29 April 2010

Wildfacts updates: April Stars!

The stars of the month are sea stars! The most awesome find is by Chay Hoon: the Galloping sea star (Stellaster equistris) at Sentosa. In his guidebook, Dr Lane says this star does indeed 'gallop', "moving in a series of jerks or leaps through synchronised stepping action of its tube feet".The other starry highlight is the juvenile Pentaceraster sea star (Pentaceraster mammilatus) that Sean Yap found at Cyrene Reef. This may indicate that the sea stars are breeding there!

Also a first time encounter, is this cute little crab that Ivan spotted at Pulau Hantu. It's the Reef box crab (Calappa hepatica)! Thanks also to Joelle for confirming the ID. We had a lot of special finds on Beting Bemban Besar, a humungous submerged reef off Pulau Semakau. Among the special animals shared by Kok Sheng include: a bright blue anemone, probably a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) with an anemone shrimp! Also the bright orange cave coral (Tubastrea sp.) and the rarely seen Cabbage coral (Tachyphyllia geoffroyi). Also a Long mushroom coral (yet to be identified) while Marcus found a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa), hurrah! There were lots of Upside down jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.). Also a tiny Blue-spotted flatworm (Pseudoceros indicus), Chay Hoon found an unidentified orange snail, and a little Phyllidiella nigra.
It was also at Beting Bemban Besar that I finally got to see the large and beautiful Leathery anemone (Heteractis crispa). It has an anemone shrimp too!
James shared other interesting encounters from Beting Bemban Besar, such as a cushion star (Culcita novaeguineae) and an Alicia sea anemone (Alicia sp.). Also the Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.), and the Torch anchor coral (Euphyllia glabrescens) - so far I've only seen this on Hantu and Semakau - as well as carpet corallimorphs.
Other interesting encounters this month included Chay Hoon's sighting of two sea hares in mating position, one on top of the other! These are the Extraordinary sea hares (Aplysia extraordinaria). And of course, she makes the first Costasiella slug (Costasiella sp.) sighting on Cyrene. While on Beting Bemban Besar, she provides the first sightings of these the Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus), snapping shrimp (Alpheus brevicristatus) and Carpet eel-blenny (Congrogadus subducens).
Andy also shared fabulous video clips of the beautiful but painfully stinging jellyfish and many other encounters in April. See Andy's blog for all the clips.

April was also Coral Mass Spawning Mania! Here's more with links on the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity blog. And Karenne Tun shared a gorgeous clip of the event.

In anticipation of the upcoming ascidian workshop, I finally sorted through photos of these blobs, and set up new fact sheets for these similar looking blobs which are yet to be identified and given lame common names: Blob ascidian, Brain ascidian, Orange-spotted ascidian. If you can think of better names please leave a comment. Thank you!!
In between spring low tides, visits to the mangroves were rewarded with some special encounters. In the mangroves of Kranji, I finally saw for the first time, the rare and Critically Endangered Limau lelang (Merope angulata). While there were lots of white flower buds, none were blooming. Will need to check back on them another time.Another surprise at Kranji was to see signs of what might be a wild Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata)!
In April, the Lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora) at Chek Jawa and Pasir Ris were blooming like mad. A great opportunity to take photos of the flowers and fruits that are so different from other Bruguiera species. I follow up on the rare and Critically Endangered Nyireh (Xylocarpus rumphii) at Sentosa that was blooming last month. Small fruits have developed on the tree!
Also this month, thanks to the patient effort by Tanya Rehse from the USA who explained about figs, we've worked out possibly a better way of describe what goes on in a fig.
Before the fig becomes a real 'fruit', it is actually an inside-out flower!

At first, little round things develop on the tree. These are not (yet) fruits but a fleshy, hollow structure with tiny flowers inside the hollow. This is why we refer to these structures as figs, and we say the tree is 'figging'.

After the tiny hidden flowers are fertilised and develop seeds, the fig becomes a compound fruit. That is, all the tiny fertilised fig 'fruits' are fused together. Like in a strawberry or pineapple. But turned inside out!

Thanks Tanya!

Thanks to those who found the critters, and who took photos and video clips and shared about them. See all the photos in full glory and read about the recent adventures on these blogs:
I'd gladly include your sightings in the wild fact sheets. Just email me, Ria at hello@wildsingapore.com.

There's so much to discover on every trip to our shores! The predawn super low tides have started with a vengeance. I'm looking forward to MORE sightings!

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