26 May 2009

Back to BB

1am morning call, ouch. But worth the sleep deprivation to visit one of our more spectacular shores!
Beting Bronok (affectionately known as BB) is one of the best sites for sighting nudibranchs and we were not disappointed.
Cuthona sibogae is a colourful little nudi that is found on its food animal, a bright orange hydroid. I've only ever seen it at BB.
Another nudi that is commonly seen at BB is the Blue dragon (Pteraeolidia ianthina). We also saw the Rose nudibranch (Dendrodoris fumata) which is also seen on Changi and other northern shores.
Commonly seen elsewhere and plentiful today on BB were Dendrodoris denisoni. Not nudis but still slugs are the Hairy seahares (Bursatella leachi) which were also abundant today. The rest of the team saw lots of other special slugs too!

Sometimes mistaken for slugs, are cowries. These snails cover their shells with their body mantle. Today, there were plenty of Onyx cowries (Cypraea onyx) on BB. These cowries are not as commonly seen on our other shores.The gorgeous jewel-like shell is only revealed when the mantle is retracted. But I think the living animal looks just as interesting!

Today I saw again this unidentified cowrie that I have only seen before on BB.
Now that I look more closely at it, it does look like a paler version of the Walker's cowerie (Erronea walkeri walkeri).
I observed a whitish susbtance being spewed out of the snail when it retracted its mantle. Is it some kind of protective feature of the snail?

Another animal mistaken for slugs are these large Spotted black flatworms (Acanthozoon sp.) which are commonly seen on some of our shores. Today, I took a closer look at what I thought was ONE very large flatworm that was twisted.
A little nudge and it turned out to be TWO flatworms. One of which had a pointy white thing sticking out of its body. Were they mating?! Oops.

Marine flatworms are hermaphrodites, that is, each flatworm has both male and female reproductive organs. When two flatworms meet, they exchange sperm. Some species simply insert their needle-like penis anywhere in the body of the partner. This is not surprisingly called 'hypodermic impregnation'. In yet other species, each flatworm tries to impregnate the other without itself being impregnated, as it involves more energy to produce eggs. This results in a sort of 'penis-fencing' when the two flatworms meet!

BB was the place where I first encountered the fascinating Bailer snail (Melo melo).
This snail is listed as 'Endangered' on our Red List. It was good to see one today. And the rest of the team encountered many more of these snails, with Kok Sheng seeing an enormous one. That's good to know!

Also a mollusc and related to sedentary snails, are octopuses.
And there were LOTS of tiny octopuses on the shores. While they are quite obvious when moving around (photo on the right), they are hard to spot when they hunker down in a hole and just stick their eyes out (photo on the left). I don't remember seeing this many octopuses in past visits.

BB is also a great place to see the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus). I saw several today, and most of them were humped over something. Possibly eating?
There were also LOTS of Biscuit sea stars (Goniodiscaster saber) of various sizes and patterns.
And I also saw one large Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera). It and many of the Biscuit sea stars were also humped over something. I also saw one Painted sand star (Astropecten sp.).

Stranded on the shore were a lot of brittle stars of all sizes and kinds.
On the left probably the Blue-lined brittle star (Ophiothrix lineocaerulea) and on the right the Upside down brittle star (Ophiothrix sp.).

What was truly abundant today on the shore were enormous Pencil or Thorny sea urchins (Prionocidaris sp.). Most had all their spiny spines covered in encrusting lifeforms and entangled with algae. But this one had some of its upper spines still unencrusted.
While the sea urchin has long pointy spiky thorny spines on the upperside (photo on the right).
On the underside, it has short stumpy spines near the mouth (photo on the left).
Besides some Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis), I didn't see any other kinds of sea cucumbers. In the past, a wider variety of sea cucumbers were seen on BB. Also entirely missing were the feather stars or crinoids (Class Crinoidea) that used to be so plentiful on BB.

The special crab for the day was my second encounter with this Domed elbow crab (Cryptodomia fornicata).
It has a huge dome-shaped body that shields tiny spindly legs.
This crab turned out to be a mama with eggs on her belly. Of course there were lots of other crabs on the shores including Swimming crabs (Family Portunidae), Sponge crabs (Family Dromiidae) and Velcro crabs (Camposcia retusa).

Special fishes includes the Brown spotted moray eel (Gymnothorax reevesii) which seems to be common on BB as the team saw several on this and previous trips.
But this was my first time seeing one!

I also encountered this pretty Peacock sole (Pardachirus pavoninus) which is perfectly camouflaged against the pebbly shores of BB.
The fish produces a mucus from toxin glands along the base of the dorsal and anal fin rays around the entire outline of the body. This mucus appears to have shark-repellent properties!

The rest of the team also saw lots of other interesting fishes!

But for me, BB is special because of the Cnidarians which are not common on the northern shores.
But here's a cnidarian that is common on BB but we wish weren't. They are stinging hydroids that pack a powerful punch leaving burning wounds that are very painful then itch terribly for a long time and are slow to heal.

Also plentiful today on BB were zoanthids (Order Zoanthidea). They literally carpeted large areas of the shores! I also saw some Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) and one Glass anemone (Doflenia sp.). But I didn't see the special anemones that I saw on previous trips: Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.), Haekel's anemone (Actinostephanus haekeli) and Snaky anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis).

Another BB special are the ball-shaped flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidea).
These colonies of polyps often harbour a pair of snapping shrimps! There were also lots of Pink flower soft corals on BB today.

BB also used to have lots of hard corals such as Sunflower mushroom corals (Heliofungia actiniformis), Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.), some Galaxy corals (Galaxea sp.), a variety of Favid corals (Family Faviidae) and even one Cabbage coral (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi).
Today I only saw small colonies of Pore corals (Porites sp.) and these corals with neat hexagonal corallites. Of course, some of the tough Zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata).

I didn't see many peacock anemones on BB today, but did see lots of flowery sea pens (Family Veretillidae) as well as the Common sea pen (Pteroides sp.).

What I found truly special about BB in the past was the huge number and variety of sea fans there. Today, however, I only saw this one large and healthy sea fan.
The handful of other sea fans I saw were in poor shape, or dead. What a pity.

I used to encounter a profusion of sea fans on BB in the past. This photo was taken in 2003.
Sea fans at Beting Bronok
And this was taken in 2007.
Sea fans at Beting Bronok
Well, BB may be changing, like many of our shores. And despite some favourites going missing, it is still fascinating and has marvellous marine life.

Alas, today poor Chay Hoon got stung badly by a stingray. There were two puncture wounds which bled profusely. Her bootie was full of blood, and there was literally a jet of blood fountaining out of her foot. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw that. Fortunately, Kok Sheng and James were there to calm us all down. Chay Hoon lay down on the shore, raised her leg, and Kok Sheng applied pressure to the wound.
Soon the wound stopped gushing blood and the gentlemen carried her to the boat.

We were fortunate that the tide was just right for the boat to make a quick pick up. We rushed Chay Hoon to the hospital, where she was promptly treated and given jabs and antibiotics.
Here she is finally home after the ordeal, with Stripy in her arms (Marcus, who escorted her throughout the hospital visit, couldn't resist a poke at Stripy).

Hope you have a quick and full recovery, Chay Hoon! Stripy needs you. And so do we.

With this latest Sting Incident, Chay Hoon joins the ranks of Those who Were Stung by Rays and Other Scary Things. These include Robin on Pulau Hantu (stonefish), Nor Aishah at Pulau Semakau (sting ray) and me at Pulau Sekudu (sting ray).

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