27 April 2013

Two Terumbus in one trip!

Not dead! Clown anemonefishes stay close to their home anemones even when these are exposed at low tide. This fish was waiting quietly in shallow water for the tide to turn.
Today, a small team splits up to separately visit Terumbu Pempang Laut and Terumbu Pempang Tengah at the same time. We saw lots of cool stuff!


Here's a broader view of the Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica) that was out of water with the two little  False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) nearby. These fishes live only in sea anemones and will die without one. The anemones also appear to benefit from the presence of the fishes. Our reefs are rich because animals live in animals in amazing symbiosis. I think the fishes were visible because the low tide happened at night. During the day, the fishes are usually hidden, probably under the sea anemone.
Some animals that live on other animals are hard to spot. Like these brown acoel flatworms with a white stripe in the middle of the flat body. They live among the large flower-like polyps of the Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.).
 In some soft leathery soft corals, I saw the tell-tale fine 'threads' created by the almost invisible ctenophores (the snotty whitish thing to the left in this photo). The tiny animal produces two fringe tentacles than can be many times longer than the animal. It is used to gather food.
 Parasitism is a form of symbiosis. I saw this shy filefish (Family Monacanthidae) pretending to be seaweed.
When I got home, I took a closer look at the green spots on the fish and they turned out to be some sort of animal. Fish lice? Eeks.
My other happy encounter was to finally see this HUGE Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) again. See my size 7 foot next to it (bottom left corner of the photo). I saw on it in May 2011. This time, I had my GPS so I could share the location with my friend Mei Lin (aka Giant Clam Girl), who is studying them so as to better protect these amazing animals in Singapore and beyond.
At night, the octopuses are very active. But they are often hard to spot as they immediately change their colours and even body texture to match their surroundings.
This octopus trailed its long arms behind as it stuffed its head into its burrow. In flash, it was gone!
Fishes are also easier to spot at night. There were many small Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma) in the shallow pools, which is why we should watch our step. Otehr colourful fishes I saw included the Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus).
I came across two these two nudibranchs (Phyllidiella nigra) that looked like they were mating. Nudibranchs are hermaphrodites, each animal having both functioning male and female reproductive parts. When two nudis meet, they exchange sperm and each goes off to lay eggs. This sure makes it a lot simpler to produce the next generation!
I also saw a Phyllidiella pustulosa and Glossodoris atromarginata.
Under a rock, I saw this blob which looked like a sponge. It turned out to be a nudibranch! Chay Hoon will tell us more about it soon. Here's Kok Sheng's photo of the nudibranch.
I was delighted to see good growths of seagrasses in the small area I surveyed. There were patchy sparse growths of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and I was glad to see that most were rather long! This is a relief as Tape seagrasses at Cyrene remain cropped short. There were also patches of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis)  with large and small blades. And many patches of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii). All the seagrasses were relatively 'clean' of epiphytes.
Some people  have asked me why we purposely go out at ungodly hours. We purposely go out at low spring tide. Unfortunately, these super low tides tend to happen at ungodly hours. So we had to get up at 2am today for another early departure. It's tricky landing in the dark, which is why we are doing these recces to prepare for the Mega Marine Survey's  upcoming Southern Expedition in May. It also helps to have experienced people like Alex and Jumari to take us to the right spot!
It was a glorious moonlit night! We enjoyed clear weather all the way to sunrise. The rain passed us by and fell instead on the mainland. I didn't see any signs of mass coral bleaching and saw a few colonies of Sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) and Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.) that looked alright. These two species were the first to bleach at the last mass coral bleaching event.
Oh dear, this deep hole in the middle of the reef looks like a boat strike. As the reefs are completely submerged at high tide, sometimes, boats accidentally hit them. Damaging the reef (and of course the boat too).
The rest of team on Terumbu Pempang Tengah also saw a Swimming file clam (Limaria sp.), the strange red sea cucumber that has yet to be identified and other interesting finds. The team from Terumbu Pempang Laut led by Chay Hoon found a new kind of Sundial snail (Family Architectonicidae) that was seen earlier at Chek Jawa. She of course also found lots of tiny nudibranchs.

Here's the location of the two submerged reefs we visited today. 'Tengah' means 'middle' in Malay, while 'Laut' means 'seaward'. These beautiful submerged reefs may be affected by reclamation in the future.
The 2030 Landuse Plan by the Ministry of National Development released in Jan 2013 shows plans for 'possible future reclamation' (in light blue surrounded by dotted lines) that may impact Terumbu Pempang Darat and Terumbu Pempang Tengah. More about the possible impact of the 2030 Landuse Plan on our shores.
Click on images for larger view.
While some of us were at this NParks trip, the rest of the regular intertidal team were at Sentosa checking out the Tanjung Rimau shore. Shao Wei saw a sundial snail too, Marcus found rare crabs and pretty fishes, and Ivan and Pei Yan saw Giant sea anemones. We'll look forward to their posts about their trips!

Tomorrow MORE trips by the NParks team and our regular intertidal team too.

So many shores, too few low spring tides to visit them as often as we should!

Posts by others on the Terumbu Pempang trips
  • Kok Sheng on facebook with lots of corals and the special finds.
  • Chay Hoon on facebook with slugs and sundails seen on Terumbu Pempang Laut.

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