14 July 2010

Sharing Cyrene with JTC

Today we are at Cyrene with a very sporting team from JTC.
Wow, they really put up a great group shot!

Linda was supposed to join us but was unwell. Nevertheless she came to send us off as we left before dawn! With lots of maps and photos to brief them about Cyrene. I hope she's feeling better now and we sure missed her on Cyrene.
We land under a stream of huge clouds, which Chay Hoon points out are the dreaded Sumatras. Indeed, later I learnt that it was raining on the mainland.
But on Cyrene, we had a rain-free day and the huge clouds kept the day cool!
We begin by exploring the reef edge nearest Jurong Island. There are lots of very large and very old coral colonies here. Although many of them were bleaching. We shared more about the bleaching, which are also detailed on the Bleach Watch Singapore blog.
Chay Hoon found and Ivan explained Mei Lin's Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) at Cyrene. In our many travels with Mei Lin for her project, we have found many giant clams on our shores, including the smaller Burrowing giant clam (Tridacna crocea).
Later on, I also came across a half shell of another kind of giant clam, Hippopus hippopus. So far, we have not seen any live animals of this kind of giant clam, although we have found many empty shells on some of our submerged reefs, including several on Cyrene.
We also have a look at the huge trench dug out by a boat which ran aground on the reef. It looks like an old strike. Although Cyrene lies in the middle of the "industrial triangle" it has magnificent seagrass meadows, wonderful reefs and amazing marine life!
Ivan shared about crab moulting, Sijie found a worm eel (Muraenichthys sp.). We saw a Carpet eel-blenny (Congrogadus subducens), lots of Hairy crabs (Family Pilumnidae), swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) and Red egg crabs (Atergatis integerrimus) and a Mosaic crab (Lophozozymus pictor) and there were lots of little snapping shrimps (Family Alpheidae) everywhere.

Sadly, as we explored the reef, we found fish traps. The fish traps are huge! It was fortunate that we had so many hands today to help deal with the fish traps.
We release the fishes found in the fish traps.
As we cleared each fish trap, we saw another one further away.
And yet MORE fish traps. Altogether, we saw 7 fish traps.
Inside the traps, we found all kinds of fishes. There were many Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma), White-spotted rabbitfishes (Siganus canaliculatus) and a colourful tuskfish. Also a Streaked rabbitfishes (Siganus javus) and Oriental sole (Brachirus orientalis).
After checking out the reefs, we head out across the lush seagrass meadows. Here, there are all kinds of other interesting animals.
Shu Yen has found a nudibranch! It is Discodoris boholiensis. When submerged in water, its frilly gills emerge on its back. 'Nudibranch' means 'naked gills'.
Sijie also shares about sand collars. These intriguing coils of sand are the egg mass of moon snails.
We then cross the sand bar which was full of Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) as well as Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). We saw this Common sea star with seven arms! Most of these sea stars usually have five arms.
On the other side of the sand bar were lots and lots of huge Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus), which are endangered in Singapore. Indeed, Cyrene has perhaps the largest Knobbly sea star population in Singapore. But it is the tiny baby Knobblies that are particularly special.
While one or two juvenile Knobblies may be seen on some of our other shores, on Cyrene we often see many. This shows that the Knobblies on Cyrene are breeding well. Indeed, Cyrene may be the only sustainable population of knobbly seastars left in Singapore today.
Alas, like other sea stars, Knobblies can lose their arms. This can happen when something chews on the arm or when they are stressed. Although new arms can grow back, this takes time. Meanwhile the sea star is handicapped. This is why we should be gentle with all sea stars.
Chay Hoon found a baby Cushion star (Culcita noveaguineae) and explains about it amongst the Knobblies on the shore facing the container terminal.
Sijie also found a White sea urchin (Salmacis sp.), there were lots of Black long sea cucumbers (Holothuria leucospilota), Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) and some Synaptid sea cucumbers (Family Synaptidae). We also saw many peacock anemones (Order Ceriantharia) and Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni). Other animals seen included the Giant top shell snail (Trochus niloticus) which is only found on good reefs, we had a glimpse of a False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) in a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea).

Indeed, we often consider Cyrene as the Chek Jawa of the South since, unlike our other Southern shores, many animals associated with Chek Jawa are found here.

We hope our new friends at JTC enjoyed their trip and are delighted to hear that they will share what they saw with their other colleagues.

Thanks to Shu Yen for getting his colleagues to come and for their kind contribution to the boat fare. And Wei Ling for putting the trip together. Of course to Alex and Jumari of Summit Marine for not only bringing us on the tricky trip to Cyrene but also arranging the second boat.

And the trip would not have been as exciting without the many delightful animals found and stories shared by the guides: Chay Hoon, Ivan, Sijie, Sam and Annabelle. It was especially nice to have Sijie and Annabelle back on Cyrene. Sijie and Chee Kong are from the Star Trackers who have done studies on the Knobblies here. And Annabelle helped run the effort for Cyrene while she was studying in America!

More about Cyrene on the Cyrene Reef Exposed blog and facebook page.

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