21 May 2009

Wildfacts updates: Bearded fish, prickly hearts and strange snails

Thanks to new sightings shared, I've started up these new fact sheets! As usual, any comments and corrections and additions are always most welcome!

I just love this odd mudskipper that Kok Sheng saw at Pasir Ris twice, in Dec 08 and in Mar 09.
And Ivan kindly suggested that it might be the Bearded mudskipper (Scartelaos histophorus). Here's what I found out about this strange fish.

According to "A Guide to Gobies of Singapore" by Helen K Larson and Kelvin K. P. Lim, its preferred habitat is "liquid mud" - what a great description for the scary soft mud that can swallow you up to your eyeballs! The mudskipper, of course, simply skims over the stuff.

The fish appears to be scaleless. But it does have scales, these are just tiny and partly embedded and thus not visible to the naked eye. The skin on the top of the head and on the back is full of blood vessels allowing the fish to respire through the skin. It uses its tall, mast-like first dorsal fin to display.

But I have yet to find out why it's called the bearded mudskipper. Hmm.

Marcus saw the pretty pink heart urchin in the photo on the right at Pulau Semakau this year. While I saw the brown one at Kusu Island five years ago!
Putting these two photos together, I think these heart urchins are Lovenia elongata. Lovenia heart urchins have a deep groove at the front end, and the overall body is somewhat tear-drop shaped.

Chay Hoon found TWO of these heart urchins on Pulau Sekudu. They don't appear to have a deep groove at the front end. So these might be Maretia ovata. This is the first time I've seen photos of live heart urchins on Pulau Sekudu. Usually, all I see is the skeleton (photo on the right).We also saw a recently dead heart urchin at Pasir Ris (photo on the left), and it looks like it might be Maretia ovata as well.

I've finally done fact sheets for these wonderful snails that Chee Kong shared so long ago (Sorry for the delay, Chee Kong).

This delightful living cowrie was seen on Cyrene Reef nearly a year ago!
Chee Kong shared its identity as Erronea walkeri walkeri or the Walker's cowrie. Besides its very pretty shell, it has a red body! Unfortunately, our cowries are threatened by habitat loss and overcollection. It is estimated that half the cowrie species in Singapore have been lost. The Gold-ringed cowrie (Cypraea annulus) has almost if not completely been wiped out on our shores. This small cowrie was previously found in large groups on our rocky shores and reef flats.

Chee Kong also shared photos and the identity of this strange little snail that he encountered on Cyrene Reef. It is the Variegated sundial snail (Heliacus variegatus). It has a conical operculum!
He even shared a photo of the snail laying an egg mass! Wow!

Chee Kong and Kok Sheng also shared photos of a Helmet snail (Family Cassidae) that they saw on Cyrene Reef. Chee Kong kindly shared the identity of this snail as Semicassis bisulcatum, whose common name is the Japanese bonnet snail.

Kok Sheng spotted yet another Helmet snail at Changi.I've put these photos under the fact sheet for the Japanese bonnet snail, though I'm not really sure if the two snails are the same.

There's always some new sighting on every trip! And something new to learn. Our shores are quite amazing!

I'd be glad to include your sightings in the wild fact sheets. Just email me, Ria at hello@wildsingapore.com.

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