02 October 2011

Lively St. John's Island

Knobbly sea stars on St. John's Island! Although common on other southern shores, it's rather unexpected to see these large sea stars on the narrow shores of St. Johns Island.
I saw this Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) in June, and it was nice to see it yesterday. The rest of the team saw another one, so there are two of them! In fact, the shores were quite lively with sightings of Sundial snails, Sargassum sea slug, other rare animals, lots of corals and fishes and more!

One of the special animals on this shore is the Pink-spotted bead anemone (Anthopleura buddemeieri) which I got to know of during Dr Dahpne's Anemone Workshop. Today, I managed a nice shot of the anemone with its tentacles out.
Another delightful encounter was with TWO Clear sundial snails (Architectonica perspectiva). One was large but the shell was covered with scummy growths. The smaller one was still clean. They were both very much alive.
This appears to be a half dead Cabbage coral (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi) which I rarely come across. Hopefully it will survive.
Although I've been visiting St. John's Island for years, this is the first time I actually surveyed the reefs outside the artificial seawalls and on the other side of the jetty. I was pleasantly surprised to come across clusters of large hard corals of all kinds.
There were many branching Montipora corals (Montipora sp.) in the lagoon next to the jetty!
Here's a closer look at the branching corals. Among some of them, I noticed white globes of what seems to be cuttlefish or squid egg capsules.
In some parts there were many Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.). I saw one well formed colony of Encrusting disk coral (Turbinaria sp.). I also saw one small boulder shaped Sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) which I don't see often.
There were also many unbleached Crinkled sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.), and many colonies of these bumpy corals which seem to be a kind of Pore hard coral (Porites sp.). There were also many boulder shaped Pore hard corals some of them were quite large.
There were many Favid corals (Family Faviidae) in various colours and patterns. The thick growths of Sargassum prevented me from going right to the reef edge. So I missed seeing some of the mushroom corals and other rare corals that I saw here during Dr Daphne's Anemone Workshop trip.
There's also sponges among the corals, such as Yellow prickly branching sponge (Pseudoceratina purpurea) and Blue spatula sponge (Lamellodysidea herbacea).
There were lots of crabs of all kinds. Many Swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) from tiny ones to large ones. I saw one Mud crab (Scylla sp.) near the mangroves. Also a Spoon pincer crab (Leptodius sp.). And a Sally lightfoot crab (Grapsus albolineatus) on the artificial seawall.
We saw many of these Coral ghost shrimps (Glypturus sp.) in their amazing smooth tunnels dug out in hard ground. But they are very shy and will disappear rapidly if approached closely. This is my best shot of one.
Rob Lasley is with us today to take a closer look at the crabs on the shore. I took the opportunity to find out more about some of the crabs I've been seeing. These tiny little crabs found under rocks are adults, this one seems to be a mama with eggs under her belly. These are Pilodius sp. while the ones I earlier thought were Pilodius might be something else. Oops, will update the wild fact sheets later.
The water was teeming with fishes of all kinds. As usual, there were lots of Tropical silversides (Atherinomorus duodecimalis) interfering with photo taking. Also many small damselfishes such as the Yellow-banded damsel (Dischistodus fasciatus) and  Three-spot damselfish (Pomacentrus tripunctatus). Also many cardinalfishes such as the Chequered cardinalfish (Apogon margaritophorus) and Black cardinalfish (Apogon melas).
I saw many different kinds of halfbeaks (Family Hemiramphidae), which I haven't recorded yet on the wild factsheets. Perhaps they are not that common in the usual place we survey. This is why I try to check out other parts of a familiar shore.
There were many Longspined scorpionfishes (Paracentropogon longispinis) as well as Painted scorpionfishes (Parascorpaena picta). Fortunately, none of us encountered Mr Stonefish.
There were also many gobies (Family Gobiidae) of all kinds, and also small Mullets (Family Mugilidae).

There are small patches of Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) with tiny blades in the swimming lagoons. These were teeming with all kinds of small animals including many Bazillion snails. Nearby in sandier areas, were some Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) and also a few Peachia anemones (Peachia sp.).
Among the seagrasses there were also many Starry flatworms (Pseudobiceros stellae).
Among the seagrasses, I noticed the Solitary tubeworm (Diopatra sp.) poking its tentacly head out of its tube, as usual, decorated with a big leaf or two.
There was also a large Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) with a pair of healthy looking anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis).
I came some patches of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), with more patches seen near the small group of mangrove trees. St. John's also has other patches of seagrasses on the western shore facing Sisters Islands.
The Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.) is blooming in earnest. While the dense growth may frustrate us from reaching the outer reef edges, it provides lots of shelter for all kinds of animals small and large, including a large White-spotted rabbitfish (Siganus canaliculatus). I also noticed a cluster of squid egg capsules attached to the seaweed! The rest of the team also saw the Blue-spotted stingray (Taeniura lymma) under the seaweeds. This is why it's important not to step on the seaweeds. To avoid hurting animals and being hurt by animals.
Sargassum also has some delightful surprises. At the end of the trip, I learnt that Chay Hoon had spotted many of the superbly camouflaged Crosslandia slug (Crosslandia sp.)! Only she can spot them!

Just off St. John's Island are the Sisters Islands. Between them is a major shipping channel where large ships move.
We should explore St. John's Island more thoroughly and more often. Alas, there are so few suitable low tides and too many places to survey!

Others who posted about this trip
  • Chay Hoon with stupendous Sargassum nudibranchs and more!
  • Rene with octopuses, large hermit crabs and lots more!

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