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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Star Tracking at Cyrene #3

Been quite occupied with work and Scouting for this couple of months. It will continue till after July I'm sure... Nonetheless, managed to dig out time for a Cyrene trip yesterday for Star Tracking. This time round, CK and I tested a new site.

The sky was gloomy alright, but hey who will complain when it doesn't r***. Soon the sun greeted the regular visitors of Cyrene with the company of a few newbies.

CK and I wasted no time in surveying the new area and soon the stars started appearing despite the bright daylight. I'll save the star photos for CK to put on STAR TRACKERS. As with the usual monitoring, there's no time to walk around and snap much. However, today was few but good.

Not sure what was this exactly - Cushion sea star (Culcita novaeguinea) or Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera). Didn't think of snapping a photo of the underside as everything was in a mad rush - It was a 'snap and go'.

Update: KS mentioned that this is most probably a Cushion sea star as he has seen the juvenile of its kind and it's similar. Thanks KS!

This Nepanthia sp. was well hidden beside a Knobbly that I was measuring.

You can easily find Peacock Anemone (Cerianthus sp.) almost on every shore. They come in beautiful colours - orange, white, green, yellow etc.

But this particular one was a first for me. A black/dark purplish beauty as I would call it.

Of course, not forgetting my favourite nudibranchs. This find was a lucky one as I only saw this Dendrodoris denisoni moving while staring at a Knobbly. This one is about 7-8cm. The photo does the nudi no justice as the spots are suppose to be neon blue instead of grey...

This fellow is an amazing example of survival. When I found it, it was actually lodged sideways in the seagrass with the arms sticking out. CK and I assumed it was just normal till I picked it up, revealing a two-armed P. nodusus. After some examination, we realised the other 3 arms were chomped off at the oral disc edge. But we also noticed something else, it just so happen that the madreporite (P. nodusus has only one) is still there. Now we wonder, is the oral disc alone enough for survival? Or it requires the madreporite too?

The sieve-like madreporite is an opening used to filter water into the water vascular system of echinoderms, allowing the entry of seawater. Since the bodies of echinoderms are 'waster-based', it might be crucial for this structure to be present. Maybe I will go find out more.

Last but not the least, a quick report of the Protoreaster nodusus monitoring. As of initial analyze of data collected, a total of 64 individuals were recorded on this trip alone. This is more than the previous two trips in May combined (62)! What's more interesting is that babies comprised more than 80% of the total number!

After some comparison, out of the 64 seen, apparently almost all of them are new individuals (not recorded from previous trips in May)! This may jolly well bring the total number of Protoreaster nodusus population in Cyrene Reef to at least a whooping 120!!

This is definitely the largest population of P. nodusus you can find in Singapore. Be it seasonal or not, this proves that this safe heaven should be preserved for the sake of all its fauna, and for all our children to see. We should not be the ones to witness the demise of this wonderful patch of reef!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Four days, Four shores, Whole lot of insanity

Having to wake up at what my colleague calls ungodly hours to do crazy things for crazy stuff, that's what a bunch of us did - all for the sake of zoanthids. Roaming around in the darkness when most Homo sapiens in the right mind would be tucked nicely in bed, we ventured four shores (Kusu, Hantu, Changi & Cyrene) in four days.

Here is to show the stuff that also do not sleep at ungodly hours, or simply those I-can't-move-or-run-so-I've-no-choice-if-you-disturb-me kind.

H.Coral-Turbinaria sp (Cyrene)& Ctenactis sp (Hantu)
Corals are plentiful, but these are rather interesting. Turbinaria sp. (left) found at Cyrene, with an interesting yellow calcium carbonate skeleton and possibly a Ctenactis sp. at Hantu, that has grown to humongous proportion (about 2 feet in length).

Octopus-Order Octopoda (Kusu)
Octopus (Order Octopoda)- one of those night critters...

Shrimp- Order Decapoda (Kusu)
Quite a huge prawn (Order Decapoda). Seafood anyone?

Worm-Ribbonworm Phylum Nemertea (Kusu)
A long ribbon worm (Phylum Nemertea) that perhaps went back to sleep when it knows we were here.

Crab-Metopograpsus sp (Kusu)
A large Metopograpsus sp. crab wandering around a pillar of the jetty at Kusu.

Urchin-Temnopleurus (Changi) & Diadema setosum (Cyrene, Hantu)
Some Temnopleurus sp. (left) found at Changi, along with quite a handful of Diadema setosum found on Cyrene and Hantu.

Sponge- Phylum Porifera (Hantu)
Interesting looking sponge (Phylum Porifera) found in Hantu.

S.Coral-Order Alcyonacea (Changi)
A couple of interesting looking soft corals (Order Alcyonacea) found at Changi. Looks like.... you-know-what....

Seafan-Order Gorgonacea (Changi)
Seafans (Order Gorgonacea) or gorgonians found at Changi. Quite a bunch of them around.

Hydroids-Order Hydrozoa (Changi)
Seafans-look-alike, but boy... you don't want to mess with these... Hydroids (Order Hydrozoa) will give you hell of a time if you touch them.

