08 September 2010

Return to a Changi underwater garden

The second last morning spring tide of the year, and Kok Sheng and I head out to check out the underwater garden at Changi at 4am.
The shores here are full of colourful animals. Purple branching sponges (Callyspongia sp.) and a huge pink flowery soft coral (Family Nephtheidae)! The water is surprisingly clear today, for Changi.

Today I noticed very many flowery sea pens (Family Veretillidae) on the shore, in all kinds of colours from white, maroon to flourescent orange. But perhaps they have been here all along and the water was too murky for us to see them.
A first for me on this shore, several Ball flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae). There are commonly seen on 'exotic' shores like Beting Bronok.
Kok Sheng came to see the sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) here and he got lots of good photos of them and the tiny little brittlestars that live on them. The only good shot of a sea fan that I got was of this handsome dark red Gnarled sea fan. When I got home I saw that there was a tiny transparent shrimp among the flower-like polyps of this colony.
Dark crevices under rocks teem with colourful animals. These are what I think are Knobbly sea fans. Everywhere on the shore, there were so many Zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata) that I joked that it seemed to be Africa. Lame joke.
Many fluffy and colourful things that resemble plants are actually animals. This is a kind of fluffy hydroid (Order Hydrozoa) that we often see on our Northern rocky shores. The polyps look like miniscule daisies with fine, almost transparent tentacles.
This white hydroid packs a powerful sting. It's like being hit by a jolt of electricity. This is why we always cover all skin on our trips and try not to put our hands into the water as the colony is virtually invisible especially in murky water. Today, I noticed fine coils in the 'fronds' of one colony. Eggs perhaps of some creature that eats them?
Unlike on previous trips, I didn't see any zoanthids (Order Zoanthidea) today.

The fallen masonry on the shores are encrusted in all manner of colourful sponges and other animals. Usually we find lots of nudibranchs here. But Chay Hoon is not feeling well and couldn't join us. So we didn't find a single nudi today. But we did see several of the little Blue spotted flatworms (cf Pseudoceros indicus).
Kok Sheng finds lots of feather stars (Order Crinodea)! He's more adventurous and it was nice of him to bring this one back closer to safety for lame old me to take a quick shot.
Among the other echinoderms seen were many skinny worm-like purple Synaptid sea cucumbers (Family Synaptidae) wrapped around sponges, a small Thorny sea urchin (Prionocidaris sp.) hidden among abandoned ropes and one Crown sea star (Asterina coronota).
There are also all kinds of crabs busy on the shore Here, there are two kinds of swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) and a Stone crab (Myomenippe hardwickii) half hidden in a hole.
I'm always amused by these delightful banded hermit crabs. We still have yet to find out their exact identity even though they are fairly common.
Today the high shore was teeming with tiny little shore crickets. It was only after I got home to process the photos that I realised these creatures have antennae several times longer than their body!
There are lots and lots and LOTS of gobies (Family Gobiidae) on this shore!
Here's some of the different kinds that I saw, including a little mudskipper (bottom right corner).
It's nice to see some fishes that I usually only see in 'reefy' areas. Like this young Three spot damselfish (Pomacentrus tripunctatus).
Wow, we see the Estuarine moray eel (Gynothorax tile)! I only got this one complete shot of it before it wriggled away among the rocks. It obliged Kok Sheng with a glimpse of its snout of out its hidey hole.
Among the other interesting fishes I saw was a False scorpionfish (Centrogenys vaigiensis) and several pretty Chequered cardinalfishes (Apogon margaritophorus).
An octopus was crawling on the dry shore! It moved quite rapidly to get into the water, whereupon it changed its colour and pattern to match its surroundings perfectly.
Here's a strange pink blob on a stick. Kok Sheng saw a huge spread of pink stuff encrusting a fallen pillar. We have no idea what they are.
Another odd thing I observed for the first time, these regular 'holes' in the Melted chocolate sponge (Spheciospongia cf. vagabunda) that liberally coat the rocks here. The white holes have bright orange centres. I have no idea what is going on.
There is a patch of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) on very VERY soft ground nearby. They seem somewhat alright although a bit sparse to me. I couldn't get much closer without sinking up to my eyeballs and it wasn't possible to take a landscape shot in the dark.
Today, the shore was littered with little red 'berries'. I think these are the fallen figs from the gianormous tree on the shore. From a check on the awesome Significant trees and shrubs at Changi compiled by Joseph Lai and friends on habitatnews, I think it's the Johor fig (Ficus kerkhovenii). From Angie Ng's "A guide to the fabulous figs of Singapore", the Johor fig is rare and is identified by the dark glossy green leaf with creamy white midrib and side veins.
There is a small tree growing on a huge rock, and it seems to be the same as the big fig. Wow!
Alas, a fish trap was freshly laid right in the middle of this underwater garden. Sigh.
It was heartbreaking to see abandoned fishing lines and nets that have become entwined with living sponges.
I'm getting quite tired of this thoughtless damage to the shore. Today, I decided to attempt to remove the large abandoned drifnet that I saw here on our most recent trip. The net is hopelessly entangled with all kinds of other debris, as well as single fishing lines. There were also two abandoned fish traps in the same area. Fortunately, I didn't come across any animals caught in the nets.
There was a huge bunch of nets wrapped around a pillar. My bootie is at the bottom edge of the photo for scale. It took me quite a while to unwind and pack the net up.
Fortunately, Kok Sheng was there to help haul out all the nets and traps. Even though he had an injured hand, he removed the heaviest bag. Thank you Kok Sheng! Sadly, we couldn't take everything out and had to leave much behind for another effort another time.

While we were on this shore, the rest of the team were visiting another stretch of Changi and saw awesome stuff like a baby Knobbly sea star, pink sand dollars and other marinelife on a more seagrassy habitat.

Other posts about trips today
  • Kok Sheng with lots of seafan and other beautiful marine creatures.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team were exploring another stretch of Changi and shared these posts


  1. WoW! Did not realise that Changi has so many underwater creatures in them! Tempted to go there to take a look but i live in the west...

  2. Glad I was able to share Changi with you, singleinsg! I live out in the north, but I feel our amazing shores are worth the trip!



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