04 July 2012

Stunning sea fan garden at Changi

A garden of sea fans lies hidden beneath the murky waters of Changi. Visible to us only during the lowest of spring tides, such as this morning.
It was a delightful sight, reminds me of Beting Bronok in the old days, before it lost all its sea fans.


Rocks and other hard surfaces here were encrusted with beautiful sea fans and colourful sponges.
Besides the usual bright orange Candelabra sea fans and dark red Gnarled sea fans, which are commonly seen on Changi, I also saw some other sea fans which I don't come across very often, like one with a maze-like pattern of branches and a yellowish one.
I haven't seen these kinds of sea fans for a long time, since those at Beting Bronok died out. A red one with large bumps that make it resemble asparagus, and a white one that looks like a lyre.But I didn't come across large colonies of Skinny sea fans.
Sea fans are a great place for other animals to literally hang out. There were sea cucumbers, hermit crabs clinging onto them. There was even a small clump of Knobbly soft coral (Carijoa sp.) on one. Other animals found on sea fans include Winged oysters (Family Pteriidae), tiny Red ovulid snails and lots and lots of Colourful tiny brittle stars (Ophiothela danae) wrapped around the sea fan branches.
Mama squids and cuttlefishes also lay their egg capsules on sea fans. The egg capsule is black until the babies are ready to hatch, whereupon they become transparent and we can see the baby moving about inside the capsule!
There were also hard corals here! Besides the Zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata), which are common on Changi, there were also those with hexagonal corallites.
I even saw a large coral colony, well, what remained of it. Does it mean there used to be hard corals on Changi? Also many small and large colonies of Cave corals (Tubastrea sp.).
I saw several of these octopuses which I usually see in reefy areas.
In the murky water was a seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)! My first sighting for the year at Changi.
I also saw what looks like a Brown moray eel (Uropterygius concolor)! I've only seen this eel at Tuas many years ago, where there is also a lovely sea fan garden. Although it was out of water, it was very much alive.
I looked for nudibranchs and only came across this one which looks like a sponge Ategema spongiosa. Probably there were lots more which I just couldn't see. Chay Hoon of course found lots of interesting nudis on the other side of the shore.
I saw one of these pretty flatworms Pseudoceros laingensis, while the team saw another one on the other side of the shore. Are they seasonally common?
A special find for me was this 'hairy' crab carrying a pair of Thumbs up ascidians (Polycarpa sp.). I'm not sure what it is. Some kind of sponge crab (Family Dromiidae)?
There were also lots of different sponges on the rocky area, as well as colourful ascidians.
There are many very large biscuit sea stars here, as well as colourful swimming crabs (Family Portunidae). I also saw some Stinging hydroids, small clumps of zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.). Strangely, I didn't come across any feather stars (Order Crinodea).
Even though the tide is very low, there are still lots more sea fans in deeper water, with only the tips of the colony sticking out of the water.
The sea fan garden extends for quite a long portion, all well hidden in the water except at the lowest tides. This is my first time seeing this area since 2009. Kok Sheng had a much better look at the area in 2009.
Alas, many of the sea fans, sponges and probably mobile animals too are affected by abandoned fishing lines.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team were exploring the other side of the shore. Mei Lin and the team found many scallops (Family Pectiniidae). These clams have lots and lots of tiny eyes!
Jerome Yong found this pretty shrimp! Chay Hoon also found another of those weird armoured sea cucumbers that I saw elsewhere on Changi last month.
Today, I am trying to work out a way to do regular surveys of our shores which results in usable data. Here's some photos of what I saw on the soft silty part of this shore. There was a bloom of Sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) on the shore and on some parts were blanketed by nest mussels (Musculista senhousia).
Among the special sightings during this survey was a mama Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis) laying eggs.
Along the soft silty sand, I found a clump of seagrasses that look suspiciously like the Hairy spoon seagrass (Halophila decipiens). Recently, we've been seeing these at Changi and at Punggol. Hope we can sort this out eventually.
My last visit to this shore was in Jan 2012 when the tide wasn't very low. There sure is a lot of fascinating marine life hidden in our murky waters!

Posts by others on this trip
  • Jose with stars, urchins and more on facebook.
  • Mei Lin with frogfish and lots more on her blog. 
  • Chay Hoon shares nudis and more on facebook. 

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