07 April 2012

Fire anemone at Seringat-Kias

Today is the first predawn trip for 2012! And the team is all fired up! We love the morning trips, even though it means a 2am wake up call, because the tide is lower and the animals are livelier.
How appropriate then, to see a humungous Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.) at the artificial shores of Seringat-Kias

Seringat-Kias was created by reclaiming the submerged reefs of Seringat and Kias. One of the touted features on this island is the C-shaped 1km long artificial lagoon. Here's more about what was done to create Seringat-Kias. Marine life has settled in this artificial lagoon!
Our last trip here was in July 2011, how are the shores doing today? The seagrasses on the artificial sandy shore seems to be doing well! There were lots of tiny Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) as well as tiny Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.). Among the snails I saw was this pretty little China moon snail (Natica onca), with a seagrass blade stuck on its shell.
This Firebrand murex (Chicoreus torrefactus) seemed to be eating a Bazillion snails (Batillaria zonalis). There were indeed lots of Bazillion snails as well as Dubious nerites (Clithon oulaneinsis).
There's lots of fishes too! At first I thought it was just a bit of leaf floating in the water. But a closer look and it's the Brown sweetlips (Plectorinchus gibbosus). Juveniles drift with the moving water mimicking floating leaves and flotsam, sometimes even tilting sideways to appear more leaf-like.
There were lots of little Striped eeltail catfishes (Plotosus lineatus).
There were also other interesting fishes such as the Spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus), two small Yellow-eyed pufferfishes (Arothron immaculatus) and a tiny Cresent perch (Terapon jarbua).
On the upper shore, there were plenty of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). Many were in 'mating position'. Their reproductive organs do not actually meet. Sperm is merely released by the male when the female releases her eggs, for external fertilisation.
There were lots of Spotted moon crabs (Asthoret lunaris), many Ghost crabs (Ocypode cerathophthalmus), one Hairy sea hare (Bursatella leachii) and many Peachia sea anemones (Peachia sp.).
I saw lots of blobs dotting the seagrasses and sandy areas near the low water mark.
At first I thought they were jellyfishes, then I took a closer look. They are attached to the ground and have lots of tiny dots. Some kind of egg mass? Wow, I wonder what will hatch out?
I saw several skeletons of the rare Laganum sand dollar (Laganum depressum) but didn't see any live ones. I also didn't see any living Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta).

I then left Seringat-Kias and headed out for the natural shores of Lazarus Island. There's beautiful coastal forests, rocky shores, sandy shores and a bit of a reef on this island. How nice to see a Spider conch (Lambis lambis) on this natural rocky shore.
The rocky shore was busy with Red-eyed reef crabs (Eriphia ferox), piles of Lightning dove snails (Pictocolumbella ocellata) and dotted with Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.).
I saw one Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) with a very very small anemone shrimp! I didn't manage to see any Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea).
The most abundant animal I saw were Long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota). When out of water, they squish up into blobs. They generally hide under rocks and stones. The one on the left photo had produced little balls of 'processed sand', a polite word for poop!
One of the delights of exploring rocky shores is to come across a rock pool. Here's one tiny pool crammed with a pair of fanworms and carpet of zoanthids.
I didn't manage to see many large hard corals, but in a small rock pool I saw many small hard corals (mostly Favid corals, Family Faviidae), various kinds of zoanthids and sponges.
I  had a brief look at the submerged parts before the water murked up as the tide turned. There were prawns, and lots of little fishes.
All too soon, it was sunrise. Which meant that the tide was turning and it was time to go home. Here's a huge cruise ship passing Kusu Island which lies just opposite Lazarus Island.
As I head back, here's a look at Kusu Island, with the artificial shore of Seringat-Kias on the left, and in the distance, the main business district! Some of our marvelous shores are very close by!
On the sandy shore, a gathering of odd snails. Aha, they are occupied by tiny land hermit crabs (Coenobita sp.)! Hermit crabs need empty shells to protect their soft butts. Don't take empty shells home. A hermit crab's life may depend on it!
On the way back, in daylight, I check up on the Lazarus coastal forest. I saw the large Brown-scurfy fig (Ficus consociata) with pretty orange figs that I saw in Feb 2011. It seems to be doing very well, although there were many trees that had fallen over all along the coastal forest. I hope this tree clings on!
The Sea almond (Terminalia catappa) trees were blooming furiously, and hanging low so I could take some good photos of the flowers! Joseph Lai did a fantastic job of documenting the flora of Lazarus Island in Dec 06. Joe notes that "Lazarus has the rare distinction for being home to possibly the last surviving Sindora wallichii tree [of the Changi Tree fame] found in the Southern Islands of Singapore today."
Here's a look at the natural rocky shores of Lazarus as I head back for the artificial seawalls of Seringat-Kias.
When I got back to the lagoon, the tide had turned, covering up all the seagrasses and marine life there. But a family was busy exploring the high shore.
Back to the lovely pontoon on Seringat-Kias. In the background is St. John's Island (which we will visit tomorrow morning) and further behind on the horizon are the Sisters Islands. Singapore has amazing shores, all close by and easy to get to. You just have to get  up very early in the morning!
I met  up with the rest of the team to learn that Kok Sheng had found a lobster, lots of large sea urchins and other amazing marine life. The team had explored the opposite sides of Seringat Kias and Lazarus than I did. Kok Sheng also found a Pink spotted bead anemone (Anthopleura buddemeieri)! Our first record of it on Lazarus Island. He also found a Cryptic sea star (Cryptasterina sp.) which he first noticed during our Jul 2011 trip. Also magnificent sea anemones with 'Nemos' and more: read all about it on his blog. Chay Hoon of course finds all kinds of slugs and snails! Russel found an Arabian cowrie!
While we wait for our boat to pick us up, everyone (except me) took photos of the amazing marine life growing on the pontoon at Seringat-Kias. Here's one of Kok Sheng's photos of this submerged wonderland.
Photo by Loh Kok Sheng.
There's so much more to discover on our shores!

Chay Hoon has reminded me that the annual coral spawning season is upon  us. Any day soon, we expect our hard corals to release eggs and sperm at the same time. This usually happens on the fourth month, four days after the full moon, and coincidentally, usually closer to Easter!

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