23 May 2013

Humungous critters and six-legged crab on Day 4 of the Southern Expedition

Humungous sea cucumbers were found during the day dive today! Thanks to Dr David and Dr Zeehan!
Also, I learnt more about a special six-legged crab that has been found for the first time in Singapore!


When the dive team arrives, there's as usual, a scrum of excited scientists, staff and volunteers as well as the home team to manage the numbering and labelling of all specimens.
Prof Peter is more interested in the crabs and other animals that might live inside the sea cucumber. One way to get them out without damaging the sea cucumber is to gently squirt some relaxing chemicals up the sea cucumber's butt, which is he is pointing to.
Usually, all we see of this sponge is the tiny fluffy pink bit that sticks out of the ground. The rest of the sponge is buried!
Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers joined the Expedition dive today and tweeted (@torvaanser) about the exciting time she had with the team. Here she is using her hand to show the scale of the humungous Fan clam they found during the dive.
Dr Arthur shows us one way to get to the middle of a big piece of coral rubble is to simply drop it on the ground so it smashes apart.
We all rush over to see what emerged.
Deep in the middle of the big piece of coral rubble was a Giant reef worm! It's usually very hard to get a complete specimen of this worm so it is much appreciated. There were also lots and lots of other tiny animals, from shrimps to brittle stars, and all kinds of worms.
Big stuff was also found during the night dive yesterday. Like this enormous snail: the Ram's murex. More about about murex snails.
During the dive, they also found this tiger-like sea anemone that wraps around sea fans and hydroids. Prof Daphne is very pleased with this, and remembers Chay Hoon had highlighted them to her earlier.
Last night, Dr Arthur also shared this awesome photo of a beautiful snapping shrimp covered with tiny parasites. He tells me this situation is not often observed so it provides lots of useful information for the scientists.
Photo by Dr Arthur Anker
After lunch, I headed out to the same shore with Dr Shane (looking for mantis shrimps) and Dr Jim (looking for hopping amphipods).
In the process of turning over rocks...wow! I saw two, and later on, one more, Cryptic sea star. These look just like the rock that they are stuck on.
On the way back, I bumped into the young interns who have been working hard looking for bivalves in mud and sand, sieving them out. Dr Taylor and Dr Glover were very pleased with their finds.
One of the special finds of the Expedition so far, is this six-legged crab. Most crabs have eight legs. 

Dr Arthur has taken a lovely photo of this special find. At first glance it might be mistaken for a Hairy crab that is so common on our shores. It's so important to look carefully and of course, it can't be confirmed without the many knowledgeable scientists at the Expedition.
Prof Peter told me that Dr Rahyu aka Yoyo is in the process of writing a paper about this crab! She has yet to give it a name. It has been found in Lombok, China and Japan. But this is the first time it has been found in Singapore!
I'm staying over tonight at Base Camp because a small team is heading out early in the morning to look at Seringat-Kias. So now it's time to have a nap!

During the Expedition, I will try to post live updates on twitter as well as to facebook and the Mega Marine Survey facebook page. These will get less frequent as I start to do field work. I'm not very good at the smart phone in the field, and also, phone connections are not always strong enough to post regularly. So also check out tweets by participants using the hashtag for the Survey  #MegaMarine. These are consolidated on the Mega Marine Survey blog.

Volunteer sign up for the Southern Expedition are already closed due to limited places and early logistical arrangements needed for participation.

But no worries, you CAN still join the Survey! Lots of surveys will continue after the Expedition, just at a less frenzied rate. There will be lots of other opportunities for volunteers to participate in dredging, field surveys as well as laboratory sessions. To join the Mega Marine Survey, register your interest in this form and you'll be invited to join the mailing list to receive updates on the Survey and sign up for Survey activities. Also check out the FAQs for more about the Survey.

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