05 June 2011

Anemone hunt at Terumbu Semakau!

Dr Daphne Fautin is back! She is the world authority on sea anemones and will be conducting a special workshop later in the month. But she's arrived in Singapore earlier.
The regular team of shore explorers have been with Dr Daphne on previous anemone hunts. Dr Daphne has dubbed us her "Anemone Army", and we have mobilised to bring her to see the anemones at Terumbu Semakau!

Terumbu Semakau is a lovely submerged reef that lies just off Pulau Semakau and the Semakau Landfill. On our past trips to Terumbu Semakau, we have seen amazing animals in the reefs, seagrass meadows and sandy shores here. We hope to find some special anemones for Dr Daphne!
As soon as we landed in the feeble first light of dawn, Dr Daphne and the Anemone Army spots a special anemone!
This is the strange anemone that Dr Daphne is puzzling over. Imagine, Singapore still has anemones that can impress the world expert on anemones! Awesome!
Another anemone that intrigues Dr Daphne is this Frilly anemone (Phymanthus sp.) that is often found in sand instead of in coral rubble like the other kinds of Frilly anemones. Today I learnt from her that the six different coloured tentacles closest to the oral disk are NOT the youngest tentacles but instead, the oldest tentacles. The other tentacles arise from these six. Wow!
Here's another of those 'sand' Frilly anemones. They are smaller than the 'rubble' Frilly anemones and are quite well camouflaged.
We also came across many Reef wriggly star anemones that are commonly encountered on our reefy shores. This anemone has few tentacles and often holds them in pairs, flat against the surface with their tips in wiggles. A few tentacles are held upright like a tent over its mouth on a small oral disk. It's very tricky to take a closer look at these very nervous animals.
Today I learnt from Dr Daphne that the Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica) can sometimes clone itself. This is why we sometimes see many individuals clustered near one another, like this bunch we saw today. The anemones in such a cluster often have the same colours.
Other Magnificent anemones may not clone. Like this Magnificent anemone we saw nearby in a different colour and all alone. Amazing!
We also came across several Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea). Dr Daphne highlights how the tentacles of this anemone are usually constantly in motion, and not due to water movement. We look closer and yes indeed, this is what is happening!
Today, the focus is on finding anemones. One problem to this seemingly simple task is that we sometimes confuse other animals for anemones. For example, it's easy to confuse this Asparagus soft coral (Family Nephtheidae) for the Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.)!
Another animal often mistaken for an anemone are zoanthids, which belong to a different Order Zoanthidea. Anemones belong to Order Actiniaria.
Another difficulty with focusing on sea anemones is that there are many other interesting animals that distract us! Like this Discodoris boholiensis nudibranch, which is quite commonly encountered on our shores.
Wow, I found a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)! I think it's a 'new' find that was missed when we helped Mei Lin in her earlier survey here. Mei Lin will usually install a marker near those she has recorded, and we couldn't see a marker near this one.
Dr Daphne spots another 'new' giant clam! This one is a Burrowing giant clam (Tridacna crocea) and it's rather large. Wow!
Dr Daphne spots several octopuses!
We also came across a few Noble volutes (Cymbiola nobilis) some of which are very pretty.
I notice that the reef seems well on the recovery from coral bleaching. Today, I saw many healthy small colonies of Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.). This kind of coral were among those that suffered badly from bleaching last year. More about coral bleaching on Bleach Watch Singapore.
Another nice coral encounter is a nice healthy colony of Torch anchor coral (Euphyllia glaberescens). It too was among those that suffered from bleaching. This hard coral is also sometimes mistaken for an anemone.
Throughout our stay, flaring is ongoing at the refineries on Pulau Bukom which lies just off the reef. More about flaring.
Our trip was mostly dry, although we could see it was pouring on the mainland. As the tide turned, lightning started to play nearby and we decided to head home. As we were leaving, we stumbled across a Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis)!
It was a fruitful trip to one of our favourite submerged reefs! As always, I learnt a lot from Dr Daphne. Ordinary people CAN attend her workshop (15-21 Jun) as a day participant. Here's more details.

Sadly, we also came across a very long driftnet that had trapped many colourful fishes, many of which I have not seen before. More about that in this separate post.

Tomorrow, we kidnap Dr Daphne again to visit Cyrene Reef with TeamSeagrass!

Other posts about this trip
  • Jerome on facebook with lots of colourful anemones and other marine life.

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