23 July 2009

Nem Hunt Day 4: Terumbu Raya

It's time to show Dr Daphne our sea anemones of the Southern Islands!
One of the best locations for these magnificent creatures is the aptly named Terumbu Raya, which in Malay means 'Great Submerged Reef only exposed at the lowest tide'.

We arrive at first light and almost immediately start spotting enormous reef anemones. Still submerged even at the super low tide today were these two large sea anemones nestled at the reef edge.
There's the Bubble tip sea anemone (Entacmea quadricolor) which is quite abundant in this area. This sea anemone does indeed have bubbles on the tips of its tentacles. James and Chay Hoon spotted some of these anemones with Tomato clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion frenatus).
And next to it, a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) with a large False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris)! I must admit I didn't see the fish until I got home to process the photos.
These large sea anemones are homes for these fishes and other kinds of animals too. So we just take a look at them and leave them alone.

In quite deep water was this other large sea anemone.
Dr Daphne says it might be the Leathery sea anemone (Heteractis crispa)! Indeed, it has pink tips on the tentacles. But it was too far down to safely take a closer look.
The submerged reef is huge and further 'inland' away from the reef edge are different kinds of anemones. YC found this cluster of anemones that I've never seen before. Dr Daphne did tell me the name but it has since slipped my mind. Too many predawn trips burns the brain cells. She says these are considered aquarium pests, but are native to our region. They tend to thrive in water that is too poor for other animals. Oops.
And after an extensive search, Siong Kiat finds our first Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.). As its common name suggests, this is not an anemone we want to touch.
And a little later on, Chay Hoon finds another one! Indeed, Terumbu Raya is the only shore I've been to so far with many of these scary but splendid animals.
We also see lots of wriggly star anemones (which Dr Daphne says are Edwardsids) and frilly sea anemones (Phymantus sp.) and Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni). Alas, we didn't manage to find any of the secretive Pizza anemones (Cryptodendrum adhaesivum) that are quite common here, and also didn't come across the Haekel's anemone (Actinostephanus haekeli) that was seen here on our previous trip.

It was a really short trip as we could only land at first light, and the low tide started much earlier. This submerged reef lies just opposite Pulau Semakau, here on the horizon with the pink light of dawn peeping out behind the mangrove trees.
Of course, we can't help but notice the marvellous reefs here.
All kinds of different hard corals are jammed next to one another, with even more kinds of marine life packed into the crevices and corners.
Among some of the rarey hard corals seen are the Ringed plate coral (Pachyseris sp.).
Ridged plate corals (Merulina sp.) are sometimes brightly coloured.
While this baby blue Ridged plate coral had a kind of turret in the middle.
Carnation hard corals (Pectinia sp.) came in shades of maroon, green and blue.
Lettuce hard corals (Pectinia sp.) are particularly large and handsome on this reef.
And I saw this oddly coloured Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.). I've not seen one this shade of bright neon pink before.
Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.) is always a delight to encounter.
Stranded at low tide, there were quite a few of these little octopuses on the sand and rubble. These poor creatures turn white when they are stressed. They are still very much alive and will be fine when the tide comes back in.
In the search for nems, I accidentally came across the common Glossodoris atromarginata nudibranch, and the enormous Spotted black flatworm (Acanthozoon sp.) both of which are generally quite commonly encountered on our reefs. James and Chay Hoon spot other, more interesting slugs.
And Dr Daphne spotted this Blue spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma) among the seagrasses. In fact, almost everyone of us saw one of these fishes. Eeks. Thank goodness no one got stung on the way in and out of the reef.
The calm waters between Terumbu Raya and Pulau Semakau is a great place to spot sea turtles. And Andrea did spot one today!
It was a fruitful trip, though rather short as the tide soon turned.

More about Terumbu Raya on posts about our maiden trip, and second trip there.

More posts about this trip


  1. Does the name Aiptasia ring any bells? Those anemones cause serious problems in reef aquaria, as they can quickly swamp and overwhelm an entire reef setup.

  2. Thanks Ivan! Went off like a gong! Yes, that's what Dr Daphne said they were.



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