07 November 2009

Success at Semakau: Giant clams and more!

A perfect evening yesterday, exploring a stretch of Semakau shore facing Pulau Bukom.
Kok Sheng brought the team here previously, but I missed going with the team at that time, so it's my first trip to this shore.

The reefy parts are much closer and we didn't have to walk much at all since Patrick so kindly gave us a lift there and back. It was a most unexpected and much appreciated courtesy! The weather held up, with a cool breeze and no rain. Again, the tide didn't go down as low as it should have, but it was low enough for us to have a look around.

There are large hard corals there in all kinds of colours and shapes! With many Favid corals (Family Faviidae).
And lots of Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.).
I also saw several colonies of these Torch anchor corals (Euphyllia glabrescens), that so far I've only seen on Pulau Semakau and on Pulau Hantu which lies opposite. Although sometimes mistaken for anemones or Sunflower mushroom corals (Heliofungia actiniformis), these are hard corals.
And I saw an enormous and very happy colony of Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.).
A closer look reveals the long sweeper tentacles that this rather aggressive coral produces to get rid of other pesky creatures that might try to settle nearby. Indeed, there wasn't anything much near this colony.
There were also lovely brain corals (Family Mussidae) of all shapes and colours. Some had their tentacles extended, hiding the typical brain-like pattern of the colony.
Some special corals were several colonies of Lettuce corals (Pavona sp.).
And some large plate corals, possibly Montipora sp.
There were also many kinds of soft corals: clockwise from left Spiky flowery soft coral, Asparagus soft coral, Broad feathery soft coral and Omelette leathery coral.
In the silty area before the reef, Alicia and I saw two Common peacock anemones (Order Ceriantharia).
There were the usual Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.).
And also this group of sea anemones. I'm not sure what they are.
There were a lot of these pretty sea anemones. I have no idea what they are either.
Here's a closer look at an open and tucked up sea anemone.
The rest of the team saw lots of nudibranchs, including a pair of mating Jorunna funebris! But I only saw this Phyllidiella nigra.
And this tangle of Glossodoris atromarginata. At first I thought it was a bleaching coral. It was only when I got closer that I realised it was a mess of nudis. There must be at least three of them jammed together. Mating? Or eating something? I have no idea!
Of course, since it was dark, there were lots of octopuses busy foraging. Although they are quite hard to spot if they are not moving.
Octopuses love to eat crabs and other crustaceans. And there were lots of those on the shore. But probably, even an octopus wouldn't eat this colourful Mosaic crab (Lophozozymus pictor). It is one of the most poisonous crabs in Singapore!
I also saw this funny crab. I have no idea what it is!
Here's what it looks like on the underside. It was a gentle, slow-moving crab that just made like a stone when it realised I was looking at it.
There were also large prawns (Family Penaeidae) on the reefs. I only realised that these are not the same as those that we see in our seagrass meadows, when a kind reader of my flickr photos left comments on the ID of these prawns.
James called me over for this handsome Durian sea cucumber (Stichopus horrens) that so far, I've only seen on Pulau Semakau. It does look like a durian, doesn't it?! This is the nicest looking one I've seen. Usually they look quite fugly.
The sea cucumber has spiky things on the upperside, and on the flat underside, rows of short stubby tubefeet.
The mission of this trip is to find Giant Clams (Family Tridacnidae) for Mei Lin who is doing a survey of these amazing animals on our shores.
With the help of James (while the rest of us wandered off), Mei Lin found the three clams seen on our earlier trip to this shore, PLUS another one as well! AND it was the biggest clam she's found so far. More about it on her blog.

Mei Lin has written a fabulous article about our Giant clams for Nature Watch, a magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore). She shares great information and lots of photos about our Giant clams. Here she is with the magazine. I love the photo of the tiny baby Giant clams she is pointing at! See also Siva's post about this article.
Mei Lin has also shared video clips about Giant clams crawling (yes! they can move!), righting themselves, squirting (which is why we should be careful when taking photos of them) and other cool Giant clam secrets.

But my most exciting encounter was with snakes! It's all in this separate post.

Other posts about this trip

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