07 May 2011

Cyrene Safari with volunteer guides

What a glorious morning at Cyrene! Today, with nature guides and staff from Sungei Buloh and Chek Jawa, and friends.
Safe and sound, but not very dry, at dawn on Cyrene.
We saw lots of interesting marine life, including some I've never seen before!

As usual, we are greeted by lots of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) when we arrive! What is special about the Knobblies on Cyrene is that we find many small ones here. According to the Star Trackers, Cyrene probably has the largest population of these Endangered sea stars, and the only one with a viable, reproducing population of these magnificent sea stars. An indeed, later in our trip, we did see many baby knobblies!
Sand bars are one of the fascinating habitats on Cyrene. Here, Vladimir found this, my favourite find of the day. It's a moon snail (Family Naticidae) that I've never seen before. Mei Lin did see something similar on Cyrene in Aug 10. I'm not sure what it is, but it sure is pretty!
Thanks to Chay Hoon we also saw an Olive snail (Family Olividae), the Pink moon snail (Natica zonalis). And we also saw many Oval moon snails (Polinices mammila) and sand collars. We also saw plenty of Fan shells (Family Pinnidae)! In the sandy areas, we also saw lots of Sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) and Common sea stars (Archaster typicus).

Cyrene also has great seagrass meadows! Among the interesting animals we noticed was an explosion of tiny Swimming anemones (Boloceroides mcmurrichi)! I've seen this too before, at Chek Jawa in Oct 2010. In many ways, Cyrene is like the Chek Jawa of the South.
There are many kinds of sea anemones on Cyrene. The Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) and Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) I know are homes to anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis). Today, Chay Hoon pointed out that there were anemone shrimps in the Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis) too! The first time I've seen this.
I saw this strange anemone. I'm not sure what it is. I'm really looking forward to resuming the Anemone Hunt when Dr Daphne Fautin, the world expert on sea anemones, returns to Singapore in June. Hopefully, we can bring her to Cyrene again to have a look at the strange anemones we have been finding there.
Wow, a Very long ribbon worm (Baseodiscus delineatus) is spotted! Although this worm wears pajamas, it is a fierce predator!
Many of us saw these long worm-like animals which are actually sea cucumbers! These large Synaptid sea cucumbers (Family Synaptidae) are seasonally common in our seagrass meadows. We also saw some Black long sea cucumbers (Holothuria leucospilota) and a Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra).
Chay Hoon found several tiny Lovenia heart urchins (Lovenia sp.)! So far, Cyrene is the shore where I've seen this strange burrowing urchin most often.
We are very careful to watch our step to avoid killing marine life such as these White sea urchin (Salmacis sp.) which have the habit of 'carrying' bits and pieces and are thus very well camouflaged. They carry all kinds of things from living zoanthids, to dead shells and even bits of seagrasses and seaweeds. I first noticed them coming into season on Cyrene in March.
Chay Hoon found this strange black flatworm that doesn't look familiar to me. She also explained how flatworms are hermaphrodites -- each animal having both male and female parts. Since it's no fun being stuck laying eggs, she explains, in some flatworm species, there is 'penis-fencing'. Here's Kok Sheng's awesome video of this gruesome duel. Today we also saw many different kinds of sap-sucking slugs (Order Sacoglossa) that are also solar powered.
Wow, Teck Hui has spotted a pair of special slugs! They are huge slugs! Chay Hoon shares that they are sidegill slugs (Pleurobranchus forskalii). They are not nudibranchs. I don't often see these slugs!
Here's a closer look at the slugs!
Teck Hui also pointed out some egg ribbons nearby. Did these slugs lay these egg ribbons? As the slugs are hermaphrodites, did each lay one ribbon? So much more to learn about our marine life!
Our youngest participant has sharp eyes! He has found an octopus in broad daylight. Even after he pointed it out, I had trouble seeing the entire animal!
He also found a recently dead sand diver (Family Trichonotidae). This is the second time we saw this fish just as we were about to depart!
Chay Hoon found this tiny little shrimp that is so well camouflaged in the seagrasses. When I got home to look at the photos, I realised it was a mama shrimp that was carrying eggs under her belly! We also saw a lot of swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) and some other interesting shrimps.
We had a chance to briefly explore the coral reefs here as the tide hit minimum later in the morning. Here, we encounter huge hard corals! The water was clear and calm! In the shallow water, I noticed many Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma) zooming away from us.
I'm glad to see that the Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) on Cyrene seem to have recovered from bleaching. I also saw many healthy Asparagus flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae).
In the background is the huge dredger that we saw working very close to Cyrene when we arrived. At daybreak, it moved nearer to Jurong Island (with the red-and-white towers). Dredging is now ongoing very close to Cyrene Reef.

On the other side of the "Industrial Triangle" are the massive industrial installations of Pulau Bukom, with large ships passing through the major shipping channels that skirt Cyrene. The third side of the Triangle is formed by the world-class container terminals at Pasir Panjang. Isn't it amazing that such a great reef can continue to exist in the middle of this Triangle?!
The reefs on Cyrene seem to be recovering well from coral bleaching that hit Cyrene and many of our shores in 2010. More about coral bleaching on Bleach Watch Singapore. Today, I saw a wide variety of unbleached hard corals. Although the Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) I saw seemed rather pale and yellowish. It was good to see a healthy Cauliflower coral as these were badly affected by bleaching. The most common hard coral here were Favid corals (Family Faviidae).
There are plans to reclaim the portion of Jurong Island near Cyrene Reef and massive reclamation is ongoing at nearby Pasir Panjang for a new container terminal. Hopefully, these will not affect Cyrene too badly.

As usual, we arrived safely with the kind support of Francis, Melvin and the crew of the Dolphin. Here we are making landfall at dawn.
Like good Singaporeans, we automatically form a queue behind the ladder as we get ready to leave Cyrene! We see quite a few Ribbon jellyfish (Chrysaora sp.) in the water, so it's a good thing we were all wearing long pants to avoid being painfully stung by them.
It was great to be able to share this wonderful reef today.Thank you to all those who made the time to come. And for finding so many special creatures and making this such an enjoyable trip! And special thanks to Chay Hoon for guiding on the trip, and as usual, amazing us with her incredible finds of tiny creatures!

More about Cyrene Reef!

Other posts about this trip
  • Tony shares on his blog more photos and video clips!

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