04 August 2011

Sharing Cyrene with URA and NParks

I'm delighted to be on Cyrene this morning on a trip organised by NParks for an enthusiastic team from URA led by CEO URA.
The CEO had found and gently caught a crab! The rest of the team comes along to have a look at it. Here's more about what we saw.

We start before dawn. Before we leave, Jim gives a briefing about Cyrene using the awesome GIS maps that Rachel and her team have done. He explains how Cyrene lies in the middle of the industrial triangle.
We arrive in high surf and rather high tide. But everyone makes a safe landing.
Nearby, the dredger is still at work. Dredging has been going on near Cyrene for some months now.
As usual, among the first things to greet us on the shore are lots and lots of large Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus)!
Despite or actually because of the highish tide, we find many interesting marine creatures still out and about. I'm impressed that everyone braves the high water!
Wow, because of the high water, we see the 'Nemo' that is usually found in a sea anemone near the landing point. This fish is actually the False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) and its home is the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea).
Jeff shares about a Remarkable sea cucumber (Holothuria notabilis) which I usually see buried in clean sand. I first saw this at Cyrene. I have since also seen on other northern and southern shores.
We spend some time exploring the creatures of the seagrasses. Jeff has found a White sea urchin (Salmacis sp.) which fascinates everyone.  This sea urchin is more common on our northern shores like Chek Jawa and seldom seen on our southern shores. Indeed, I consider Cyrene the Chek Jawa of the South.
The seagrass meadows are dotted with Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni). Many of them with a pair of nearly transparent anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis).
Because we arrived early, we had a long window to explore quite a large portion of Cyrene. Besides great seagrass meadows, there are also lovely stretches of clean sand on Cyrene. The weather was building up, but thankfully, it stayed dry throughout the trip.
On the sandy shores, we find several of the intriguing Grey bonnet snails (Phalium glaucum). These snails eat sand dollars, which of course, are found in the sand banks...haha...lame marine joke.
The team found several bonnet snails and even a few of these snails hard at work 'drilling' into the Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) that are plentiful here. Marcus has observed this behaviour earlier in May.
How delightful to come across another snail typical of sandy shores. This is the empty shell of a Tun snail (Family Tonnidae) which is now occupied by a hermit crab. I've not (yet) seen a live Tun snail on Cyrene. But the dead shell is promising! More reasons to go back and look at Cyrene more carefully!
It was good to see the Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis), although it didn't look very snaky out of water.
We saw more Knobblies as we reached the southern edge of Cyrene, and many of them were small in size. While most of those we saw on the northern side were large. Hmm...what is going on? So much more to discover about our marine life!
As we were heading home, we came across a 'Nemo' all alone in the seagrass. We couldn't find any sea anemones nearby! Oh dear. Clown anemonefishes need to shelter in the stinging tentacles of a sea anemone to be safe from predators. Perhaps the fish is sheltering in water because the anemone is totally exposed out of water at low tide? We have seen this happen on other shores. I hope it finds its home when the tide comes back in.
Cyrene is full of echinoderms and we saw many Common sea stars (Archaster typicus), the Black long sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota), Big synaptid sea cucumber (Family Synaptidae) and Garlic bread sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra). Jim found the humungous Forskal's sidegill slugs (Pleurobranchus forskali) and I saw a Starry flatworm (Pseudobiceros stellae). We saw many different swimming crabs, noticed many kinds of shorebirds and all kinds of other animals. We had a brief look at the reefy parts, which remains rather desolate, possibly due to the effects of coral bleaching last year. Today I saw many patches of burnt and bleaching seagrasses, although some parts seem ok. Hopefully, the data gathered by TeamSeagrass on Cyrene will help give us a better idea of what is going on.

Fortunately, by the time the weather turned wet, we were more or less done with looking at Cyrene. It only started to rain in earnest when we reached the mainland.

With so many sharp-eyed people, we sure found many special animals today. I had a great time exploring Cyrene! Thanks to NParks for inviting me to come along. And also thanks to Mr Ng Lang who very kindly treated us to breakfast after that!

More about Cyrene Reef.


  1. I think 'lost' Nemo will be fine. I remb while diving, a Nemo swam with me for about 3-4 m and I thought it was lost! I observed that it turned out able to find it's nem home that far! It must have thought that I was a threat and trailed behind me, and left for its home after it knew I wasn't. :) great trip! I can't wait for Cyrene trip!

  2. Thanks Mei Lin for this information! Phew! I feel better now. Yes, I can't wait to go back to Cyrene again!

  3. Hi Ria,
    Have always love how your team works together towards a great nature cause. Keep up all! May Nature wins :)

  4. Thanks Wendy for the kind thoughts and encouragement as always. You too are doing great work for your wild places! Nature brings so many hearts together!

  5. To Singapore I will, to join one of your field trips. One day...



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