26 April 2013

Wet wet trip to Tekukor

A bright cheery find on an otherwise soggy trip! The amazing Tendril slug (Lobiger viridis) unfurls its tendrils when alarmed.
Once again, I'm out with the Mega Marine Survey recce trips for the upcoming Southern Expedition that starts in a few weeks' time.

With its tendrils curled up, it is a little harder to spot among the Oval sea grape seaweeds (Caulerpa racemosa). This sap-sucking slug does exactly that, sucking out the sap of the seaweeds that it hides among.
Here's what the slug looks like in situ. Thanks to Chay Hoon for teaching us how to spot these slugs. Rene will probably have much better photos of this slug.
When I woke up at 1.30am, the sky was clear, the moon was full. But by the time we were on the boat, at 3.30am, big gigantic angry red clouds were heading our way. It is the season for the dreaded pre-dawn violent storms called the Sumatras and we were going right into a big one!
The team was all geared up for wet weather even before we made landfall. We look as if we are about to explore the Arctic! Pulau Tekukor is managed by Sentosa and is off limits. Permission is required to land on this shore. My last trip to Pulau Tekukor was in May 2010 with Mei Lin to help her survey for Giant clams on our shores and in Jan 2010 with NParks for a survey.
Among my first sightings when I landed were these two snapping shrimps actually snapping at one another. I could feel their powerful snaps in my toes! More about snapping shrimps (Family Alpheidae) and the awesome way they make these snaps.
I also saw a Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) that was slightly bleaching. Oh dear.
In it, was one tiny anemone shrimp (Periclimens brevicarpalis).
The time wasn't really low today and it was hard to see underwater with the rain, but there was still lots of zoanthids (Order Zoanthidea) of all kinds on the shore.
Wow, my first sighting of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) on the sandy shore here. There were quite a few, many of them in 'mating' position.
When the rain got heavier and it was impossible to take photos with big cam, I switched to looking under stones. There's all kinds of awesome stuff there! Here we have a reddish snail (probably Eucelus sp.), a white ascidian, and a brown patch of bryozoans.
We are particularly looking for bryozoans today because next week is the much anticipated Bryozoan and Hydroid Workshop next week. Here's some bryozoans we saw  under stones today.
Other interesting animals found under stones including tiny brittle stars, colourful sponges and wriggly bristleworms. Many of these animals can be sharp and poky so it is important to use gloves when handling stones. And to gently replace the stone exactly the way you found it after having a look at the underside.
There were also many leaping Scintilla clams (Family Galeommatidae) under the stones. These lively clams behave more like snails than sedate bivalves.
I also came across this pink chiton (Class Polyplacophora) that I've not seen before. It was rather large and stuck under a stone.
There were other interesting colourful marine life on the shore. The usual that we might see on most of our reefs. The most intriguing find for me was what seems to be a recently dead Cone snail shell (bottom right photo), as I did on my trip to Pulau Tekukor in May 2010. I have yet to see a living Cone snail on our shores. These snails, however, can inject a powerful poison that can kill humans. So, another reason to be careful when handling stones.
Here's a look at Fine feathery soft corals (Briareum sp.) with the polyps expanded, and polyps retracted, revealing the bright purple common tissue that the polyps are embedded in.
The patches of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) are still there, as well as some small patches of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis).. I looked hard but couldn't find any bryozoans on the seagrasses.
Even before sunrise, we had to leave as the tide was rising fast by 6.30am. Thankfully, Jumari is there to rescue us in the dinghy, and Alex at the big boat to make sure we are all ok. The main boat looks so pretty with colourful lights!
Since I couldn't take any landscape shots in the dark, here's some views of Pulau Tekukor taken on my May 2010 trip. It is a large, long island and one side of the rocky cliffs remain undeveloped, fronting a long rocky intertidal. Reefs ring the island. It is next to Lazarus Island and St. John's Island, seen here on the horizon.
Pulau Tekukor also overlooks the main business district on the mainland!
Hopefully we will have better weather tomorrow as we do yet another recce trip to our submerged reefs!

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