11 February 2013

Sisters Island after the rain

The beautiful Sisters Islands are home to some of our best reefs that are accessible to the public. Here, ordinary people can view interesting marine life at low tide.
Despite the rainy day, we saw all kinds of critters like these anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis). Mrs Shrimp is large and fat with big white spots. While Mr Shrimp is more transparent. These are living on a Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni).

Sisters Island (like all our Southern recreational islands) have been reclaimed and seawalls built around original reef flats to create swimming lagoons. Nevertheless, over the years, marine life have crept back into the lagoons. Here's a view of corals in the lagoon, with the city skyline just beyond the seawall. Sisters Island is only 15minutes away from the mainland by fast boat.
 The humungous Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) in the middle of the lagoon are still there.
The Anemone corals were doing fine. I also saw some large Brain corals (Family Mussidae) but only one Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.).
A variety of corals also settled on the seawall: Ridged plate corals (Merulina sp.), Thin disk coral (Turbinaria sp.), Carnation corals (Pectinia sp.).
I saw two Crinkled sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) and many Branching montipora corals (Montipora sp.) that looked alright.
The most common hard coral here are Favid corals (Family Faviidae) in all kinds of shapes and colours. As well as Pore corals (Porites sp.).
I only managed to see one Circular mushroom coral (Family Fungiidae). It's rather pink, which suggests it is stressed. I didn't see any Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.).
There were also a few Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) of various kinds.
There were many clusters of corallimorphs (Order Corallimorpharia).
I saw two large Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) alas I couldn't spot any 'Nemos' in them. There were also many Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) in various colours and patterns.
This is the skeleton of a heart urchin (Lovenia sp.)! It's rare to spot living heart urchins as they are usually buried in the sand.
This strange creature is not a worm. It's a synaptid sea cucumber (Family Synaptidae)!
Kok Sheng saw a pretty flatworm that I've never seen before. I did see several Dawn flatworms (Pseudobiceros uniarborensis) and many Ornate leaf slug (Elysia ornata). Of course Chay Hoon found many more interesting nudibranchs and slugs.
Kok Sheng found this crab which had interest white spots on its pincers and a hairy bumpy body. We're not too sure what kind of crab it is. Tse-Lynn also spotted a Yellow-lipped sea krait (Laticauda colubrina) ! How auspicious for the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Water Snake.
There is still a lot of Sargassum seaweed on much of the shore, although the bloom seems to be over. It's important NOT to walk among the seaweeds because you never know what you might step on. You might kill corals and other marine life, or step on a stingray! Tse-Lynn pointing out the tail of a Blue-spotted stingray (Taeniura lymma) hidden in this clump of seaweeds.
These white flower-like structures in the Sargassum are probably fluffy algae, while the narrow finger-like structures may be reproductive parts of Sargassum.
There seems to be a lot more sand in the lagoon. Some corals like this Acropora coral (Acropora sp.) is being buried.
I saw a sprinkling of Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) on the shore.
During the long holidays, it is not unusual to see large groups camping on our Southern Islands. They seriously set up camp and spend a long time on the shore, fishing and collecting. We noticed a driftnet laid out on the shore.
There was also about six people standing on the reef edge beyond the seawall, fishing.
We're glad to have Loh Tse-Lynn on our trip. Tse-Lynn was active in marine conservation in Singapore since the days of Chek Jawa before reclamation was deferred. She was also instrumental in starting the Blue Water Volunteers in Singapore. Now with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Tse-Lynn is back in the region to work on seahorses in Asia.
Sadly, we couldn't find any seahorses for Tse-Lynn on this trip. Usually we have no trouble finding them, here's some we saw in Aug 2012. The bloom of Sargassum made it tougher to find them on this trip.
Last week, Tse-Lynn shared more about the programme to study and protect seahorses in Asia. Attending the meeting was Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers who leads volunteers in guided dives at Pulau Hantu. And Collin Tong and Jeffrey Low from NParks, Jeff also leads the Blue Water Volunteers ReefFriends volunteers who regularly conduct underwater surveys of our reefs. I was there to represent TeamSeagrass. Hopefully, Singapore can contribute to this study with surveys of our very own seahorses. Volunteers will be welcomed to help out. Once details are available, I'll post them on this blog.
Meanwhile, here's more information about the Sisters Islands, how to visit and what to see and do.

Posts by others on this trip
  • Kok Sheng with interesting flatworm, lots of nudis and other rare and colourful marinelife. 
  • November on facebook with nudis and corals. 
  • Pei Yan with underwater photos and lots of video clips of the marinelife we saw.

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