31 July 2011

Curry puff crab on Terumbu Raya

We're back on Terumbu Raya, a submerged reef off Pulau Semakau. Where I encountered some marine creatures for the first time!
Doesn't this crab remind you of a curry puff? Or a chicken pie?

At first I thought the crab was just another brown Floral egg crab (Atergatis floridus). But then I took a closer look. It was quite docile when I gently took a photo of its underside. It has pretty chocolate claws.
Mystery crab no. 1
Another first time encounter for me was this tiny nudibranch. I have no idea what it is!
Mystery nudibranch no. 2
I saw the nudibranch on a very large Garlic bread sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra)! I'm not sure what it was doing there.
I also came across a hard coral I haven't seen outside of Raffles Lighthouse. I'm not really sure what it is.
Mystery hard coral no. 3
Today I decided to try to take a closer look at the funny little tubes often seen on the very common Chocolate sponge (Spheciospongia cf vagabunda). Hmm, they look like some kind of animal that lives in a tube and has a pair of tentacles sticking out. Another mystery creature!
Mystery animal no. 4
It was also nice to come across this creature that I haven't seen for a while: Dendrodoris tuberculosa. This large nudibranch reminds me of a rose garden with rosettes on its back. On the underside, it has spots on its broad foot.
Besides these special finds, there were plenty of familiar favourites on this amazing submerged reef.

It's easier to photograph fishes in the dark as they are less nervous. As soon as we landed, Kok Sheng found a tiny baby Kite butterflyfish (Parachaetodon ocellatus) . Later, I saw a larger one. I also came across a Diamond wrasse (Helichoeres dussumieri), a Mosaic dragonet (Callionymus enneactis), many small gobies (Family Gobiidae) and damselfishes (Family Pomacentridae) of various kinds.
As usual, there's Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma) on the shore, so we have to be careful where we step in the dark!
I almost missed this large but well camouflaged Fringe-eyed flathead (Cymbacephalus nematophthalmus)!
This little False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) was stranded at low tide a little distance from its host anemone, the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). I gave it a little nudge and it slipped back into some water under the anemone.
At night, the octopuses are more active. Here's one that instantly changed its body texture as I took photos of it.
I was trying to take a photo of another octopus and it inked!
There were many other kinds of crabs on the shore too, like the Spoon-pincer crab (Leptodius sp.), many colourful swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) and many busy Hairy crabs (Family Pilumnidae).
I saw a Long-spined black sea urchin (Diadema sp.). Russel saw one too!
I also saw the Blue-spotted flatworm (cf Pseudoceros indica) and the large Spotted black flatworm (Acanthozoon sp.).
Other nudibranchs seen were more common ones like Phyllidiela pustolosa and a nice Jorunna funebris.
There were also many colourful sponges on this shore.
I managed to get to a spot with lots of hard corals!
There were also lots of Circular mushroom corals (Family Fungidae)!
Here's some of the different kinds of mushroom corals I saw on the shore.
There were also other kinds of mushroom corals: Mole mushroom coral (Polyphyllia sp.), Tongue mushroom coral (Herpolitha sp.) and Bracket mushroom coral.
I also came across some special corals that I seldom see elsewhere: Trumpet coral (Caulastrea sp.) and Horn coral (Hydnophora sp.)
I saw some Carnation coral (Pectinia sp.) with their tentacles extended!
It was nice to see some healthy colonies of corals that were affected by coral bleaching last year: Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.), Sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) and Torch anchor coral (Euphyllia glaberescens).
I also saw many of the usual kinds of hard corals that I see on our other shores such as Brain corals (Family Mussidae), Favid corals (Family Faviidae), Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.), Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.), Galaxy corals (Galaxea sp.).
During my last visit here in March 2011, I checked out another richer portion of the shore. Today I didn't come across any Acropora corals (Acropora sp.), and the leathery soft corals that I saw were rather small.

We arrived well before sunrise, the lights of the petrochemical plant on Pulau Bukom blazing in the dark on one side of the submerged reef.
After a few hours of pleasant explorations in the dark, we enjoyed a glorious sunrise! Pulau Semakau is on the horizon. The tide turned soon after, and we had to leave.
We didn't see any abandoned driftnets or fish traps on the shore today. Hopefully, this beautiful reef will remain unharmed until we visit again.

Posts by others on this trip
  • Kok Sheng with cowfish, frogfish, nudis and MORE!
  • Russel on facebook with colourful corals, crabs, fishies.

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