11 October 2009

Sunny fanny Sunday

It was a hot hot day and the fans we saw were not the kind that generates a nice wind.
But they were really cool!

There were lots of seafans, in all colours and shapes.
Including long skinny whip sea fans.
Here's MORE!
Sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) are animals! Although they are often mistaken for colourful plants.
Each sea fan is a colony of tiny animals that live together on a shared branching structure.
The polyps gather tiny bits of food from the water with their tiny tentacles.
The colony branches only on one plane (i.e., they are not bushy). And usually angled perpendicular to the current, to better strain the water for edible bits.
Some sea fans are made up of a single long 'stem'. These are commonly called sea whips.
These knobbly colonies with much larger polyps I think are sea fans too. So far, I've only seen them in large groups on our northern shores. Sea fans or gorgonians are soft corals and thus have branched tentacles.
Hydroids (Order Hydrozoa) are also colonies of tiny animals with tentacles. Here's one that forms a fluffy colony with really fine tentacles.
This rather rubbishy looking colony has very small polyps. I've never paid close attention to these before.
While these hydroids that look like ferns generally pack a powerful sting.
The above soft corals are generally found in dark places.

Also seen in dark places are small colonies of these brightly coloured cave corals (Tubastrea sp.).
This pink flowery soft coral (Family Nephtheidae) is also often seen in shady areas. It often has little animals living on the branches but I didn't see any today. These are commonly seen on our northern shores.
A commonly seen soft coral are these brown flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae). They too are colonies of small polyps with tiny branching tentacles. These can grow in large numbers in sunny locations, suggesting that they harbour symbiotic algae that undergo photosynthesis and share their food with the soft coral host.
Here's a little hard coral colony (the bluish lumpy thing). Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.) seems quite tough and we saw several colonies today. Next to it is a patch of Button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.).
Here's a closer look at another patch of Button zoanthids. These are not true anemones. While zoanthids belong to Order Zoanthidea, true anemone belong to Order Actiniaria. A rather geeky biod fact.
I didn't see many anemones. But I did photograph some by accident. For example, I was photographing this pretty pink sponge (Haliclona cf. baeri).
And when I got home, I realised there were two little anemones growing in the sponge.
There were also lots of ascidians or sea squirts (Class Ascidiacea) that I've not seen before. I have no idea what they are.
A nice variety of seaweeds was also seen. The seaweeds were "well behaved" and did not overwhelm the other marine life. Perhaps because there was a good variety of fishes keeping them in check?
Various animals were often seen squished together. There are two sea cucumbers on the lower portion of the photo. One is clearly the Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) while the other is probably the Orange sea cucumber. And there's a sponge too.
But I only noticed this strange pair of things in the background when I processed the photo! I have no idea what they are.
I was focusing on the sea cucumber with its feeding tentacles expanded.
And only later realised that there was a colourful bivalve next to it.
More strange bivalves.
And this one that tantalizingly appears to be a baby Giant clam (Family Tridacnidae)! [Mei Lin who is studying our Giant clams, informs that a giant clam will have a distinct exhalant cone - a conical thing through which the bivalve exhales. We shall have to look more closely when we see it again. Thanks Mei Lin!].
The fishes are very shy. There were a lot of little filefishes (Family Monacanthidae).
It's hard to shoot fast moving fish! Here's a fish that I don't know.
It was really nice to see a pair of juvenile batfishes (Platax sp.). Although it was frustrating not being able to get a better shot.
A night shoot will probably be more productive! And not so hot too!

Other posts about this trip

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