24 July 2012

Sharing Cyrene with MPA

I'm back on Cyrene with another enthusiastic team from the  Maritime and Port Authority organised by Joanne Fang.
We arrive just after sunrise and saw all kinds of marvellous creatures.

Here's the team eager for the landing while waiting for the dinghy to be set down on the water.
The lively Mr Teo on the boat is taking a video of everyone on his teeny tiny camera.
When we first landed, we are greeted by a Knobbly sea star on the shore!
Some of us wander off to have a look at the shore while waiting for the rest to arrive. In the distance are the refineries on Pulau Bukom. Cyrene lies in the middle of the industrial triangle and yet it has amazing marine life!
Good paddling work out for the next team with lots of splashing!
The first things we spot are lots and lots of Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta). Also many Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). Not to forget the intriguing sand coils made by Acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta). The presence of such marine life shows that the sand is clean.
We also find a large Olive snail (Olivia minicea). This bullet shaped snail burrows rapidly into the ground, as we found out. So far, I've only seen this snail on Cyrene.
Soon enough, we hit the Knobbly mother lode. There are many many of these large colourful cartoon-like  Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) on some parts of Cyrene.
What is special about Cyrene is that there are small Knobblies. According to the Star Trackers, "the presence of juveniles, subadults and adults indicated that there is a healthy level of recruitment at Cyrene Reef. This habitat may be the only sustainable population of knobbly seastars left in Singapore today".
We also saw the special the special Pentaceraster sea star (Pentaceraster mammilatus) that was first seen on Cyrene and is a new record for Singapore.
The water at low tide is very clear. It's easy to spot all kinds of marine life such as this pretty Cerianthid (Order Ceriantharia), they are also called Peacock anemones because of their colourful variety. Here among the  seagrasses and various kinds of seaweeds, there are lots of worm-like Synaptid sea cucumbers (Family Synaptidae), Swimming anemones (Boloceroides mcmurrichi) and other small critters. The area is also dotted with Chocolate sponges (Spheciospongia cf. vagabunda) and Fan shell clams (Family Pinnidae).
We also come across a large Grey bonnet snail (Phalium glaucum) ambling about on the shore. This snail feeds on sand dollars, and is rarely seen elsewhere though common on Cyrene. It was a little lethargic but finally it came out of its shell, showing its curious siphon and tentacles.
There are still many White sea urchins (Salmacis sp) that carry things. So they are rather hard to spot. Their tiny spines tickle when you hold one in the palm of your hand. 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.
We hurry over to have a look at the reefy part of Cyrene before the tide turns. There's purply flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae), lots of large leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae), sponges and of course hard corals.
Some of the coral colonies are huge! It was good to see that none of them bleaching. Cyrene seems to have recovered from the mass coral bleaching event in 2010.
Joanne spots an octopus! Who obliges to allow some shots before disappearing into its burrow. A squirmy Worm-eel (Muraenichthys sp.) was also spotted, as well as many small fishes which whizzed away so quickly we couldn't really tell what they were.
Just before we left Cyrene, Joanne found an Extraordinary sea hare (Aplysia extraodinaria)!
The sharp-eyed team also spotted a cute hairy crab (Family Pilumnidae) that looks fluffy so we sometimes call it the 'Teddybear crab', moults of Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus), lots of hermit crabs large and small. Resembling tiny lobsters, we saw and heard snapping shrimps (Family Alpheidae). We saw several feathery fanworms (Family Sabellidae).

Thanks to Joanne for organising this trip which arose from the little talk I gave to MPA last month. And a big thank you to all the MPA staff who made time to come, and put up with my lame jokes and spotted so many great things on our trip!

Now I'm off for another exciting series of lectures at the Bivalve Workshop in the afternoon!

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