22 October 2009

Biscuits and bugs at Changi

Back to another part of Changi that we seldom visit.
And today, it's full of stars!

These large Biscuit stars (Goniodiscaster scaber) were plentiful at a small rocky stretch. And James also saw a small Luidia sand star (Luidia sp.) that we rarely see, as well as other amazing echinoderms.

I saw a few of the the brightly coloured Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis).
And alas, one Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.) that looked like it had been cut up. Sigh.
Today, the lush seagrass meadows on this very soft silty shore was dotted with bunches of red feathery seaweed. In some places, the red seaweed formed large patches. While the seaweed looks like something seahares might eat, we didn't see any on the trip.
But there were lots of other critters. Such as the pretty peacock anemones (Order Ceriantharia). These burrowing animals are usually abundant on soft silty ground. They come in orange, green and other shades and colours. Hence their common name.
The moon snail is a burrowing predator that cruises just under soft sand and silt, hunting buried prey. It has a huge foot for digging in as well as to envelope its hapless prey in a Hug of Death. This one is a Tiger moon snail (Natica tigrina) with a lovely spotted shell.
Other burrowing creatures include the busy snapping shrimps (Family Alpheidae) who work incessantly to improve their tunnels. The shrimp has an enlarged pincer that can make a very loud click, and doubles up as a bulldozer. The snaps of these shrimps became more widespread as the sun set and it got dark.
Also emerging after dark were the octopuses. James spotted this one! These octopuses which are small and generally have a smooth head I seem to see only on the northern shores, usually among seagrasses.
In the rockier areas there's lots of marine life too. In some parts, all kinds of sponges coat the rocks. The brown slimy stuff that looks like melted chocolate is also a type of sponge. While the bright orange thing is a Thorny sea cucumber.
There are larger patches of zoanthids as well (Order Zoanthidea). These little animals tuck their tentacles into the body column when exposed at low tide and resemble tiny blobs or sausages.
There's even tiny patches of hard corals. Some form neat hexagonal corallites, while the green and brown one is the Zebra coral (Oulastrea crispata) which is probably the most widespread hard coral in Singapore, although they don't make large colonies.
And there were also tiny corallites of what might be Cave corals (Tubastrea sp.) in dark corners of the rocky shore. Tiny transparent shrimps are everywhere but almost impossible to see.
I also saw some of these orange blobs that might be some kind of anemone. Possibly the kind with ball-tipped tentacles? James also found some really tiny anemones growing on the seagrass blades! Wow!
The tide wasn't very low but still we could see the tippy tips of the sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) that I have seen previously in the rocky area. So they seem to be fine. Kok Sheng had a closer look at them at a very low tide and shared these gorgeous photos of them.
There was, sadly, one uprooted sea fan on the higher shore. It has gnarly branches but didn't have any animals living on it.
Eugene and I came across a Mangrove whipray (Himantura walga) in a shallow pool. It was still alive and breathing weakly. We realised that it was stuck to a hook and line. Poor thing. Eugene got rid of the line, which was a tricky job as the fish was still vigorous enough to try to sting him.
There were a lot of people out on the shore. Before sunset, there were some foraging among the rocks, one with a small bucket digging up possibly clams.
On the seagrasses were a bunch of enthusiastic kids with an adult carrying a big bucket.
And way out in the distance on the shallow shore, a group of determined guys cast netting even in the face of huge waves caused by the passing bumboats.
It was a lovely sunset, after which most of the people left the shore. The cast-netting guys only quit at the same time we did, when the tide came in. While the line fishermen started their work at sunset.
This shore is affected by regular dredging of Changi Creek to keep it passable for shipping traffic. It is also affected by 'beach improvement' when sand is dumped on top of everything. Which seems odd to me, as swimming is not allowed at this beach.
On dry land, Michell pointed out some bugs guarding eggs on a bush. I saw 8 of these bugs, spaced apart, each guarding a bunch of neat, shiny eggs.
And here's a bunch of what looks like recently hatched buglets, all bright-eyed and bushy-antennaed. With a proud parent nearby.
Even well used shores can harbour interesting wildlife!

One more trip tonight!

Other posts about this trip

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