06 September 2013

Wildfacts updates: wonderful molluscs and more!

We keep seeing marine life in Singapore for the first time even though we have been surveying for many years! The last update was in February so there's been a lot of new fact sheets.
Mostly for molluscs! But also for other kinds of marine life.

The most exciting snail discovery for us was a living Cone snail (Family Conidae), found by Russel Low. This particular snail found is the Singed cone (Conus consor). It used to be the most common cone species seen in Singapore's rocky shores in the past, but now seldom seen due to degradation or reclamation of natural rocky shores. It is now listed as 'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore.
Conus consors
Another first for me, the enormous and beautiful Ramose murex (Chicoreus ramosus). It has been seen on Changi, but Russel found this at Cyrene.
Ramose murex (Chicoreus ramosus)
YES! Singapore has wild abalones (Family Haliotidae). But they are quite tiny and well camouflaged. With an encrusted flat shell, this animal is hard to spot and may be mistaken for a limpet. It is a snail! With cute little eyes on short stalks, long antennae. The ones we eat are colder water species which grow much larger. Sadly, the over consumption of abalones may threaten wild populations and result in over collection of even the smaller tropical species.
Abalone (Family Haliotidae)
I think I've figured out some of the Olive snails we often see on our shores. To tell them apart, first look at the shape of the spire or pointy end of the shell. This almost immediately helps you to distinguish similarly patterned snails. This is the Weasel olive snail (Oliva mustelina) and is the most commonly seen olive snail on our shores, mostly at Changi and our Northern shores. It has a tiny pointy spire on a rather flattened shell end.
This is the Tigerish olive snail (Oliva tigridella) and is sometimes seen on Changi, our Northern shores and even on East Coast Park. The shell has a more conical tip.
Despite it's name the Common olive snail (Oliva oliva) is not very commonly seen in Singapore. I've only seen it once at Pulau Semakau. The shell has a more conical tip.
For completeness, I'm including the Orange-mouth olive snail (Oliva miniacea) the largest of the olive snails I've seen in Singapore. So far, I've only seen them at Cyrene, where they remain quite abundant. This is the only Olive snail on the Singapore Red List with the status 'Vulnerable'.
Olive snails (Family Olividae) are predators of sandy shores, plough just beneath the sand hunting for buried prey. They leave typical trails as they do so. Sometimes, we can see panicky prey leaping away from the Olive snail (like the Button snails in the photo below). As the wide sandy shores in Singapore are replaced by 'armoured' shores with seawalls, we will also lose these snails.
I also did a page on the Patridge sundial snail (Architectonica perdix) (photo on the right by Toh Chay Hoon) which looks different from the more commonly encountered Clear sundial snail (Architectonica perspectiva) (photo on the left). So far, we've only seen the Partridge sundial snail on Chek Jawa.
Other first time encounters include Saul's cowrie (Cypraea saulae). These cowries look very similar to commonly seen ones, so I learn to look more carefully at the cowries I see!
And the Graceful cowrie (Cypraea gracilis). Thanks to Tan Siong Kiat and Wong Hoong Wei for identifying this snail
I also started seeing this strange snail which turned to be the Orange-mouth top shell snail (Chrysostoma paradoxum). Thanks to Chim Chee Kong for identifying this snail.
Chrysostoma paradoxum
I took a closer look at these nerites and realise they were Grey mangrove nerites (Nerita grayana). Nerite snails can look very similar!
Nerita grayana
Whelks are also tricky snails to identify. Thanks to Tan Siong Kiat for identifying this one as Nassarius limnaeiformis. It has a pretty banded spiral on its shell and its pale body is speckled. So far, I've only noticed it on Cyrene Reef.
Speckled whelk (Nassarius limnaeiformis)
While I got around to sorting out what the tiny round snails under stones are. I think they are Euchelus sp.
Tiny under-a-stone top shell snail (Euchelus sp.)
This rather angular mussel is a Horse mussel (Modiolus sp.). I didn't realise that they were now rarely seen. In the 1970s, Modiolus metcalfi used to be common in sandy and muddy areas in the intertidal and subtidal estuarine areas such as Lim Chu Kang. They are rarely seen nowadays.
Horse mussel (Modiolus sp.)
I finally got around to doing a fact sheet on this slug that looks like a snail that looks like a clam! We have been seeing the Bivalve snail (Berthelinia sp.) for sometime, but didn't realise it was important until Dr Dr Kathe Jensen told us it's a new record for Singapore during the Northern Expedition of the Mega Marine Survey.
Berthelinia sp. in Bryopsis sp.
There's lots more of molluscs to sort through. Tay Ywee Chieh has very kindly gone through my cephalopod photos to identify them. It will take me a while to sort them out.

And MORE fact sheets on other critters. We been seeing this massive, very prickly sea star with a bright orange underside. I think is probably different from the more usual Sand stars. So I've started a new fact sheet for the Orange sand star which I think is still some kind of Astropecten sp.
Orange sand star (Astropecten sp.)
This small fish resembles the Brown sweetlips (Plectorhinchus gibbosus), but a closer look reveals that it has a 'beard'! It turned out to be a juvenile Sicklefish (Drepane sp.). The adult is silvery! Thanks to Kelvin Lim K. P. for identifiying this fish.
Sicklefish (Drepane sp.)
Not all shrimps found in our sea anemones may be the usual Five-spot anemone shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis). Fortunately, Heng Pei Yan took a closer look and found this special anemone shrimp. We called it the 'Gelek' anemone shrimp (Ancylomenes holthuisi) because it 'dances' in a waggling way: 'gelek' means dance in Malay.

Barnacles really grow on all kinds of animals, and these grow in living corals! I think these Coral barnacles are Pyrgoma sp. Since I almost never see them in the field and only notice them when I get home and process my photos, I haven't managed to properly photograph the animal submerged with its 'feet' sticking out.
The Giant hydroid is really REALLY tall. In the photo, Dr Tan Swee Hee is looking at one that got caught on the anchor of the boat. It didn't go to waste and is now in the museum as a specimen. Divers regularly see this tall colonial animal. Often tiny nudibranchs are found among the feathery structures.
The tiny transparent feather-like stuff often seen on our seagrasses are probably hydroids. There seems to be several different kinds of these Seagrass hydroids.
'Green gum drop' ascidians and Seagrass hydroids growing on Tape seagrass
I also got to sort out a few more sponges. During our trips this year, I finally got to see lots of the 'Roti jala' sponge (Terpios sp.) which do indeed resemble Roti jala, a kind of local pancake.
'Roti jala' sponge (Terpios sp.)
And I think this pretty orange prickly sponge is Mycale parishi.
Orange prickly sponge (Mycale parishi)
As usual, I'm way behind on the fact sheets!

Please do let me know if I got any of the identifications wrong! More wild fact sheets.

It's a slow struggle to keep up with documentation of our shores. But I'll try to keep on going, as the 2030 plans suggest some of our best shores might not be around for long.
Do try to see our shores for yourself before these are lost to development. More details how to visit some shores and what to see and do on wildsingapore. Lots of nature and seashore activities are also updated weekly on wildsingapore happenings. Keep up with news about nature in Singapore and beyond, updated daily on wildsingapore news.


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