18 August 2012

Special finds on Lazarus Island

Is this a stonefish?! This strange unidentified fish is among the special finds on our early morning trip today to Lazarus Island.
We were exploring the natural rocky shore on Lazarus Island as well as the artificial shores on Seringat-Kias.


Here's a closer look at the head of the strange fish. Is it the False stonefish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus)? Which is not a stonefish but is a scorpionfish and can also inflict painful stings. [Update: Jeffrey Low kindly confirmed that this fish is indeed the False stonefish! Thanks Jeff!]
Here's what the fish looks like when it's not excited. We've seen this fish on some other trips, but it is not commonly encountered.
Today, there were also several of the more commonly seen Painted scorpionfish (Parascorpaena picta).
This my first time back on the natural rocky shores of Lazarus Island since 2009! Alas, this previously pebbly rocky shore is now coated in a thick layer of silt below the low water mark. Large areas are covered by an unidentified fine hairy thing that is a weird purple in some patches. It looks ominous.
But the rocky shore is still alive, with lots and lots of gobies (Family Gobbidae) of all kinds. Also some Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.). I saw one Wiggly reef anemone and a Shy glass cerianthid, both my first time for Lazarus. But no large sea anemones.
There were still a few corals, particularly in deeper water, all of them small colonies. Most of them were Favid corals (Family Faviidae), with some Pore corals (Porites sp.). I saw one Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.), one Blue coral (Heliopora coerulea) and a few small leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae).  The shore is certainly not as 'reefy' and those on St. John's Island which lies just across a narrow channel from Lazarus Island.
The Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.) is starting to bloom, as it usually does towards the end of the year. And there's lots of fishes and other marine life in this golden thicket. I came across this medium sized octopus hunting for titbits among the seaweed.
And I saw this awesomely camouflaged flatworm on a seaweed blade.
Of course I didn't spot the flatworm just like that. I first spotted the flatworm floating on the water, and swimming about before it flattened out on the seagrass! Wow.
Among the seaweeds were all kinds of fishes. I saw one very large Fan bellied filefish (Monocanthus chinensis). Also a Carpet eel-blenny (Congrogadus subducens), one Yellow banded damselfish (Dischistodus fasciatus), and some young damselfishes, lots of electric blue Silversides (Atherinomorus duodecimalis).
I also had a quick look under stones on the shore. I came across a young Giant top shell snail (Trochus niloticus), lots of strange snails and some common cowries. The rest of the team found an Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica) but more excitingly, Andy and Jose found a special chiton possibly Acanthopleura gemmata which so far we've only seen on St. John's Island.
There were also some fascinating 'blonde hairy' Drills (Family Muricidae), which look the same until I take a closer look at the underside. So much more to find out!
As I feared, the heavy layer of silt has affected the seagrasses that I saw here previously. Although I did see some small patches of Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis), I didn't come across the Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) patches that I saw in 2009.
There were also some other kinds of seaweeds on the shore.
I also saw many  Long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) and some Little African sea cucumber (Afrocucumis africans), but didn't have time to properly look on the high shore for some of the special animals that Kok Sheng found here on our last trip in Apr 2012.

The tide turned after sunrise, so we headed back to the pontoon located on the artificial shores of Seringat-Kias. The area is returning to nature with lots of wildflowers and lallang. We saw a Magpie robin and heard all kinds of birds.
Seringat-Kias was created by reclaiming the submerged reefs of Seringat and Kias. One of the touted features on this island is the C-shaped 1km long artificial lagoon. Here's more about what was done to create Seringat-Kias. There's marine life on the artificial shore as well as on the natural shores of Lazarus Island. We met up with the rest of the team who explored Seringat-Kias who saw all kinds of other marine life. Among the special finds today was this little slug found by Pei Yan!
Also this snail that I've never seen before. Lots more were found and seen. I'm sure these will be shared online soon by the team.
Before we leave, we have a quick look at the fascinating reef life that have settled down on the pontoon. There are still some large pink sea fans and all kinds of other marvellous lifeforms.
Lazarus and Seringat-Kias are so big that it's hard to do them properly during a short low tide.

Tomorrow, we're going on our last morning trip to Cyrene Reef for the year.

Posts by others on this trip
  • Pei Yan shares about this, her first trip to Lazarus.
  • Kok Sheng with gianormous sea urchins, also lots of other interesting marine life.
  • Jose on facebook with hermit crabs, chiton, landscape shots and more.

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