17 November 2009

Sunny Seagrasses of Semakau

It was a HOT sunny blue-sky day as we head out for Semakau! Amazing! Despite the wet weather warning and gloomy wet days we recently experienced.
We're here to introduce Prof Paul from the Singapore-Delft Alliance, and Siti's supervisor, to the marvellous seagrasses of Semakau.

Also with us today is Dr Benito Tan to check out the island for the first time!
James, Geraldine and Andy show him around on the high shore, as Siti and I head out with Prof Paul.
The vast seagrass meadows of Semakau put up a good show today. And we quickly saw all the species found here. Prof Paul is excited to see some bracts of the male flowers of the Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides). These emerge from the base of the plant.
And we see a female flower too. This grows on a long stalk which eventually develops curls. But these have finished blooming and the white petals have fallen off.
We try to find a fruit, but alas, we had no luck. We are also looking for baby Tape seagrasses, which have just settled down. It's a lot harder than it seems to find one. All the little ones I investigated turned out to be shoots of larger, established Tape seagrass clumps.

But the seagrasses are full of life. Though most of the mobile seagrass dwellers tend to be in hiding during daylight, there are lots of those that can't run away. Like this big orange sponge that Siti found. Could it be a Mycale sp.?
Another sponge I enjoy seeing is this one that is named after Singapore. I call it the Daisy sponge but the scientific name is Coelocarteria singaporensis
There are also some hard corals commonly seen growing among the seagrasses. This one is particularly pretty. Possibly some sort of Montipora sp.
Prof Paul also spots a bunch of Blue corals (Heliopora coerulea) which ironically is neither blue nor a hard coral. More about them here.
These Sunflower mushroom corals (Heliofungia actiniformis) are only commonly seen near seagrasses at Pulau Semakau and Pulau Hantu which lies nearby. I also used to see them at Beting Bronok, but no longer. These are sometimes mistaken for sea anemones.
There are many large Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) among the seagrasses. Alas, I couldn't find any anemonefishes among them. Perhaps the fishes are well hidden under the sea anemone.
Another interesting creature commonly seen is the Fan shell clam (Family Pinnidae). Here's one that is slightly open. I thought of Mei Lin aka Giant Clam Girl and hoped she was successful in her Giant Clam hunt elsewhere on the shore.
And how delightful! Prof Paul finds an Alligator pipefish (Syngnathoides biaculeatus). It is also sometimes called the Double-ended pipefish because both ends look alike. It has a prehensile tail which it uses here to cling onto seagrasses. How adorable!
But Prof Paul REALLY wants to see a Knobbly sea star. After wandering for a while, Siti finally finds one!
And soon, we realise we are surrounded by lots of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus)! There's one or two spots on the vast Semakau shores where these stars seem to like to hang out.

Here's just a few of the ones I saw. I shoot them where they are. We should not move, handle, carry around or otherwise molest these stars. Here's more about why it may hurt the sea stars if we pick them up.
As we head back home, James spots what looks like a large Long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota). Unusually, it was near the high shore edge of the seagrass. These sea cucumbers are usually found near coral rubble. And it's the first time I've seen one of these at Semakau.
Prof Paul also works with mangroves and we had fun looking at some of the trees on the shore.
It was a golden sunset with a blue sky. But black clouds were building up over the mainland side.
In the forest, I saw this seedpod with pretty fluffy seeds.
Just as we got into the van that Mr Yew of NEA kindly stayed back to drive, the weather really started to turn. By the time we got into the main NEA building, it was pouring and the wind was howling! Lighting and thunder were going off like cannons! Wow, we really got back in time. All thanks to the kindly NEA staff who provided transport even though they were very short handed today.

While waiting for the boat, we had a chance to catch up with what everyone saw. James had found a large Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida)! As well as the Pizza anemone (Cryptodendrum adhaesivum). While Mei Lin found yet another Burrowing giant clam (Tridacna crocea). Marcus might have seen just hatched baby anemonefishes near the Magnificent anemones (Heteractis magnifica). And Andy saw tracks of what might be the Smooth otter (Lutrogale perspicillata). Wow, I can't wait to see their photos.

We had a near miss lightning strike on the sea as the boat slowly headed home in the driving rain. Lightning is truly the scariest thing on the shores. Thankfully we all made it back alive for a great dinner at the usual prata place.

Looking forward to our trip tomorrow, and hopefully we can enjoy good weather again.

Other posts about this trip

2 comments:

  1. Fluffy seeds possibly from liana Anodendron candolleanum. cheers

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Joe! I sure have a lot more to learn about plants!

    ReplyDelete

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