Purpose of NatureScouter

This blog will address mainly two issues - Nature and Scouting.

The purpose of Nature blogs is to educate and promote the awareness of Singapore’s and global environmental and conservation issues to the public and the Scouting community. The Scouting-related blogs serve the similar purpose by promoting the World’s largest youth movement and its activities to the public.

This blog was created thanks to the persistent demands of all my dear friends to blog, and on my 25th birthday, this blog was born.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Coral Workshop Field Trip Part II - Coral ID

Identification of corals ain't that easy... Like I've mentioned before, I generally just walk past a coral and think, "Hmm... that's a hard coral.", "That's a soft coral." or "That's a boulder/brain coral." That is how limited my knowledge is.

After attending the coral workshop some time back, I was a little better equipped, but still not prepared for the field. I could only identify some of the more distinctive and common ones.

So here goes my personal mini guide to coral ID. Listed are those that can be found in Sinapore as indicated by Jani. Please correct me if any of the ID is wrong and I'll make the amendments asap.

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Scleractinia (Hard/Stony Corals)

World: 18 families, ~110 genera
Singapore: ~55 genera, ~200 species

Family: Acroporidae
Genus: Acropora
Key Characteristics: Axial corallites
Growth Form(s): Branching, Tabular
Acropora digitifera
Acropora digitifera

Family: Acroporidae
Genus: Montipora
Key Characteristics: Empty corallites (deep), very small corallites, granulated/spiny coenosteum
Growth Form(s): Encrusting, Foliose, Branching
Montipora hispida_closeup
Montipora hispida

Family: Acroporidae
Genus: Astreopora
Key Characteristics: Conical corallite
Growth Form(s): Massive
Astreopora gracilis
Astreopora gracilis

Family: Agariciidae
Genus: Pavona
Key Characteristics: small, shallow corallites, poorly defined walls, inter-connected by septo-costae.
Growth Form(s): Foliose, Encrusting, Branching

Family: Agariciidae
Genus: Pachyseris
Key Characteristics: Series of concentric ridges parallel with the margin
Growth Form(s): Foliose, Encrusting

Family: Dendrophylliidae
Genus: Turbinaria
Key Characteristics: Most corallites at perimeter, remaining are widely spaced
Growth Form(s): Foliose
Turbinaria bifrons2
Turbinaria bifrons

Family: Euphyllidae
Genus: Euphyllia
Key Characteristics: Anchor-shaped/finger-like bubbled tentacles
Growth Form(s): Branching, Phaceloid/Flabellate
Euphyllia ancora or glabrescens
Euphyllia ancora

Family: Euphyllidae
Genus: Plerogyra
Key Characteristics: Bubbled tentacles
Growth Form(s): Branching, Phaceloid/Flabellate

Family: Faviidae (Largest family)
Key Characteristics: Large corallites, brain coral look.
Growth Form(s): Massive
Favites sp.
Montastrea sp.
Oulastrea sp.
Oulophyllia sp.
Oulophyllia crispa1
Oulophyllia crispa
Platygyra sp.

Family: Fungiidae
Genus: Fungia
Key Characteristics: Circular corallite, single mouth
Growth Form(s): Free-living
Fungia (Ctenactis) simplex
Fungia (Ctenactis) simplex

Family: Fungiidae
Genus: Heliofungia
Key Characteristics: Long tentacles with pale tips when extended, serrated septa
Growth Form(s): Free-living
Heliofungia actiniformis2
Heliofungia actiniformis

Family: Fungiidae
Genus: Herpolitha
Key Characteristics: Elongate axial furrows with several mouths
Growth Form(s): Free-living
Herpolitha limax
Herpolitha limax

Family: Fungiidae
Genus: Podabacia
Key Characteristics: Laminar and unifacial, corallites tend to face perimeter
Growth Form(s): Foliose, Encrusting

Family: Merulinidae
Genus: Merulina
Key Characteristics: Laminar, septa looks like railway tracks
Growth Form(s): Foliose, Encrusting

Family: Mussidae
Genus: Lobophyllia
Key Characteristics: Large corallites, one or several mouths are joined, long septal teeth.
Growth Form(s): Massive, Submassive

Family: Mussidae
Genus: Symphyllia
Key Characteristics: Large corallites, one or several mouths are joined, groove on top of wall
Growth Form(s): Massive, Submassive
Symphyllia valenciennesii
Symphyllia valenciennesii

Family: Oculinidae
Genus: Galaxea
Key Characteristics: Cylindrical corallites, septa very exert
Growth Form(s): Submassive
Galaxea astreata1
Galaxea astreata

Family: Pectiniidae
Genus: Pectinia
Key Characteristics: Laminar, septo-costae forms thin, high irregular walls in short valleys
Growth Form(s): Foliose
Pectinia sp.

Family: Poritidae
Genus: Porites
Key Characteristics: Small & immersed corallites filled with septa
Growth Form(s): Massive, Branching
Montipora venosa2
Porites sp.

Family: Poritidae
Genus: Goniopora
Key Characteristics: Long polyps, polyp has 24 tentacles
Growth Form(s): Massive, Submassive
Goniopora sp.

Family: Poritidae
Genus: Alveopora
Key Characteristics: Long polyps, polyp has 12 tentacles
Growth Form(s): Massive, Submassive

Family: Pocilloporidae
Genus: Pocillopora
Key Characteristics: Immersed corallites, presence of wart-like verrucae, fuzzy look
Growth Form(s): Branching
Pocillopora sp.