Seastar-Culcita novaeguinea (Cyrene) & Asterina coronata (Changi)
Of course, there were the usual Knobblies (Protoreaster nodusus) at Cyrene. Well they now have a whole blog to themselves so here's the others - (left) a baby Cushion seastar (Culcita novaeguinea) from Cyrene and a Crown seastar (Asterina coronata) or rock star (imagine finding a guitar when you flip it over! Okay... lame.. but this is what we strive on at 2 or 3am in the morning) from Changi.

Cowrie-Cypraea onyx & Cypraea miliaris (Kusu)
Cowries! Cypraea onyx (left) and Cypraea miliaris from Kusu. Aren't they beautiful with their mantle and foot extended?

Crinoids- Class Crinoidea
Crinoids (Class Crinoidea) or feather stars seems to be in season. Seen more than two dozen of them across the four days. They come in such wide variety of colours that sometimes I wonder are they just colour morphs of only a few species. Well, let's wait for a crinoid expert to descend upon Singapore. Hehe...

Fish-Toadfish Family Batrachoididae (Hantu)
Here's another crinoid. But if you notice carefully, there a Toadfish (Family Batrachoididae) right under it.

Fish2-Filefish Family Monocanthidae (Hantu), Flathead Family Platycephalidae (Cyrene)
So now for more fishy stuff, (left) a Filefish (Family Monocanthidae) from Hantu and a Flathead (Family Platycephalidae) from Cyrene.

Fish3-Amphiprion ocellaris (Kusu, Hantu)
Seen the most numbers of nemos during this period, more than I've ever seen before. Hiding among anemones, these Amphiprion ocellaris were seen in Kusu, Hantu and Cyrene.

Fish1-Razorfish Family Centriscidae (Cyrene)
Interesting fishes that swims vertically are these Razorfish (Family Centriscidae) seen at Cyrene. Notice that their fins are modified to be extended throughout the underside of their body so that they can swim vertically easily. Cool eh? An adaptation to live among seagrass lagoons.

Flatworm-1, 2, Pseudobiceros gratus (Kusu) & Acanthozoon sp (Hantu, Cyrene) & Phymanthus sp. (Hantu)
Flatworms!! Not sure about the top two's (from Kusu) ID, but bottom left is a Pseudobiceros gratus from Cyrene and Acanthozoon sp. (bottom right) seen in Hantu and Cyrene. A Flower anemone (Phymanthus sp.) is seen in the photo with the Acanthozoon sp.. These anemones come in different colours and are commonly seen.

Nudi-Glossodoris atromarginata (Cyrene), Pteraeolidia ianthina (Cyrene), Hypselodoris infucata (Changi) & Phyllidiella pustulosa (Cyrene, Hantu)
Oh boy... I always do this. I'm not a nudibranch expert but I simply love them so I keep the best for last. From top, clockwise: Glossodoris atromarginata (Cyrene), probably a Hypselodoris infucata (Changi), two Phyllids, probably Phyllidiella pustulosa (Hantu, Cyrene) and Pteraeolidia ianthina (Cyrene). Didn't take a photo of Jorunna funebris thou.

End of the trips = sleepy, tired, hungry always, but all worthwhile! Can't wait for the next researcher to come. Hahahaha...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Zoanthid Hunt (4-8 June 2008)

Dr. James Davis Reimer, a zoanthid expert, was in town to work on the zoanthids found in Singapore. Together with staff from Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and a bunch of volunteers, the team combed the shores of Kusu, Hantu, Changi and even Cyrene to look for the often ignored zoanthids.

As I was busy helping during the field trip, I didn't take a lot of photos. But I did learn a lot from Dr. Reimer. He taught the whole team well enough that most of us could tell the differences at least down to genus after a couple of trips.

Zoanthid-Palythoa tuberculosa
Easiest to identify. Being a distinct mat-like, these are Palythoa tuberculosa. Can't miss it.

Zoanthid-Zoanthus vietnamensis
These are probably Zoanthus vietnamensis. They often come in what Dr. Reimer calls 'Hello Kitty Pink' or 'Mint Green'. Zoanthus may be identified by a stripe across the oral disc which can be seen sometimes even when the polyp is closed. Zoanthus have smooth columns as they do not incorporate sand particles inside their body.

Zoanthid-Palythoa mutuki & Zoanthus sansibaricus
These are Palythoa mutuki, another species in the same genus as Palythoa tuberculosa. If you feel Palythoa's column, they are rather grainy as this genus incorporates sand, unlike Zooanthus as mentioned above. Furthermore, P. mutuki has larger polyps than Zoanthus, with a noticeable white (usually) radial stripe that ends off with a bump (which can be usually seen when polyp is closed).

The smaller polyps (right) among the P. mutuki are actually Zoanthus sansibaricus. Compared to Z. vietnamesis, these have smaller polyps. More often than not, they are hard to distinguish. Hehe...

Zoanthid-Palythoa mutuki
Here's an extended polyp of P. mutuki.

According to Dr. Reimer, there should be at least 6 species, and up to 12 species of zoanthids in Singapore. Z. vientnamensis, Z. sansibaricus and P. mutuki was found on all four shores we been. However, P. tuberculosa was not found only in Changi. There were also a couple of interesting finds, so we shall await good news from Dr. Reimer.

Well, for more on the zooanthid trips, visit the following links of wildfilm blog: