01 June 2013

Pea crab on Day 12 of the Southern Expedition

Today, we had our last intertidal trip for the Southern Expedition. Two teams surveyed Pulau Tekukor which is rarely visited and is not accessible to the public.
There were also dive surveys as well as a dredge. We found a lot of interesting critters as usual.

It was a glorious blue sky day, perfect for taking last shots of St. John's Island from this point of view, unique to the Southern Expedition and Base Camp.
As usual, Alex and the crew from Summit Marine make sure we have a safe landing.
Dr Gretchen Lambert initially was a little worried about the amphibious landing, but all went well and she was very happy with all the ascidians that she and her team found on Pulau Tekukor.
After Prof Daphne and I struggled to collect Frilly sea anemones which are super abundant here, until we joined Kwan Siong who did it with seemingly more ease! I must learn how he does it.
My favourite find of the day was this pink chiton that I had seen before in the past but was unable to dislodge. Today, I learnt how to do this without harming the animal.
We are also glad to find the Pink-spotted bead anemone which is found very high on the shore. Its scientific name is after Prof Daphne's husband.
One of the special finds was this tiny Burrowing giant clam. Sadly, it was stuck to a small rock and it would have died as the rock would split into to, providing no protection to the clam, when it starts to burrow. So we are passing this to Mei Lin aka Giant Clam Girl so she can raise it up safely.
As we were leaving, we saw Siong Kiat sitting on the sand. They seemed to be making sand castles! But they were actually digging in the sand for clams.
Here's a closer look at the clams when we got back to Base Camp. Wow, I sure have a lot more to learn about how to find our marine life.
When we got back to Base Camp, the drill is to pass everything to the Sorting Station.
At the Sorting Station, the finds will labelled, logged and get sorted into animal groups and passed on to the relevant scientist who will study them further. Ivan Kwan live tweeted all kinds of interesting finds.
When sorting it does help to have some idea of marine life. This tray, for example, has only crabs, which can take on a very wide variety of forms!
We are intrigued by this crab that moves around holding a small piece of coral rubble over itself. Prof Peter says this crab is known but finds it interesting. He asked Marcus to take a photo of it, and Marcus took a great video clip of it.
Dr Sammy came back with a whole trolley full of shrimps from the dive at Kusu Island. Later, he told us one of the shrimps is a new record for Singapore! Marcus took photos of it and will upload it soon I'm sure.
Among the interesting shrimps is this long skinny one that clings to sea fans! This shrimp is often seen by the Hantu Blog divers. Debby Ng was tweeting about the dives, sharing that there were three new shrimp records for Singapore from just that one dive.
Among the critters I've not seen before are this spotty based cowrie, and white conical parasitic snails on Icon sea stars!
Dr Serena Teo is sorting out all the ascidians for Dr Gretchen who is busy with the collection from Pulau Tekukor. So it's important to pace the passing over of the specimens.
As usual, there's a smashing time at the Sorting Station when rocks, dead corals and other hard objects are brought in with the dredge. Inside, all kinds of marine life can be found.
The dive team has done coral brushing today. In which they gently brush tiny creatures found on dead corals. A few of these dead corals are taken back for the Sorting Team to work on. Back at Base Camp the coral brushing equipment is carefully unpacked.
It is important to use gloves before handling any marine life as many can cause rashes and skin irritation.
Dr Charles Messing has a whole tray full of feather stars from the dive!
The dredge has come in! With MORE feather stars!
Dr Shane has a mantis shrimp!
We brought back a few Fan clams from Pulau Tekukor and when they were opened, we finally found the pea crabs that Prof Peter is interested in. Dr Arthur takes photos of them with Jiaxin taking care of the flash. I'm sure we will soon see fabulous photos of these crabs. I learnt that each Fan clam holds only one pea crab, either a male or a female. The male crab, it seems, moves to mate with females living in nearby clams.
Siong Kiat has also found a tiny pearl in the Fan calm to the amusement of the rest of the ladies in the team. Thanks to Ivan Kwan for live tweeting throughout the day thus relieving me of this task. And to Marcus Ng for taking good photos of all kinds of critters and happenings, and sharing them on the Mega Marine Survey flickr group.
I took the last boat out today and some of the TMSI staff are bringing a cat from St John's Island to the mainland. The poor cat has a fish hook stuck on its mouth, probably from eating a fish still on a hook and carelessly left by fishermen. They are taking the cat to a vet to have the hook removed. Bravo!
Here's a closer look at the large hook (between the two yellow arrows). All the best for a speedy recovery kitty!
Tonight, I get to spend time with my own much-missed kitties as the morning low tides have ended. But I will be back at Base Camp tomorrow morning. Dives and dredges continue, and the volunteers will continue to sample on the intertidal whenever we can.

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 formand 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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