22 August 2009

A quick look at Little Sisters

'Nemo's are always a delight to encounter!
And this morning, we saw three of these lively fishes in one anemone on Little Sisters Island!

The Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) was all 'fluffed up' in a pool of water. Which was CLEAR for a change. There was a constant flow of water and even the wriggly False clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion ocellaris) didn't muck up the water as they usually do. So I managed to finally get a sort of complete photo of one of these fishes.
Our clown anemonefish is called the False clown anemonefish, to distinguish it from another closely related fish called the Clown anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) which lacks the black bands on the top edge of the dorsal fin. The natural distribution of these two species of anemonefishes do NOT overlap. The fish in 'Nemo' is Amphiprion percula and not our clown anemonefish.

BUT this photo was not taken easily. There were lots of annoying little silvery blue Tropical silversides (Atherinomorus duodecimalis) everywhere! They got in the way as I tried to take a picture of the clown anemonefishes. Or spoiled the photo by making water ripples. Go away already pesky fishies!
So I must say I wasn't very sorry to see one of the silversides get into trouble. I was trying to photograph this nice leathery soft coral . . .
When a little Carpet eelbleeny (Congrogadus subducens) shot out from among the 'branches' of the soft coral and chomped on one of the silversides! Hah!
Another animal that got into a sticky situation was this little Marine spider (Desis martensi). It seems to have gotten stuck on the tentacles of the Giant sea anemone. These spiders 'walk' on the water surface. So if the spider is careful not to break the surface tension, it might just very well escape.
There were a lot of seaweeds today! All kinds and colours. They are quite pretty but made it a bit hard to look for stuff. And scary to walk. Who knows if there was a stonefish hiding under all that.
And indeed, there was this Feathery filefish (Chaetodermis penicilligerus) which is hard to distinguish from the equally fluffy seaweeds when seen from above. Fortunately this fish is totally harmless.
It looks more fish-like when seen from the side.
Other fishes seen included halfbeaks and small gobies of various kinds. While Liana saw some strange fishes which we have yet to figure out. Hopefully Ivan can help sort these out.

There were also lots of Reef octopuses hidden among all the seaweeds. And they are quite well camouflaged. Can you see this one?
An octopus can rapidly change not only its colours but also body texture to match its surroundings! This one is a little easier to spot. It changed colours just as it made an instant getaway.
Even on the rocks, octopuses can be perfectly camouflaged.
Other molluscs seen include the tiny Pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.). The team also found an Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica) and a special coral-dwelling drill. The sandy shores had moon snails as well as various whelks. Alas, aside from one Jorunna funebris, we didn't see any other slugs.

Little Sisters doesn't have as wide a variety of hard corals as Big Sisters. There were, however, lots of Blue corals (Heliopora coerulea). These are actually brown and lumpy and not actually grouped with true hard corals! In the photo below, the blue-coloured coral in the middle of Heliopora coerulea is probably a Favid coral (Family Faviidae). On the shores facing Big Sisters, there were better growths of hard corals. With colourful colonies of some common ones: top left Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.), the other three are probably Favid corals (Family Faviidae).
There were some large encrusting Montipora hard corals (Montipora sp.). These have really small polyps; see the tiny flower-like things among the bumps?
I'm not sure what this encrusting hard coral is.
And there was one very small colony that might be Sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.).
There were also lots of colonial anemones or zoanthids of all kinds, while Carpet corallimorphs covered quite a large area. As well as some leathery soft corals and flowery soft corals of various kinds. In the sandy lagoon, I saw one Common peacock anemone.

Wow! How nice to see several different kinds of feather stars. I saw two red feather stars, while the rest of the team saw the bluish ones and more which look different from the ones we've seen before. Kok Sheng saw several large ones together at the reef crest! Visit his blog for more photos.
We also saw several Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) in the sandy lagoon! How nice. The only other echinoderm I saw was one Black long sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota).
While the rest saw a blue-lined flatworm, I only saw this black one with a delicate white and orange edge (Pseudobiceros uniarborensis).
The small lagoon had seagrasses too! A rather small bunch of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and sparse patches of Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis).
Today we had two researchers with us for the trip!

Ivan is back with us for his study on Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.). At first we couldn't find any, but soon managed to spot several. It was also nice to see that the Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis) is still where we saw it on our last trip here.
Other sea anemones seen included a Peachia anemone (Peachia sp.) in the sandy lagoon. While James saw a Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) with anemone shrimps in it.

Mei Lin aka Giant Clam Girl is Back! Of course, to check up on Giant clams. We head straight for the Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) on this shore but I had a hard time finding it. Finally Kok Sheng found it! This fascinating animal is listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of our threatened animals.
Oh dear, it looks like it's being buried. This is what it looked like when I saw it in Aug 08.
Giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)
Today is our last predawn spring low tide trip. And we savoured one of our last sunrise at low tide for the year (James has much nicer sunrise photos on his blog). Strangely enough, last year, our last predawn trip was also to Little Sisters!

Little Sister lies just opposite Big Sisters, and on the horizon is St. John's Island.
Little Sisters also has some stretches of natural rocky shores with sandy shores. Here with Big Sisters in the background.
And here's a view from Little Sisters's rocky shore: of Pulau Tekukor just infront, and Sentosa and the city skyline in the far horizon.
The short natural cliffs have lots of trees and plants growing on them. But I was too tired to document them properly today.
It is important to be aware of the tides when exploring areas outside the seawall. And to get back up to the island before the tide comes in.
It isn't easy to climb up the seawall. As I found out, to the great amusement of rather unsympathetic team members.

Little Sisters is really small. And here is a view of the smaller of the two lagoons.
Despite its diminutive size, it is home to some interesting marine life!

Well, that's the end of sleep deprivation for the year. There's two more dawn trips ahead of us. Then the spring tides will occur in the evenings for the rest of the year. Morning super lows don't return until the first quarter of next year.

Today is another busy day for the team with some members doing other shore work. Chay Hoon is diving with ReefFriends to do a reef survey. While Marcus and Andy are guiding at Pulau Semakau for the Semakau Anniversary book. We sure missed them today.

Other posts about this trip

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