09 October 2009

Stars, 'shrooms and other surprises at Tanah Merah

Teeming with stars! That's what we saw on some stretches of Tanah Merah last night.
Many larger ones were 'stacked' in mating position, but there were also lots of smaller Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) from 5cm in diameter with arms and above. For me, this is quite an unusual sight!

We also saw a tiny feather star (Order Crinoidea)!
And James found a tiny sea star that we're not sure of the ID. It would be great to see the same variety of echinoderms on Tanah Merah that we do at Changi and Chek Jawa! Perhaps it takes a little more time.

I have no idea why I keep seeing the Saron shrimp (Family Hippolytidae). I saw another one again. This one was very well camouflaged in brown.
But it kept very still (instead of slinking away after the first shot). So I could sneak up for a closer photo. It has delicate black-and-white spotted patterns on its hairy front legs and other bristley stuff sticking out of its head. Wow.
Tanah Merah is also a great place to see the Spotted hermit crab (Dardanus sp.) with a bright red body and white spots. James found this one. Its shell is crammed on the inside with Slipper snails (Crepidula sp.). These free-loading snails settle down inside shells occupied by a hermit crab, where they get free 'air-conditioning' and crabby leftovers.
There are lots of Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus) on this shore in all sizes, as well as many different kinds of Swimming crabs (Family Portunidae), and many busy Ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) scuttling about when it got dark. Earlier, while it was still light, the Sand bubbler crabs (Scopimera sp.) were busy on the high shore but I didn't want to feed the sand flies to take photos of them.

There were some hard corals on this side of the seawall (there's probably a lot more on the other side). They were mostly looking quite healthy.
A special coral encounter was this rather large circular mushroom coral (Family Fungidae) that was still attached to the rock! Eventually, as adults, these solitary corals live freely, unattached to the sea bottom. Imagine Tanah Merah full of these pretty corals on the sandy bottom!
Anemones are not very common on this shore. I saw several Frilly anemones (Phymanthus sp.) including one that had settled in a hole inside a rock! There were also a few Peachia anemones (Peachia sp.) which have few short, smooth tentacles.
There was also one small Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) in the middle of the seagrassy area. And it had a pair of anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)!
Speaking of seagrasses, I noticed the clump of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and small patch of Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) were still there. But the Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) were really doing well and seemed to have taken up more space. Perhaps one day, TeamSeagrass can do this site too!

There were some clumps of seaweeds, but not in overwhelming quantities. And these provide shelter and food for tiny animals. Like the countless Creeper snails (Family Cerithiidae) and tiny intricately marked Dubious nerites (Clithon oualaniensis) that carpeted the entire shore.
Also seen among the seaweeds were several well camouflaged Ornate leaf slugs (Elysia ornata). But I didn't see any sea hares, even though there seemed to be an abundance of food that they might eat. Perhaps they are still small and hiding somewhere (I've never seen a sea hare that is smaller than adult size. Where do they hide before they get to that size? I have no idea!).
Seaweeds like this felty Fan seaweed (Avrainvillea sp.) often have tiny slugs on them. Whenever Chay Hoon is not around, for some unknown reason, I seem to channel her. And I found several of these really miniature slugs. I have no idea what they are.
A special snail that is always heartening to encounter is the Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica). This is the first time I've seen one with its mantle covering a part of its shell!
Another special snail is the Dolphin snail (Angaria delphinus). Some patient waiting and I got to see a little bit of the handsome animal. A first time for me!
Here is it crawling about. This snail is very well camouflaged!
Stephen was keen to photograph more squid. As soon as it got dark, they came out to play!I saw several that were a dark red or maroon. When surprised, it folds up its arms in two sets.
It can also rapidly change colours to a pale shade. It might be some kind of pencil squid (Family Loliginidae).
However, here's the most interesting slug we saw. Before we even got to the shore. It was a land slug on land grass!
I also had lots of fishy encounters! So many that it's in a separate post.

Sunset was a bit of a power failure. But it was a cool, clear evening with lots of interesting finds and great company as usual.
I'll be back on this shore again later this evening! Wonder what we will see?!

Other posts about this trip

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