07 August 2009

Another nem surprise at Tanah Merah

The Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.)! The first I've seen on a mainland shore, it was spotted by Chay Hoon.So far, I've only seen this anemone at Pulau Semakau, Terumbu Raya, Kusu Island and on Beting Bronok off Pulau Tekong. As its common name suggests, it's not advisable to touch it.

Still in nem-mode, we are alert to anemones on Tanah Merah. James finds the Haeckle's anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli) that I saw yesterday. And I saw one little Peachia anemone (Peachia sp.) and four Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni). And one of them had a really REALLY tiny anemoneshrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) on it. Of course, not observed until I processed the photos.
Although these anemones are quite commonly seen on many of our shores, this is the first time I've seen more than one of these anemones on this shore. Probably because I focused on the sandy areas away from the seawall.

The sandy areas were a little more boring than the excitement encountered by the rest of the team at the seawall. Still, there was some action. As usual, greedy Ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) were out and about. From their tracks, I think they actually dig into the sand to find prey as well. This one was obviously well into its juicy shrimp dinner as there was only half a shrimp left in its pincer.
There are countless little Flower crabs (Portunus pelacigus) in the shallow pools and streams of water on the sandy areas. The female flower crabs are a drab green-brown, while the males are more colourful with blue legs. These crabs are among our favourite seafood and sheltered places such as these shores allow them to grow into big yummy crabs.
In some of the drier parts of the sandy shores were intriguing crab holes. Stalking one, I only got glimpses as the occupant darted in and out at the entrance, not quite leaving the safety of its burrow. Only later when I got home could I see that it might be some kind of fiddler crab (Uca sp.). The fiddlers are not as plentiful on Tanah Merah as on some of our other shores.
Some parts of the sandy areas are teeming with Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). This one was half buried in the sand and waving the tips of its arms above the sand. I wonder what is going on?
I was looking for special snails, but every snail that I looked at turned out to be either an Oval moon snail (Polinices mammatus) or a Gong-gong (Strombus canarium). I noticed the Gong-gong has a long proboscis! This one had retracted its proboscis when I took the photo, it was initially stretched out to nearly the length of its shell!
Chay Hoon found a living Rare-spined murex snail (Murex trapa)!

Also in the sandy areas are fanworms that are different from the brown and orange ones that are commonly seen on the seawall. I've only seen this dark, olive coloured fan worm a few times. But this sighting will probably give me enough photos to start a fact sheet on them.
Drifting by in the ripply water was a Pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.). Often mistaken for a baby squid, these tiny animals don't get much bigger. These squids have a special glue gland on the upper body. A pygmy squid may use this gland to glue itself to the underside of seagrasses and seaweeds.
In the pools were lots of little fishes including this very tiny Fringe-eyed flathead (Cymbacephalus nemathophthalmus). It was only about 2cm long but it already has golden 'eyelashes'.
I also saw this stranded wrasse (Family Labridae).
Carefully, I got it into a pool of water. This fish has a ferocious bite! Here's what it looks like when it is in water. I'm not really sure what kind of wrasse it is.
The rest of the team, however, saw lots of interesting fishes including a Batfish (Platax sp.), Razorfishes (Family Centriscidae), a twig-like halfbeak (Family Hemiramphidae) and one strange fish with wings.

Also among more stony areas was this small colourful flowery soft coral (Family Nephtheidea). My first sighting of these animals on this shore.
As well as Zebra hard corals (Oulastrea crispata) which are really tough and can be found even on murky silty shores such as Changi.
There was one colony, however, that looked pale and bleached. But the polyps are clearly still alive. If the polyps had lost their symbiotic algae (which give corals their colour), hopefully they can gather new ones from the water soon.
Alas, despite searching, I had no luck finding special living snails on the sandy areas. There were, however, lots of special shells and many of them had been taken over by hermit crabs. Like these very shy Land hermit crabs (Coenobita sp.).
I saw several floating mangrove tree propagules, and one had already taken root! Soon mangroves on this shore? Wow!
What is certainly abundant on this shore, however, are sandflies. They are truly the bane of our shores and seem particularly plentiful on Tanah Merah. We all have our own quirky ways of dealing with this scrouge. But this is the first time I've seen someone drape a towel over his ears to protect everything between the ears and the shirt collar.
Chay Hoon takes a bite for documentation and James has a photo of a sandfly on his blog. Here's more about sandflies and some of my experiences with them on our shores.

Tomorrow, ONE more sand fly exposure outing on this magnificent shore.

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