04 April 2011

March wild facts updates: fishies, nem, slug and more

Mystery fishes finally figured out! At last, I diligently process fishy photos from all years past, hunkered down over fishy books, trawled through the interwebs. And finally made a stab at identifying some commonly seen but mysterious fishes.
Black cardinalfish (Apogon melas)
We often see this small dark fish with rounded fins skulking near reefs. I think it's the Black cardinalfish (Apogon melas) that is identified by a pale edged dark spot at the base of the second dorsal fin. Mighty difficult to see this spot on a tiny fish!

Here's another mystery fish that I have seen many times. I think this is the Spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus).
Spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus)
I think this tiny dragonet with a complex mosaic-like pattern is Callionymus enneactis. We often see it on coral rubble and near reefs. I think it is probably quite common, just overlooked because it is so small and  well camouflaged.
Mosaic dragonet (Callionymus enneactis)
I think this fat halfbeak with a short 'nose' is Hyporhamphus quoyi. I often see these bright blue torpedo-shaped fishes hovering near reefs on our night trips.
Shortnose halfbeak (Hyporhamphus quoyi)
These tiny fat fishes are very commonly seen and have perplexed me for ages. I suspect they are young Mullets (Family Mugilidae).
Mullet (Family Mugilidae)
After pondering for a very long time, I'm thinking these fishes are NOT flatheads of the Family Platycephalidae, but are gobies: Crocodile flathead gobies (Psammogobius biocellatus). These small fishes are  frequently encountered on many of our shores and come in a wide variety of patterns and colours.
Crocodile flathead goby (Psammogobius biocellatus)
Please DO CORRECT ME if I am wrong. I would be very grateful for advice and guidance. Thank you!

Recently, in my frenzy over mangroves, I finally saw some common mangrove fishes. Like the pretty Grey knight-goby (Stigmatogobius sadanundio) which is pearly grey with 3-4 rows of small round black spots on the sides.
Grey knight goby (Stigmatogobius sadanundio)
Another common mangrove fish is the Whitespot also called the Tinhead (Aplocheilus panchax). It is said to feed mainly on insects and thus has been used for mosquito control!
Whitespot (Aplochellus panchax)
I only saw this Scissortail sergeant (Abudefduf sexfasciatus) once, at Sisters Island. I thought it was the more commonly seen Bengal sergeant (Abudefduf bengalensis). Until I took a closer look at the photo at home, and noticed the black bars on its tail which gives its common name.
Scissortail sergeant (Abudefduf sexfasciatus)
A new large anemone!

Mei Lin and Chay Hoon saw this anemone while diving in Sep 10. And Dr Daphne Fautin has kindly identified it as Merten's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii), which Dr Tan Swee Hee says is likely to be a new record for Singapore! See Chay Hoon's blog post about the anemone. My bad for taking so long to do a fact sheet on it.
Top row photos by Neo Mei Lin, lower row by Toh Chay Hoon.
Going back through some of our older sightings, it appears we may have spotted this anemone elsewhere too, and mistaken it for the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). The Merten's carpert anemone looks a lot like the Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) with short stumpy tentacles (although it is said to sometimes also have long tentacles). While the Merten's anemone is found in reefs and has colourful bumps (verrucae) on a pale underside, Haddon's anemone is found in sandy places and doesn't have colourful bumps. There are other distinguishing characteristics and I've  updated the fact sheets on large anemones with long tentacles and those tricky large 'hairy' cnidarians.

Cyrene surprises!

Cyrene is a marvellous place and almost everytime we visit, I see something I've never seen before! During a walk for the Environmental Engineering Society of Singapore, the sharp eyed Koh Lee Chew spotted this slug which is possibly the Reticulated tailed slug (Philinopsis reticulata), my first time seeing it! Looking closely at these slugs, I also sorted out the identity of some of the related Headshield snails and slugs in the Order Cephalaspidea.
Reticulated tailed slug (Philinopsis reticulata)
Despite horribly wet weather at Cyrene, I saw a strange moon snail for the first time! I think it is Polinices powisianus.
Powisianus moon snail (Polinices powisianus)?
Meanwhile, during another Cyrene trip with TeamSeagrass, Dr Dan spotted the first Tiger anemone I've seen on our Southern shores! Cyrene is really an awesome reef!

Meanwhile, I'm still learning a lot about our coastal and mangrove plants, thanks to kind help of patient botanists. The fascinating paper about this plant made me realise I had seen it before! From the paper, I learnt that the Bonduc (Caesalpinia bonduc) is very VERY rare!
Bonduc (Caesalpinia bonduc)
Another special tree that I've been seeing recently is the Critically Endangered Ipil (Intsia bijuga). But I haven't seen one flowering yet. Another reason to keep visiting our mangroves!
Ipil (Intsia bijuga)
Please do let me know if I've made errors in any identification. I will be most grateful to hear from you.

All new sightings of plants and critters have been updated on the wild fact sheets. Thanks to all the team members who shared their findings online. Visit their sites for more stories and photos!
I'd gladly include your sightings in the wild fact sheets. Just email me, Ria at hello@wildsingapore.com

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