Sunday, 15 July 2007

To Semakau and back~~~

My 2nd and final OJT for the Semakau intertidal guiding. Come September, will have a group of my own?! Shall *panic* later when the time comes la.... On the the "meat" in this entry. The weather was much more comfortable (and way less exciting) than the last walk I was on, and we definitely got to see more of the actual intertidal area. Was in the Octopus group under the guidance of Ms Bionic-Eyes, CH!!

First up, we came across this rather unusual anemone after looking at some beaded anemones in the darkness. First time I'm seeing this particular kind of anemone for myself, though I have some vague impression of seeing something similar on another blog some time back... Now all I need is to figure out which blog. Help with the ID anybody?


Next organism that I took a shot at (actually q number of shots) was this green-ish rope-like thing we came across on our way to the edge of the flats where a long, spiny Diadema urchin was awaiting us. If you look very carefully, you might be able to make out a head on the right side of the photo...

Still looking pretty much like a algae-covered rope? Look again! You can just make out a little black spot that is actually its eye!! CH informed me that this fella could possibly a banded file snake (Acrochordus granulatus) that is heavily covered with algae. With a quick check in my amphibian book, as well as a bit of basic photoshopping on the original photo (resulting in possible bands under all that green algae), it does seem that she's right!! Guess the rough, loose, baggy skin and the shape of the head are pretty good clues to it's identity, though I really wonder why it's so algae covered. It really is the first time I've seen an algae-encrusted snake!! And when having a quick discussion with the other guides, it seems that another filesnake (without the algae) was spotted too!

If you are wondering how this filesnake actually looks like under that carpet of greenery, here's Ria's entry on SLOG, with photos.

Soon after the slithery encounter, Robert came over with this tiny little fella. Really cute little juvenile scorpionfish!!! It may still be small, but those venom filled spines it has are still just as lethal!! LIke the more (in)famous stonefish, whis well camouflaged fish has lethal venom in its spines, and if stepped on or touched, the venom is injected into the blood, pretty much like how hypodermic needles work. So don't play play, k? Initially, we weren't sure if this was a scorpionfish or a stonefish (I thought it was a scorpionfish because of the shep of the webbing with the dorsal spines, as well as a slightly more pointed head), and thankfully Prof Leo Tan was there to teach us more on the differences between a scorpionfish and a stonefish. The pectoral fins (the 2 round, disc-like fins on the sides) are more mobile in the scorpionfish, whereas in the stonefish, those pectoral fins are more fixed in place.


And speaking of stonfish, here's a stonefish sea cucumber. No dangerously venomous spines to be aware of since this is a sea cucumber, but since it's an echinoderm (has 'spiny skin'), it also has tubular feet like the sea urchins and sea stars.


Here's another very well camouflaged fish, called the toadfish. Rather ugly bugger, yar? It got its name from the sound that the male makes while attempting to attract a mate. And yesh, this fish is like the stonefish and scorpionfish because of its cryptic coloration (aka camouflage), AND its venomous spines. *darn* Am just short of an actual stonefish (no the sea cucumber DOESN'T count) to make my "ugly-camou-fish-with-venomous-spine-injections" photo set....


On to more weird and funky stuff on our intertidal flats. Can you figure out what those blobby white stuff amongst the branching Acropora sp. coral are? They are actually egg sacs of cuttlefish!!! Pretty nifty, yar? Sorry about the not-so-sharp focus as my IXUS always acts up when I need it to focus in between branching coral branches...
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And speaking of cephalopods (cuttlefish and octopus all belong to this group), the Octopus group definitely couldn't have left Semakau without actually seeing one for themselves!! This octopus was the perfect size for our trusty containers, and we managed to bring it round to a few other people as well. Sure makes up for all those cries from other groups that they saw an octopus just as it darted away into the safety of a crevice.....


Somewhere along the walk back, we came across this anemone shrimp that was in a tide pool next to its host carpet anemone. So cute!!! Carpet anemones and anemone shrimps such as this fella are mutualistic, meaning they help each other to better survive the environment that they are in. The carpet anemone is a relatively messy eater, leaving bits of food around its tentacles, so the anemone shrimp acts as a cleaner to pick up all these scraps (that would otherwise just rot there and possibly affect the anemone's health) and gets a meal in the bargain!!


And just before we went across the seagrass lagoon, we realised that someone left his/her heart behind on the intertidal area!! Could it be Will Turner's?! (Ai. That's what too much pirates and Johny Depp does to one ^^)


But alas, it's not an actual heart but a true heart cockle (Corculum cardissa). It differs from the cockles that we are more familiar with as it is flattened on the other side, possibly so that the shell is actually thin enough for some sunlight to get to the mantle (aka flesh) and gills. Why is this so important? It is actually similar to giant clams in the way it has zooxanthellae (microscopic algae that is also found in the tissue of hermatypic hard corals) that photosynthesize.

Pretty, ain't it? So it's not that surprising that people market this as a symbol of love, given as a token of affections from sailors. But as with all seashells, in order for the natural beauty to be maintained in these souvenirs, they are collected while the poor animal is still alive. The animal is then literally murdered for its pretty shell that can be fixed and sold to tourists. I know how lovely they look in display sets (we still have some rather large cowrie shells at home which we bought in the 1990s), but do spare a thought about the process of getting it instead of merely looking at it as a mere product. Really gives me a broken heart just like this...

3 comments:

Chim C K said...

file snake!!! will like to take a closer look. got larger size of the photos?

juanhui said...

larger versions of the photos in the entry are here:
http://flickr.com/photos/juanicths/817765632/
http://flickr.com/photos/juanicths/816882567/
http://flickr.com/photos/juanicths/816894513/

I can email more photos but these were the best ones I managed...

Siyang said...

Anemone looks like the one Kok sheng saw at Changi? the tiger anemone? U have to check with him cos the picture only showed a side view.