17 June 2011

The Sea Anemone Workshop 2011: Day 3

Dr Daphne leads the Workshop on another predawn field trip!
This time minus the wet weather, under a full moon in clear skies! We found lots of sea anemones, including some Dr Daphne has not seen before in Singapore. Wow! Plus a narrow escape from stepping on a stonefish!

Although it was still dark, there was plenty to see on the rich reefs of Sisters Island. In fact, our reefs are usually more active in the dark and the best time to visit them is predawn!
Nicholas finds a Bubble tip anemone (Entacmea quadricolor)!
Andy finds a pair of Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) near one another. Dr Daphne tells us more about this fascinating animal. See how its tentacles constantly quiver in the water? she points out.
AHA! Chay Hoon finds this anemone that we had seen (and lost) at our earlier trip to Cyrene. This time, with the support of so many people, we managed to get a closer look at it! It's still unknown as Dr Daphne has to take some time to look at it.
Someone also found this unidentified anemone that we have been seeing elsewhere on our shores. It's awesome that on every field trip, we keep finding anemones that Dr Daphne hasn't seen in Singapore before! Wow!
In no time, it's sunrise and we are still hard at work! We head out to the big lagoon to check out the anemones there.
Abundant on this shore are Peachia anemones (Peachia sp.). There was also a Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni).
Super abundant on the low shores are Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.). The ones with smooth tentacles are particularly intriguing. We also see several Wiggly star reef anemones.
These are NOT sea anemones. They are corallimorphs. There's lots of these on Sisters Island.
As usual, there are distractions. Like this pretty fish trapped in a pool.
We saw TWO Very long ribbon worms (Baseodiscus delineatus), as well as some different kinds of flatworms. Also some common nudibranchs. I had no time to look at the corals, but those I saw seem unbleached.
Also common on this shore are octopuses!
Wah, just as I was warning everyone to watch out for stonefish, Andy finds a Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida)! It is very well camouflaged! Thank goodness no one stepped on it.
There were also Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma) in the water! Fortunately, no one got hurt on this trip.
The amazing reefs of Sisters Island lie just off the main business district on mainland Singapore! Here Dr Daphne is pointing out a Giant carpet anemone with a 'Nemo' in it.
Andy points out the 'Nemo' in the anemone. The anemone also had some anemone shrimps!
After the field trip, it's time to learn more from Dr Daphne about sea anemones. Today, she shares more about nematocysts, which are the stinging structures found in sea anemones, as well as other cnidarians. These tiny structurs are found INSIDE the cell and are truly awesome in many ways.
Because sea anemones have no skeletons, and nematocysts are among the few hard bits that can be found in preserved anemones, nematocysts are one (and NOT the only) feature used to identify sea anemones. The trouble is nematocysts are very very VERY tiny. Even Chay Hoon can't see them with her naked eye! We need a fancy microscope to see them well.
Also, there are many many different kinds of nematocysts, and they have terrifyingly long names that hurts the brain to think about. But Dr Daphne explains it all very clearly making them a little less intimidating.
Each kind of sea anemone may have different kinds of nematocysts on different parts of the body, with probably different functions. People generally are familiar with nematocysts that sting and hurt. But sea anemones not only have nematocysts with toxins that are used for prey capture or defence. They also have nematocysts that are used to digest food.
Of course, she shared lots more than what I could cover in this short post. We left after her lecture, while the rest of the workshop participants went on to look at the nematocysts in the lab. I'm sure they continued to have lots of fun and learn more about sea anemones.

See also James' blog entry with more about the workshop, encounters with a cushion star and sundial snail.

Tomorrow, we rejoin the Workshop in the field to explore the mangroves! It promises to be squishy and muddy and messy! And who knows what anemones we might find there!

Do try to catch Dr Daphne's "Sea Anemone Lecture"on 21 Jun (Tue) 7pm. It's free and all are welcome to attend. She will speak on "Hidden treasures of biodiversity: flowers of the marine world (sea anemones)"

The Sea Anemone Workshop is jointly organised by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and the Tropical Marine Science Institute in conjunction with the National Parks Board, National Biodiversity Centre and their Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey of Singapore.


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