27 July 2010

Finally, sea fans on Changi!

Today we visit a stretch of Changi for the first time in more than a year! And we're glad we did.
Because the sea fans are here once again!

Some of the sea fan colonies were rather large and healthy looking, like this bright orange Skinny sea fan. There were also Candelabra sea fans and Gnarled sea fans.
In this colony, I noticed lots of tiny colourful brittlestars! We looked but couldn't find any ovulid snails on any of the sea fans.
Most of the sea fans I saw were small, and sparsely distributed. Although I could see some growing deeper in the murky water. In the past, I used to see lots of large sea fans here, so it's nice to see some once again.
Although the water here is very murky, the rocky area is teeming with encrusting animals such as sponges, hydroids and even corals. In this colourful forest hide lots of swimming crabs.
Zebra hard corals (Oulastrea crispata) encrust large areas of rock. A swimming crab is hiding under a stone while a Broad nose halfbeak (Family Hemiramphidae) swims past on the surface.
There were many blue swimming crabs (Thalamita sp.) on the shore today.
We are very wary of these Stinging hydroids (Order Hydrozoa) that pack a powerful electric jolt when touched. There were several large clusters of these today. Tiny transparent shrimps shelter here, all you can see of the shrimps are their little round eyes.
There were several clusters of these animals that I've not seen before. They seem to be hydroids.
Also on the shore were some button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.). But we didn't see any Candy hydroids that are usually commonly seen here. Also completely missing were Pink flowery soft corals (Order Nephtheidae) which are also usually common here.

The purple branching sponges (Callyspongia sp.) are the most common sponge seen today, forming colourful thickets where large fishes swam past.
All kinds of sponges, branching and encrusting, covered the rocks.
Sponges are colourful! The beige branching sponges I've not seen before.
Melted chocolate sponges (Chondrilla australiensis) coated rocks near the low water mark. Stone crabs (Myomenippe hardwicki) were plentiful too. There are two in this photo, can you spot them?
Among the encrustations were several fanworms (Family Sabellidae): a banded one and an orange one.
Among the interesting snails seen were many Ovum cowries (Cypraea ovum).
We didn't see many echinoderms today. I saw one Crown sea star (Asterina coronata) and Chay Hoon found one Spiny sea star (Gymnanthenea laevis).
The only sea cucumbers I saw were a buried Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.), a tiny Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) and two tiny Sponge synaptid sea cucumbers (Family Synaptidae). Chay Hoon found a Blue feather star (Class Crinoidea), a hidden sea cucumber and one sea urchin.
Chay Hoon and I separately saw Estuarine moray eels (Gymnothorax tile).
Other fishes seen include: Ornate gobies (Istigobius ornatus), some mudskippers, several medium sized Black eel-tail catfishes (Plotosus canius) and a halfbeak that looks like a twig (Family Hemiramphidae).
If I see slug or flatworm it must be plentiful during the trip. And indeed, these Blue spotted flatworms (cf Pseudoceros indicus) were out and about on the rocks.
Fortunately, Chay Hoon took care of all the slug and slithery sightings. Check out her blog for more photos and stories.

On the soft silty parts of the shore, I saw a peacock anemone (Order Ceriantharia) and a tiny sea pencil (Order Pennatulacea).
There is stretch of seagrass meadows at this shore. The Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) looked lush and healthy. It was dark, but from what I saw, the meadows seem about the same size as on my last trip.
Throughout the trip, we enjoyed the gorgeous scent of blooming Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) in the humid predawn air. It's an unbelievably refreshing smell! On a big boulder, I saw this young tree growing tenaciously. I'm not sure what it is. Alas, it had fishing line wound around the trunk.
Sadly, this area is thick with abandoned fishing lines.
There are lots of fish traps too.
And on the high water mark, the usual assembly of thoughtlessly disposed litter.
Chay Hoon said she also got a whiff of petroleum at some spots on the shore. But this could be just the usual leaks from the shipping and boating that goes on off this shore.

Although we didn't see the otter as we did on our trip a year ago, it was a great trip! The sea fans were nice to see, although the absence of soft corals and other usually common hydroids is puzzling.

Tomorrow, we check out the oil spill situation at Tanah Merah.

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