26 July 2009

Very busy day at Semakau

It's daybreak and we're on yet another shore. This time on Pulau Semakau with TeamSeagrass.
And Dr Daphne and the Anemone Army joins us too. AND Marcus and November are leading a walk for NEA's media group as well. It promised to be a busy time on Semakau.

TeamSeagrass was rather challenging today as we were short of hands. And we had to set up Site 4 by triangulation! Instead of relying on stakes pounded into the ground. But it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.
While I was helping out with TeamSeagrass, Dr Daphne and the Anemone Army were hard at work in the distance on this vast shore.
And just as I finished at Site 4 and headed out to help out the other Sites, Marcus and November arrived with the media group. The visitors seemed quite impressed and were already busy taking photos even as they emerged from the forest trail to the shore.
Here's Site 3 in the seagrass lagoon which is bordered by a huge and growing patch of sponges. In the distance is Pulau Hantu (with trees) and Pulau Bukom (with petrochemical installations).
After a quick check on TeamSeagrass, I headed out to chat with the media group, here crossing the seagrass lagoon while Site 3 is hard at work.
And wow, Marcus and November is already showing them lots of stuff that can be found on the reefs that were exposed at this super low tide. We saw lots of different hard corals such as (clockwise from top left) the Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.), Sunflower mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis), Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.) among some yellow sponges, and a really special Acropora coral (Acropora sp.). There were of course lots of other kinds of hard corals, as well as soft corals.
Marcus encounters a Melibe (Melibe viridis)! This enormous nudibranch looks like seaweed and is often overlooked. It has a hood-like structure at the front, which can expand and is used to capture little crustaceans! It's my first time seeing this on Pulau Semakau. What a great find to share with the media group.
Of course a trip to Pulau Semakau is not complete with a sighting of the charming Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus). And we see quite a few on the reef today! Sam of TeamSeagrass found one, November found two including this six-armed sea star, while Andy of TeamSeagrass found about 10 small ones near TeamSeagrass Site 1.
The media group also saw lots of active octopuses moving about in the pools! This is a special sight during daylight. Probably because the day was cool and overcast.

After interfering with the media walk, I quickly head off to check in with Dr Daphne and the Anemone Team. Along the way, I spot a tiny little Long-spined black sea urchin (Diadema sp.).
There were also several large Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) in the rubble and seagrass. I didn't see any False clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion ocellaris) today. But I didn't have time to properly stalk them and spot the fishes, which are usually well hidden during low tide. These anemones are also found near mangrove trees on Pulau Semakau. Dr Daphne later told us that this occurrence in mangroves is quite interesting to her.
In the rubbly areas were lots and lots of these little anemones that look like wriggly stars. These nervous animals are very hard to get close to. And the Anemone Team later told me they had little success in getting a look at them.
In a pool of water among the rubble are many animals that look like anemones but are not. Such as this pretty patch of corallimorphs (Order Corallimorphoria). James did a post today with more about anemone-look-alikes which are NOT true sea anemones.
In the sandier upper shores, there were also some Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni).
On the high shore, I finally catch up with the Anemone Team! In the distance is another huge oil rig parked in the area reserved for them, just off Pulau Semakau, although I don't recall coming across an MPA notice about this as is usually done in the past.
Dr Daphne and Team report a fruitful trip on the shore! They have found a Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis) with two pedal disks - kind of the foot of a sea anemone. This is also our first record of this sea anemone on Pulau Semakau. Wow! But alas, the elusive wriggly star anemones gave them a lot of grief. While they of course saw lots of Frilly anemones (Phymanthus sp.). They also saw nudis and a frogfish! More on James' blog post about this trip.
I head a little further down to help Shufen get some fruits of the very rare Pink-eyed pong pong tree (Cerbera manghas) that Dr John Yong first pointed out to us. Semakau has more than 10 mature trees of this tree which is listed as 'Critically Endangered'. Shufen is trying to propagate these trees so that we can ensure they continue to thrive on Singapore shores.
As the rest of the team have a little trip to the Southernmost point of Semakau, some of us went to see the Api api jambu (Avicennia marina) which I saw earlier this year and kindly confirmed by Dr John Yong as these 'Critically Endangered' mangrove trees. A closer look reveals that there are FOUR of these trees at this location. At first I thought there were only two of them, but there are two other smaller ones as well!
Here's a photo of Shufen taken by hubby Kevin. Shufen is very far down the road to motherhood, and yet she walked kilometers today to do seagrass monitoring and look at rare trees. My hat off to her. All the Avicennia marina trees including the small ones were 'fruiting'. We harvested as many of the largest of the propagules as we could for Shufen's effort to reintroduce these rare trees to our mangroves.

It was great to be able to get so many things done today! AND the day has not ended yet. Not for the Anemone Team anyway. It was back to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, to process the anemones and take photos of them. Thanks to Andy for driving everyone to lunch and then to the Museum.
Among the anemones of Semakau was this strange little one that I've not seen before. It's so pretty!
Dr Daphne also had a sample of what is NOT a sea anemone. This sample was given to her yesterday from Pulau Semakau.
Here's a closer look at it with my poor little sneaky cam.
There's hardly anything there that resembles a tentacle or even a cnidarian (Phylum Cnidaria). Dr Daphne says if we look carefully, there are no zooids so it can't be an ascidian (Class Ascidiacea), besides which Andrea has studied these animals and it's most definitely a sponge (Phylum Porifera).

It's certainly been a very busy day, but an enjoyable one with much good company and many things done in a short time!

ONE more trip for the Anemone Army tomorrow!

Other posts about this trip

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