23 October 2009

Flotsam and then some: on Tanah Merah

Tanah Merah is full of life. Thus every bit of seemingly innocent rubbish, needs to be closely examined.
Drifting in the current, I thought this was just a bunch of flotsam. But it turned out to be three litttle fishes in a tight group.

Here they are in a rare moment where they were not actually touching one another. I have no idea what they are.
What I first thought was a bit of fluff, turned out to be a little Feathery filefish (Chaetodermis penicilligerus). How adorable!
Another little drifting blob turned out to be a tiny jellyfish! So cute! It was furiously pumping its little bell, but didn't really make any headway from the current.
Tanah Merah, as usual, is full of fishies. But many are hard to spot. There are two blennies (Family Blennidae) in this bunch of Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.).
Here's a closer look at the fishies. They blend in very well with the blades of the brown seaweed.
Larger filefishes (Family Monacanthidae) wrap themselves next to rocks and virtually disappear from view. I also saw lots of Painted scorpionfishes (Parascorpaena picta). But thankfully, no stonefish!
Yet other fishes look like drifting sticks, while others blend in among the gazillion creeper snails (Family Cerithiidae) on the sandy bottom. In this photo, three little halfbeaks and two gobies and one perchlet.
Although well camouflaged, gobies can be quite interesting if we take a closer look. Like this one which might be the Ornate lagoon-goby (Istigobius ornatus).
And this one, which might be a Common frill-fin goby (Bathygobius fuscus).
Some fishes are colourful. Like this bright blue halfbeak.
And a pretty Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus).
In the crevices were all kinds of reef fishes. I saw three Chocolate hinds (Cephalopholis boenak) a kind of grouper, and various other damselfishes and colourful fishes I couldn't identify or shoot very well.

The Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) were still abundant and gathered in groups on a small part of the shore. There were also lots of colourful swimming crabs (Family Portunidae), many busy Ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalmus), a few Moon crabs (Ashtoret lunaris). Michell also saw the Spotted hermit crab (Dardanus sp.) and other interesting stuff.

As usual, I am plagued by Saron shrimps (Family Hippolytidae). These two large bluish shrimps were well out of hiding, just hanging out on a flat rock.
Here's a closer look at one of these stout little well decorated shrimps.
When I looked around, I noticed another three Saron shrimps hiding in crevices nearby!

The main reason for coming to Tanah Merah was to share the seagrass meadows here with Eugene who is planning a study of Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis). Taking a closer look at them, we realise there are quite large expanses of this seagrass here!

Although the leaves are small, they grow quite thickly. And Eugene discovered even MORE of these seagrasses under the mats of scummy stuff and piles of annoying little snails.
We also saw a patch of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides). Alas, I couldn't find the small patch of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) that I came across on an earlier trip in August.

But the most surprsing find at Tanah Merah was by Michell. She spotted a small patch of these seagrasses. At first we thought it was the Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.).
But a closer look reveals that it might be the rarer Ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) instead!
Eugene will check up on this. Wow, this is exciting!

It's been an interesting series of evening field trips during not-so-low tides. The shores are certainly more quiet during daylight as animals are in hiding. Nevertheless, it's a chance to continue checking up on our many marvellous shores.

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