09 July 2009

Nemless on Changi

It was a quiet morning on another stretch of Changi before dawn. We're back out to check for anemones in preparation for Dr Daphne's visit.
In the glow of the full moon, little white blobs in the murky waters turn out to be White sea urchins (Salmancis sp.) in various sizes dotting the lush green seagrass meadows.

There were lots of various sea pens too!
These fluffy organisms are actually a colony of many polyps with branched tentacles, called secondary polyps. These emerge from the central or primary polyp that looks like a cylinder.
The flowery sea pen (Family Veretillidae) comes in various shades of red, purple, white and yellow.
There's another kind of sea pen that looks more like a white pencil (or the white stick you put up your nose when you have a cold). There were a lot of these sea pencils, but we didn't spot any of the Armina nudibranchs (Armina sp.) that eat them.
This pretty dusky peacock anemone is different from the more common ones. It has slender tapering tentacles and has a generally more elegant look. Alas, it is not a true anemone.
This is not a sea pen or a peacock anemone but a sea cucumber! It is a rather elongated Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) with its feeding tentacles extended.
It was nice to come across one plump Garlic bread sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra). I don't see as many of these sea cucumbers on Changi as on other seagrassy areas like Chek Jawa.
Unlike our previous trip when we saw many of these Polka-dotted sea cucumbers, I only saw one today. It was floating in the water, with only one end stuck in the sediments. This is rather odd behaviour.
There were some Plain sand stars (Astropecten sp.) although strangely, most were buried in the sand and not wandering about. Perhaps it was too close to dawn? Or the moon was full? There was, however, this tiny little sand star wandering about on the sandy bottom of a pool.
The abundant echinoderm today were Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta). They were everywhere on sandy patches among the seagrasses, on the sand bars and even crawling up the sand above the low water mark on the sloping shoreline!

In the increasingly seriously desperate hunt for anemones, I chanced upon some fishes. This small Fan-bellied filefish (Monacanthus chinensis) had a little fan on his belly!
In the murky waters was a small Fringe-eyed flathead (Cymbacephalus nematophthalmus). It's hard to see, but it does have golden fringes over its eyes.
This little Schaap's dragonet (Callionymus schaapii) was stranded on dry sand and seemed relieved when we placed it in a pool. It showed all its pretty colours.
The dragonet has pointed downward facing mouth to pick off little titbits from the surface of the sand.
There were also small darting fishes of all kinds, and a few Long-spined scorpionfishes (Paracentropogon longispinus), but we didn't see many flatfishes or any of the seahorses. Oh dear.

Aside from some blobs, and two small Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) I didn't see any anemones. Although James and Chay Hoon spotted a wider variety. I saw a few prowling Ball moon snails (Polinices didyma) and some Gong-gong (Strombus canarium) as well as one buried Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis), but no other special snails.

A nice sign was to see an expansion in the patch of Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) on the shore.
However, I also noticed piles of dead Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) washing up on some parts of the shores.
Soon it was sunrise, the tide turned and it was time to go home.
We're not sure why it is so quiet on the shore today, compared to our previous trip there just a few weeks ago. Which is why it's important to go regularly so that we have a better feel of what is going on.

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