18 August 2009

Close encounters at midnight, Tanah Merah

It's the last morning super lows of the year! So even a midnight wake up call doesn't deter us. The shore constantly surprises with new sightings! Even though we have been doing a blitz on it for the last few low tides.


We usually state our wishes before we hit the shore. And today, Chay Hoon wished to see a special shrimp called the Saron shrimp. Chay Hoon had been seeing this shrimp on previous trips but it refused to let her take a photo of it. As luck would have it, I spot this odd fat shrimp with a marbled pattern and fluffy bits on his back and front legs. She later confirmed that it is indeed a Saron shrimp!

Alright, we can go home already. But wait, the shore teems with life!

Today, there were lots of Persian carpet flatworms (Pseudobiceros bedfordi) creeping about like mobile rugs. I saw three. Here is one (big blob on the left) next to a goby, with tentacles of a frilly sea anemone (Phymanthus sp.) wedged in a crevice on the right.
And here's a goby hiding its head under a fan worm. Probably thinking that its safe if it can't see the big bad predator.
There were lots and lots of fishes out and about today. James has lots of stunning photos of them on his blog post. But the most stunning finds for me were unfishy.

Today I finally saw for myself what the others had been seeing. An Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica)! This snail is threatened with overcollection so let's hope it stays safe on this shore.
There were also other cowries on the shore. The Wandering cowrie (Cypraea errones) has a more cylindrical shell with a brown spot or spots at the front end of the shell and the 'teeth' are not yellowish.
The Ovum cowrie (Cypraea ovum) has a rounder more egg-shaped shell, without spots on the front end and the 'teeth' are tinged yellow or orange.
More on how to tell apart these cowries, which are quite commonly encountered.

Cowries cover their shells with their body mantle that often have 'hairy' projections, which camouflage the snail. This habit also keeps the shell smooth and glossy, thus attractive to shell collectors.
But I think a living cowrie in its natural habitat is so much more interesting that a dead shell, no matter how glossy it might be. Like this very handsome Miliaris cowrie (Cypraea miliaris) with a spotted shell that is usually covered by its mantle. It's our first sighting for this shore, and I haven't seen this cowrie for a while.
My wish was to see rarey snails. I guess I should have specified that they should be alive. Because we came across the small empty shell of what looks like a baby Bailer snail (Melo melo). As well as an enormous broken shell that looks like it might be an Olive snail. Wow.
The big surprise for me was to encounter two special sea cucumbers. They were well camouflaged, and I probably only saw them because I'm using a fancy new flashlight. This one is possibly the Durian sea cucumber (Stichopus horrens) with the spiky surface that resembles Singapore's favourite fruit.
A little further down was this enormous sea cucumber. It must have been about 40cm long. It looks like the Eye-spotted sea cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus), its eye spots are not very prominent but the texture and size fits the description for this sea cucumber.
It had lots and lots of short tube feet on the flat underside.
So far, I've only seen these two kinds sea cucumbers on Pulau Semakau. It's nice to encounter them on the mainland too! And on a reclaimed shore. It's just amazing.

Today James wished for an Alicia sea anemone (Alicia sp.). We didn't see any but I did see this strange sea anemone on a rock. I have no idea what it is. It seems to have bulbous tips on its tentacles. It scrunched down on the rock and stuck firmly to it when I came closer. James took better photos of similar looking animals on his blog post.
The corals are growing well on the seawall. With lots of little baby ones settling down. Here's a tiny disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) with huge polyps, next to a Pore coral (Porites sp.) with tiny polyps.
Even a bunch of little circular mushroom corals (Family Fungiidae) tucked in the crevices.
Today, Chay Hoon had a close encounter of the scary kind with a gianormous Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida). It's clear from this photo that it was VERY well camouflaged! If it's frowny mouth wasn't slightly open, you couldn't tell which was fish and which was stone.
But I'll let Chay Hoon tell the story. All I know is I had another heart attack and we all walked very carefully in the dark after that.

This shore continues to surprise and astound. Alas, we shall be unable to visit it for some time as the tides switch from morning to evening and there will be no suitably low tides again until the end of the year. This is a good respite: for the shore from us, for us from the sandflies, and stonefish AND traffic tickets (got another one today).

Until then, fare well Tanah Merah.

Other posts about this trip

2 comments:

  1. How sharp are the spines on a stonefish? do they pose a danger to people there that are wearing shoes?

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  2. A good question glhopman! The spines of a stonefish are like a hypodermic needle. Very sharp and very tough. They can pierce through the thick rubber sole and thin neoprene sides of ordinary booties. Which is what we wear.

    I myself had once also felt a needle-like prick on the bottom of my foot, but I pulled back immediately. There was only a numbness for about 6 hours and no pain.

    I believe to be envenomated, you do have to put weight on the fish. That is why we tread carefully, slowly and lightly and feel before we put our full weight on our foot.

    Because we certainly can't discern the fish by sight alone!

    So far, so good.

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