17 July 2011

Return to reefs of Terumbu Bemban

There are parts of this submerged reef which are teeming with living hard corals! We couldn't resist coming back even though we just visited in April.
I saw some marine life for the first time on this trip!

Once again, we arrive well before dawn. We are fortunate to have Jumari, who has an amazing sense of the sea. Despite our worries, he landed us at the correct terumbu even in the dark! Kok Sheng confirmed this with his iPhone app. Hurray!
Terumbu Bemban is a part of a series of large submerged reefs off Pulau Semakau. It's tricky to figure out Terumbu Bemban which is separated by only a narrow channel from Beting Bemban Besar.

Among the amazing first time coral encounters I had was with Ringed plate coral (Pachyseris sp.) that grew in a lettuce-like form! I saw three colonies of these corals! At first glance I thought they were Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.) until I noticed the ridged pattern!
So far, the Ringed corals I've seen formed plate-like colonies, like this one.
I spent a lot of time today taking a closer look at some of the less commonly seen hard corals. These Montipora corals (Montipora sp.) have tiny tiny polyps!
This submerged reef has quite a number of different kinds of mushroom corals, with many large individuals. Common were Tongue mushroom coral (Herpolitha sp.) and Mole mushroom coral (Polyphyllia sp.) of various colours.
There were also many nice specimens of these less commonly encountered mushroom corals, the Long mushroom coral and Smooth mushroom coral. As with many corals, they are distinguished by looking more closely at the skeleton structure.
There were also many Circular mushroom corals. Today, we were lucky to enjoy relatively clear waters for a short time during minimum tide.
I'm always excited to come across the Moon coral (Diploastrea heliopora). And today I saw a rather large colony of this coral with very neat corallites.
I saw a few healthy colonies of Acropora coral (Acropora sp.).
It was nice to come across three colonies of healthy Anchor coral (Family Euphyllidae). These were badly affected during the coral bleaching event last year.
I saw several colonies of Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.) and Sandpaper corals (Psammocora sp.). These species too were badly affected by the coral bleaching.
While most of the hard corals I saw seemed alright, I also came across some recently dead or half-dead colonies of hard corals.
Here's another thing I've not seen before. Some kind of corallimorph (Order Corallimorpharia) with a striped pattern. There are tiny tentacles sticking out of the oral disk.
I saw a very large Cushion star (Culcita novaeguineae)! At first I thought it was a coral colony! This sea star has tiny tube feet emerging in clusters on the top of the body. It is only when we look at the underside that it is more obviously a sea star, with the typical five part symmetry. Ivan also also a large cushion star.
Even blind-as-a-bat me could find nudibranchs today. I saw a pair of Phyllidiella nigra next to one another, but couldn't see any signs of mating. Perhaps they were just eating something together? We also encountered many Jorunna funebris and I saw one Phyllidiella pustolosa. The rest of the team of course saw many more nudibranchs.
Kok Sheng found the Leathery sea anemone (Heteractis crispa) that Russel saw on our earlier trip. It's great to see these rather uncommon sea anemones distributed widely over many of our shores.
I don't know I managed to spot this well camouflaged Frogfish (Lophiocharon trisignatus)! I tried to share this with the rest of the team, but the fish did a flip among the crevice-ridden rubble. Then I couldn't find again.
There are lots and LOTS of Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma) in the pools and water around the submerged reef. Some were very large, but here's a cute little one that Kok Sheng manages to photograph underwater.
As I sloshed through the water to get to the dinghy for our trip home, a black tipped reef shark zoomed right past me! WOW!

The rest of the team saw a recently dead Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa). Hopefully it's not one of those that Chay Hoon found here on our earlier trip. We didn't find any recently laid driftnets or fish traps on the reef. But on the way back, we noticed someone laying a driftnet on Terumbu Raya and possible also on Pulau Semakau. Oh dear.

After the trip, some of us hurried over to catch Jonathan Ngiam's talk about the Mega Marine Survey.

More predawn trips for the next two days. And we're focusing on Sentosa! So many shores, not enough low tides, and certainly not enough sleep.

Others who posted about this trip
  • James with feather stars, more nudis and other strange corals and creatures.
  • Kok Sheng with octopuses mating and marine spiders too!

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