bedfordi) and James shared a photo of it on his flickr.
Other sluggish creatures seen today include the nudibranch Dendrodoris denisoni as well as some sea hares, possibly Aplysia extraordinaria.

More familiar molluscs include snails. And today, I saw some cowries. This is probably the Wandering cowrie (Cypraea errones). It was under a stone and didn't want to move so it's probably a mama guarding her eggs. After looking under a stone, it's important to put it back the way we found it, and to do this GENTLY.
Less sluggish molluscs seen include the octopus. And today, I saw a rather large reef octopus that is commonly encountered on our Southern islands.
As usual, this master of camouflage adjusts its colours and body texture to blend in with its surroundings.
It is able to instantly change its colours and patterns as it moved about to hunt.
And here it is completely dark and smooth!

Another zippy mollusc is the squid that bothered me in packs yesterday. We saw a few of these pesky creatures today.Hovering about the only small clump of long and encrusted Tape seagrasses (Enhalus acoroides) in deeper water. Seagrasses indeed shelter lots of little creatures such as the tiny tiny fish in the upper right hand corner that I nearly missed.
Here's a closer look at the tiny fish. I have no idea what it is.

Marcus also saw some other seagrasses which may be fat Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.).

Indeed seagrasses and seaweeds provide shelter and food for fishes. Like this very beautiful Feathery filefish (Chaetodermis penicilligerus) that James saw and shared on his flickr.
James is not only a great photographer, but he also can find amazing marine life. He found and shared photos of this pair of Estuarine seahorses (Hippocampus kuda) sheltering among seaweeds! Wow!
One is a very obviously pregnant papa seahorse. Let's hope he succeeds in populating this shore with his progeny.

Some fishes pretend to be a dead leaf. I saw a small one of these fishes today. Still not really sure what it is.While other fishes swim near the water surface and resemble sticks. Like this halfbeak with a short 'nose' (Family Hemiramphidae).
The rocky sea wall is full of life. With hard corals of all sizes settling there. James shared this photo on his flickr of a tiny Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) starting to grow next to a Pore hard coral (Porites sp.).
The rock crevices and hard corals provide shelter for a wide range of fishes. Ivan saw several moray eels (possibly the Estuarine moray eel, Gymnothorax tile) and I saw lots of the same fishes I saw yesterday. As well as this Painted scorpionfish (Parascorpanea picta).
Wow, this shore is quite amazing!

We ended the trip even before the sun rose. Alas, to a sad sight at the high water mark. A huge collection of plastic bottles that probably floated in with the tide.
What is even more disturbing is that almost all the plastic bottles were coated in oil.
Tanah Merah's reclaimed shore is richer than we imagined. Let's hope it will continue to thrive despite the many pressures on it.

More blog posts and photos of this trip

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