06 August 2012

Stonefish and slug at Tanah Merah

How nice to see this pretty nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata) on Tanah Merah. The last time we saw this was before the shore was hit by an oil spill in May 2010.
Since the spill, I've been visiting every month or so, to check up on these shores. I still saw many corals, none of them bleaching. Sea stars too, THREE stonefishes and other interesting marine life.

It's a daylight low tide so fishes and fast moving critters are shy. With this excuse, I focused on large immobile animals and left Big Cam at home. Sneaky Swimming Cam worked hard this morning. I saw one Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea)! It was quite large. We didn't see this too often on Tanah Merah even before the oil spill.
Uh oh. Mr Stonefish! Today I saw three Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida)! This particular one was rather easy to spot as his body shape is quite clearly outlined.
This one was a bit more challenging to spot. The encrustations on his face matches those on the surrounding rocks.
And here's another one that blended well with its surroundings. This is why it is very important to watch your step on Tanah Merah. I'm sure I missed a lot more stonefishes that were better camouflaged. There were also many other fishes zooming about. Difficult to shoot during daylight, especially with Sneaky Swimming camera.
I came across four Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) all of them very large. I didn't spot any on my last trip in April and May. Perhaps they are getting fewer?
How nice to come across a bright orange hermit crab (Dardanus megistos) and a strange bluish hermit crab. I didn't come across many crabs though, aside from Swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) that zoomed around too quickly to shoot.
There were many Pink moon snail (Natica zonalis) among the Ribbon seagrasses, while on the rocky shore I noticed several Hammer oysters (Family Malleidae) and saw one large Dolphin shell snail (Angaria delphinus). I also came across several Firebrand murex (Chicoreus torrefactus) small and medium-sized. But I didn't see any living moon snail (Family Naticidae) or their sand collars. I saw one tiny Pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.) but couldn't shoot it.
As usual, I had a look at the corals, keeping an eye out for signs of coral bleaching. There are some healthy looking medium sized coral colonies growing even among the the litter on the shore!
The most abundant corals remain Favid corals (Family Faviidae) that come in a wide variety of colours and patterns.
There were many small to medium-sized Pore corals (Porites sp.).
There were several tiny to small Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) and I saw one colony of what seems to be Encrusting disk coral (Turbinaria sp.).
I saw one Circular mushroom corals (Family Fungiidae), one Bracket mushroom coral and one Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.).
Some of the Pore hard corals had bleaching portions, but most were alright and none where 100% bleached.
I came across many patches of Button zoanthids or colonial anemones (Zoanthus sp.), some of them were quite large.
I saw two Swimming anemones (Boloceroides mcmurrichi), one Frilly sea anemone (Phymanthus sp.) and one Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) in deeper water.
There were many fanworms tucked here and there among the rocks and geofabric of the artificial seawall. Also many Thumbs up sea squirts (Polycarpa sp.), most of them completely covered in fluffy epiphytes.
The two patches of Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) are still large and seem quite lush.
The seagrasses here seem to be looking well. With nice green leaves not covered in oil, although most of the leaves were fuzzy with a coating of epiphytes.
There are still several Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) in these two patches. I couldn't find any anemone shrimps in them today.
The large patch of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) had just bloomed, I saw three female flower strands which had coiled up, suggesting that they had been pollinated. There was another small patch of Tape seagrass further away. All of them had long leaf blades.
The patch of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) is about the same size and seem to be doing alright. The blades are long and not all of them are 'chomped' at the tips. But I didn't come across the Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) that I saw on my recent trips. The tide was a little high so perhaps I just missed them.
The most abundant seaweeds on the shore today were Mermaid's fan (Padina sp.). With small clumps of various other kinds of seaweeds.
There are lots and lots of Dubious nerite (Clithon oualaniensis) and Bazillion snails (Batillaria zonalis) covering large areas of the sandy lagoon.
It was good to see signs of burrowing Sand bubbler crabs (Scopimera sp.) on the high shore. This is the part of the shore where the crude oil had settled and was not removed. Hopefully, this means the crude oil has been broken down by nature?
In a few parts of the shore, there is still some signs of sheen coming out of the sand. And the smell of crude was still strong in the early morning. But most of the shore seems clean, the water quite clear. There were also many Acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta) coils on some parts of the shore.
Alas, it looks like its the season for trash to wash up on Tanah Merah. Although this shore was recently cleaned by volunteers of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, more trash just keeps washing up. I notice at some times of the year, a particularly huge load washes up, then magically disappears after some time.
The Siemens water project is also still discharging onto the shore. There are other everyday threats to our shores besides oil spills.

More about the oil spill on this blog and on the Oil spill facebook page.

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