23 July 2017

Return of underwater garden at Pulau Ubin

The colourful underwater gardens on Pulau Ubin have returned!
Various marine life at Pulau Ubin's rocky shores
Missing since 2015, it was a relief to see sea fans, feather stars and other colourful marine life on our favourite Ubin rocky shore.

We arrived very early to catch a super low spring tide which allowed a glimpse of the wonderful variety of sea fans that settled on the rocks. There were a large number of colonies and variety of sea fans than what we saw on here on our last survey in Aug 2015. And unlike that survey, today, most of the sea fans were not succumbing to fouling animals and plants.
Various sea fans on Pulau Ubin rocky shores
There were lots of sea fans in small to larger colonies on the rocky shore.
Besides the usually common sea fans like Candelabra sea fans and Gnarled sea fans., I also saw several colonies of Flat branch sea fans, Skinny sea fans, Sea whips and others that I've not seen before.
It was particularly nice to see several colonies of Asparagus sea fan, which I have seen in large numbers in the past at Beting Bronok.
Other animals that settled on the rocks include many small colonies of Pink flowery soft coral, some small clumps of Candy hydroids, and small clusters of zoanthids. I saw many Blob ascidians, also many Thumbs up ascidians and Yellow clustered ascidians.  I also saw many clusters of Ball-tip corallimorphs in many different colours. There were not many sponges. I saw a few clumps of Prickly ball sponge, some patches of Elegant branching sponge, many clumps of Rainbow sponge. There were many patches of Melted chocolate sponge.
Such 'reefy' areas usually host a large variety of special animals. There were many large Biscuit stars. There were patches of Zebra coral, tiny clumps or scattered polyps of Cave corals and a few patches of Neat hexa coral. I saw many Haddon's carpet anemones on the soft shores and near the rocky shore, as well as the usual Banded bead anemones.
In this small pool of water, are two feather stars and many brittle stars as well as sea anemones and other critters.
Various feather stars and brittle stars
There were a great many feather stars on the shore today. Mostly Blue feather stars, and a few Black-and-white feather stars as well as Brown feather stars.
Flatworms eat ascidians and other immobile animals, so it was not surprising to see many of them today. Most were Blue spotted flatworms, I saw two pairs of Blue spotted flatworms, and one Pleasing flatworm.
Today, we saw many Onyx cowries which appeared to out number the usually more common Ovum cowries. I saw one with eggs under the foot. Alas, I saw another which had lots of barnacles on its shell, which shouldn't ordinarily happen as the mantle keeps the shell clear. So I wonder how that happened.
There were many tiny Sponge synaptid sea cucumbers, a few Thorny sea cucumbers and some. In the soft silty ground, there were many Ball sea cucumbers. I also saw one Crown sea star.
I saw a humungous 8-armed sea star on the soft silty area. There isn't much seagrass on the shore. On the soft shores, I saw some Spiky sea pens and Flowery sea pens.
Eight-armed Luidia sea star (Luidia maculata)
There was one small octopus. The rest of the team also saw a Rose nudibranch, a small Sponge nudibranch.
Unidentified octopus
Alas, I saw several fish traps laid on this rich reefy area. In fact, on almost every trip to this shore, we see fish traps.
Fish trap off rich reefy rocky shore on Pulau Ubin
Some were laid in deeper water. But those that we could reach we disabled.
Inside one of the traps was this tiny little Hollow-cheeked stonefish., still alive. There were also some filefishes (dead) and a small eel tail catfish (alive) and many small crabs.
Hollow-cheek stonefish (Synanceia horrida)
Kok Sheng first brought us here in Dec 2009, and we returned in May 2010, Dec 2010 and Dec 2012. During those surveys, the rocks were coated in colourful sponges, ascidians, soft corals and sea fans. They were quite bare on our last survey in Aug 2015. So it was good to see a return of the underwater garden here.

I'm so glad the marine life has returned!

Photos by others on this trip

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