12 April 2012

Special giant clam at Terumbu Bemban

Kareen identified this clam as a Tridacna maxima! Which has not seen alive for nearly a decade, although it is recorded for Singapore.
Chay Hoon was the first to find these clams on Terumbu Bemban. I also had a closer look at the hard corals during our short trip.

Here's a closer look at the special clam. It does look different, both in the mantle (fleshy body) and the shape and pattern of the shell.
The other giant clam on the shore is huge! It's definitely a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa). Mei Lin says it's the one of the biggest ones she's seen so far. Hurray! Thanks to Chay Hoon for spotting them in the first place.
Here's a closer look at the big Mama clam. Giant clams are male when they are small, becoming female as they grow larger. Jose's article about Mei Lin's project will come out any time soon. We'll read more about it then.
We enjoyed a glorious sunrise as we headed out.
Giant rain clouds are developing on the horizon. I kept a look out for dolphins but no luck today.
Terumbu Bemban is a part of a series of large submerged reefs off Pulau Semakau. It's tricky to figure out Terumbu Bemban which is separated by only a narrow channel from Beting Bemban Besar. As usual, it took a while for us to get to the right spot!
Terumbu Bemban is one of our prettiest submerged reefs with some patches of thick reef growth. Today, the tide wasn't really low enough for me to check on the reef edges.
Oh dear, today I came across some small coral colonies that were bleaching. More about coral bleaching.
Some large colonies seemed a little whiter than usual, but only the portions that were exposed at low tide.
Most of the hard corals were not bleaching.
There were many Favid corals as usual, in a wide variety of patterns and colours.
Also several Acropora coral (Acropora sp.) and others in the same family.
The usual common hard corals are also still there and looking alright. Including the species that were the first to bleach such as Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.) and Sandpaper corals (Psammocora sp.).
The NOAA website on coral bleaching suggests that we need to keep a look out for coral bleaching in our area for the next few months. Let's hope for the best.
I came across several Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) and Flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae) and they were not bleaching.
How nice to come across more Xenia soft corals (Heteroxenia sp.). In these, the long polyps were pulsing! I didn't realise the long polyps could retract into the common tissue.
The two colonies that I took a closer look at released tiny white blobs. I'm not sure if these are eggs/sperm bundles?
It is mass coral spawning season! It seems yesterday, some of our hard coral colonies did spawn! Thanks to Chay Hoon who shared some photos of the event. Hopefully, there will be more spawning this evening.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook
There were scattered clumps of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides). Some were cropped others were long. I saw some small patches of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) with tiny leaves.
On some parts of the shore, there were brownish scummy growths on rubble and seaweeds. Oh dear. I hope this isn't something to worry about. There were also several huge fish traps on the shore. But since it was just Kareen and me today, we just didn't have the tide time and extra hands to deal with them. Sigh.
We also saw lots of  Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma) and once again a Black-tipped reef shark that got away before I could take a photo of it. It was scorching hot but the sound of thunder finally made me look up. The weather suddenly turned around us! Thankfully, Jumari and Kiki rescued us!
We left just in time! The rain and lightning exploded all around us in no time as we headed home.
I'm so glad we managed to find the giant clams and get home safely.

Two more morning trips ahead! It's great fun to explore our shores but the relentless pace can be quite exhausting.


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