Family: Siderastreidae
Genus: Psammocora
Key Characteristics: Small corallites, septo-costae form petaloid shapes
Growth Form(s): Massive, Submassive

Family: Trachyphylliidae
Genus: Trachyphyllia
Key Characteristics: Absence of septa teeth, cabbage-like look (wavy)
Growth Form(s): Foliose
Trachyphyllia geoffroyi
Trachyphyllia geoffroyi

Semakau - Coral Workshop Field Trip (25 Dec 07)

We all gathered at Marina South Pier, can't wait to get started for another intertidal walk. Unlike normal walk, hard corals are the focus of this trip. But before Luan Keng arrived, speculations of our destination started... Initially it was said to be Kusu, but somehow, someone got the news that it was Semakau... Eventually, Luan Keng arrived and delivered the news - Semakau is the final destination. Many of us were fooled, and ended up not prepare (in nice little shorts and berms instead of the usual longs for Semakau... remember the mosquito infested forest?). Thanks Luan Keng...

No complains and we journeyed on - boat and mini-bus and soon we met our enemy... the 'forest'.

Pass the forest, we came to our second obstacle - the seagrass lagoon.

Only then we reach the flats. And all the way we went to the edge of it where the coral reefs were.

Mentioning that this was a hard coral ID field trip, we spotted plenty of many other critters, up to a point that I decided the critters and corals should each deserve a post of their own. So here goes the critter list!

Swimming crab

Spoon-tip crab. Instead of the usual sharp tip, as its name says, it has a spoon tip which is used to scrap food substrate off rocks. I was lucky to witness the interesting foraging method.

Spider conch

Now one of my favourite critter - NUDIBRANCHS! I always try to find at least one on every trip. I got more than I asked for this time. Although I like them but never knew what the hell are their genus or species cause I'm no expert. I just like them cause they are so cute and laid-back. Correct me if I'm wrong with their names.
Phyllidiella sp.
Jorunna funebris feeding on its favourite food - blue sponge! Who like blue sponge cakes?
Looks like another Phyllidiella sp.
Egg mass of nudis
Another different egg mass
Discodoris boholiensis

And here are some flatworms, which I also don't know their names... Anyone??

Along the way, I just happen to be thinking, "Will I spot a blue-spotted fantail ray?".
Waa Laa!

Synaptic sea cucumber and...

More sea cucumbers that I cannot ID..


Octopus and including...

A mating pair. If I'm not wrong, males have a modified tentacle that is the 'you know what'. Notice one of the tentacles stretching over to the female - procreation in the process.

As corrected by Ria (Thanks!), this is actually a peacock anemone. I've seen many but a first for a translucent one. Also my lack of observation skills, hence my mistaken identity as a fanworm. Quoted from Ria, "You should see one outer ring of very long tentacles, and one inner ring of very short tentacles (about 1cm long). This animal is very shy and will retract immediately when flashed. It is usually only seen after dark. I have seen this on many of our coral rubble areas in both the northern and southern shores."

Last but not the least - The magnificent sea anemone Heteractis magnifica.

By the time we ended the trip, it was pitch dark and torches were all on. We crept slowly in the dark, pass the seagrass lagoon and mosquito infested forest, on the mini-bus and boat and eventually back on mainland. Hungry as hell, off we went to Lau Pa Sat to fill our empty stomachs before heading home for a good rest.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

CJ Transect (23 Dec 07)

In less than 20 hours, I'm back in CJ again. This time to help Kok Sheng for his CJ project.


Today, we were going to do the transects closer to the northern shore so Kok Sheng showed me a route that I've never taken before. Through the mangroves, across a ditch and eventually down on the flats. After some briefing, we were spilt into our groups and my group consisted of Samantha, Laxton and Yikang.

We had to put a red flag at the start and end point of the transect and use a yellow flag to align the path for the tape to be laid out. Sound easy it may seem but with the 100m long tape and the strong wind, it's definitely not. My group got T5 (260m) and T4 (400m).

Group photo with the transect line and quadrat. Can you see the yellow flag? I bet you can't see the red flag, and that's how far it is...

On the datasheet, the distance of the tape was given and we just need to locate the distance and place the quadrat on it, and...

Snap a photo. Kok Sheng will then do all the hardwork at home to count the alage cover, number of critters including snails etc. Good luck!

Having only two 100m tapes means we had to consistently shift the tapes. At one point, my group's tape decided to dance and twirl itself into a hopeless entangling state that we spent almost 15 to 20 mins 'un-twirling' it.

As much as we spent most of our time doing the survey, we did have time to look around, especially at the start when Kok Sheng was trying to find the start point. Haha...

In my usual style, here goes the list...

Moon snail. My first sighting of the elusive snail (for me, at least). I always see the empty shells and sand collars.

Warty sea cucumber

Lots of baby carpet anemones

Can you see it? It's a well camouflaged flat fish.

Another flat fish and a different species.

Gong gong with someone at home.

Cake sea star found by Kok Sheng.

Sand dollar

Last but not the least - button shells, also known as the 'Jewels of Chek Jawa'.

It was indeed a long and tiring day, but nonetheless it was fun as usual. Despite the heavy downpour just as we reach house no. 1 (Kok Sheng and Gun Kiat was caught in the rain as they were measuring the salinity), we managed to get ourselves out and back on mainland for a nice, rewarding dinner.

*Photos courtesy of Laxton, Kok Sheng and myself.