22 June 2013

Hazy at special Changi shore

Changi is full of surprises. Like this beautiful blue feather star, with a brittle star living among its many feathery arms!
We also saw lots of other interesting colourful marine life on a hazy morning.


Here's a closer look at the brittle star (Ophiomaza cacaotica) that lives only in feather stars. It's my first time seeing one in the north!
The special star of the day was an Eight-armed sea star (Luidia maculata) which had only six arms. Perhaps it's the same one I saw last year here?
There are many different kinds of sea stars on the shore. The most abundant were Biscuit sea stars (Goniodiscaster scaber) of various kinds. I also saw one small Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera) and one Spiny sea star (Gymnanthea laevis). I didn't come across any Painted sand stars (Astropecten sp.) or any large brittle stars.
But the most special find of the day is Nicholas Yap's catch of a 'brown peachia' which might be a new species! Next to it, is the usual and more commonly seen Peachia anemone (Peachia sp.) which has a white body column. To be sure that the animal is a new species, scientists like Nicholas need to closely study several animals. The 'brown peachia' is quite rare so we are very lucky to have one more specimen so that we can figure out its identity. Hurray! Changi seems to be where we most commonly find this special anemone.
There are all kinds of other sea anemones on this shore. From large Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni), to smaller Tiger anemones (yet to be identified) and many many Big hermit-hitching anemones just stuck to rocks (also yet to be identified). Among them are  cerianthids (Order Ceriantharia) or peacock anemones which are not true anemones and are distinguished by a ring of shorter inner tentacles within a ring of longer outer tentacles. , also . Although they look like sea anemones,
There were lots of White sea urchins (Salmacis sp.) out and about on the seagrassy shore, many 'carrying' camouflaging seaweed and other debris. I didn't see any Black sea urchins (Temnopleurus sp.) or Thorny sea urchins (Prionocidaris sp.) on this trip.
Once again, we encounter the Pimply Sally-light-foot crab (Plagusia squamosa). I only regularly encountered this crab on our northern rockier shores.
I was wondering what the fluffy orange thing was among the pile of large Tidal hermit crabs (Diogenes sp.). A closer look and it turns out to be a little hermit crab that is using a part of a crab limb instead of a shell!
How nice to come across this octopus. It looks like the kind I usually only see on rocky shores or reefs.
How nice to see these special cowries here. There were many Miliaris cowries (Cypraea miliaris), a few Onyx cowries (Cypraea onyx) and some Ovum cowerie (Cypraea ovum). There were also many Fan clams (Family Pinnidae) buried in the soft ground.
There were all kinds of little fishes among the bloom of Sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) that washed up on the shore. Like this Diamond tuskfish (Halichores dussumieri).
Here's another fish that looks similar. Its the Brown wrasse (Halichores bicolor)!
Oh dear, it looks like this Orange sea cucumber may have a ruptured body. Those yellow things looks like its innards sticking out. But maybe something else is going on.
Our northern shores are rich with all kinds of colourful sea cucumbers. There were many Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) and Pink warty sea cucumbers (Cercodemas anceps), one purple sea cucumber as well as some Smooth sea cucumbers. In the soft silty sand there were many Ball sea cucumbers (Phyllophorus sp.). But we didn't come across the Sea apple sea cucumber (Pseudocolochirus violaceus) that we saw on our last trip here.
There are hard corals on our Northern shores although these are often not very spectacular. There were many patches of Zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata), and I saw growth so Cave corals (Tubastrea sp.) on a shell occupied by a hermit crab! There were a few sea fans but the tide was not really low enough to reveal them properly.
Among the soft silty sand were burrowing animals like sea pens of all kinds: the Slender sea pens (Virgularia sp.) and Flowery sea pens (Family Veritillidae). As well as Ball flowering soft corals (Dendronephthya sp.).
It was only when I got home that I noticed these two black Phoronid worms (Phoronis australis). These worms live with cerianthids. Were they living on the much smaller cerianthid in the photo? I must take a closer look at such situations next time!
It was good to see nice growths of seagrasses here. With lush patches of  Fern seagrass (Halophila spinulosa), while Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) were the most abundant as usual.
We can only visit this Changi shore at super low tides. Our last trip here was in Aug 2012, following the rediscovery of the shore in Jul 2012. This morning, the haze level was around 180 when we were out there and it was a little uncomfortable.
It's hard to plan field trips with haze affecting visibility for safe boat rides, as well as for the health of the team. So for the next few days, we are staying on the mainland. Which is hard because June is the second last series of super low spring tides for the year!

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