22 June 2009

Special fishes at Changi

What a delight to see this cute little electric ray again on Changi.
I think it's the Numbfish (Narcine sp.). I last saw this adorable fish on this same shore in Jun 05! It was also seen on Chek Jawa by Cheng Puay in 2004. Electric rays use their electric power to stun fishes that they eat.

I saw yet more amazing fishes today on this seagrassy, sandy shore.

When I first saw this fish I thought it was a dead fish with its head bitten off.
I wasn't even going to take a photo of it. As I got closer, it started to move! Was it crabs eating the dead fish? No, this turned out to be a kind of flatfish that was very much alive. After slowly undulating over the sand, it suddenly zoomed away into the murky water. I never got another good shot at it.
Here is a closer look at the front end of the fish. It has a depression on the head, the eyes are not quite on one side, and it has a huge mouth full of fearsome teeth. I think its a halibut or turbot. Specifically, it sure looks like the Indian spiny turbot (Psettodes erumei) that is listed for our shores in "First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore". Wow, this is my first time seeing this fish!

Being flat is an advantage on sandy shores. And today, I saw lots of fishes that are like living carpets. There were several large and active Commerson's soles (Synaptura commersoniana).
The fish has eyes on the right side of the body, a crooked mouth full of teeth and it slithers across the sand hunting for prey.
This flatfish looks similar but has its eyes on the left side of the body so it's probably a Tongue-sole (Family Cynoglossidae).
When it first hatches, a flatfish larva looks like the larva of other ‘normal’ fish. But in flatfishes, these undergo an amazing transformation. As the larva matures, it starts to swim on one side of its body. One eye moves to what becomes the upperside, also called the eyed side. The mouth and one pectoral fin also becomes asymmetrically distorted. There are also changes in the skeleton and digestive system. The change may be completed within five days.

Some fishes are flattened downwards instead of sideways. Like the ferocious Fringe-eyed flathead (Cymbacephalus nematophthalmus) lurking on the murky sandy bottom.
I saw two of these fishes today. They have golden fringes over the eyes and an enormous mouth to engulf unsuspecting prey.
These fishes are more commonly encountered on our Southern shores. In the North, I've so far only seen them at Changi and Chek Jawa.

Another fish lurking on the bottom is the Freckled goatfish (Upeneus tragula).
This fish has a pair of barbels under its chin that gave it its common name. These are used to feel for titbits hidden in the sand.
This pretty little Schaap's dragonet (Callionymus schaapii) 'vaccums' the sand. This flattened fish has a downturned mouth that is used to pick up and eat small animals. There were many of these fishes in all sizes on the shores today.
Here's another one in a more drab pattern.
There were also many whitings (Family Sillaginidae) on the sand shore. These smooth sand-coloured fishes are actually quite hard to spot in murky water.
Another well camouflaged fish is the Longspined scorpionfish (Paracentropogon longispinis). This little fish lurks among the seagrasses.
They come in a wide variety of colours and patterns.
Another fish that is hard to spot among the seagrasses is this one with greenish bands. Is it a Trumpeter perch (Pelates quadrilineatus)?
The tiny flat Fan-tailed filefish (Monacanthus chinesis) looks just like another seagrass blade. These fishes can also change their colours to better match their surroundings.
A common fish among Changi's seagrasses is the White-spotted rabbitfish (Siganus canaliculatus). This fish is highly sought after for eating during Chinese Lunar New Year. Called 'Pei Tor', the Chinese believe it brings good luck. But those at Changi are still tiny. If we leave these fishes and the seagrasses alone, they may grow up to a large enough size for us to eat.
Of course it is only Chay Hoon who can find the tiniest fish and it's a seahorse!
Here is the tiny little thing next to her bootie. It's good to know she is recovering well from the stingray incident a few weeks back.

Kok Sheng also saw two seahorses! And James saw lots of other exciting fishes too!

Changi's seagrasses and sandy shores are indeed very much alive!

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