Saturday, June 27, 2009

Living Shores of Semakau

100th Discovery Posting:

Visitors or participants to Semakau with RMBR would always be assigned to a group name (participants to St John Island's inter tidal walk and students participating in other shore walks organised by RMBR would probably get these as well). And if you have ever wondered where these names come from, the names are actually from a series of 18 badges. And these 18 badges features the flora and fauna that can be found on Semakau and also on other shores of Singapore.

In this posting, i will feature all the 18 badges and have tried to at the same time show you how the real animal or plant look like in real life. What do i mean by that? Just look at the picture below to get an idea.
This (picture above) is a land-hermit crab. I have never personally seen it at Semakau, that is probably because I never made any effort to look for one. This particiular individual is from Sister's island. Maybe I should spend some time to look for a land hermit crab over at Semakau when I have the time.

Next up is the mangrove badge (picture below).One can find a great number of mangrove trees on Semakau. The mangrove survey done during Project Semakau (still ongoing) has yield results informing us that Semakau is a home to some of the rarer species of mangrove trees found in Singapore, one example is the Avicennia marina.

And on Semakau and other places, you can usually spot a number of fiddler crabs near the roots of mangrove trees and around sandy areas (picture below). Another animal you might spot near mangrove trees would be the mudskipper (picture below)And sometimes if you're lucky, you might even spot a horseshoe crab (picture below).By the way, it would be good to note that there are 2 types of horseshoe crabs you can find in Singapore. One is the mangrove horseshoe crab, the other is the costal horseshoe crab. The most easy way to tell one apart from another is by feeling their tails. The mangrove horseshoe crab's tail is round in cross-section while the coastal one is triangular-like in cross-section.

Next up is the upside down jellyfish (picture below). They are mostly found in an upside down position as there are algae living mostly in the upside down section of their bodies. The algae would share any extra food it makes and in return, the upside down jelly fish provides shelter and minerials for the algae. This kind of 'you help me, I help you' relationship is also seen in other marine creatures such as corals and ... giant clams (picture below).In our safety briefings for any inter tidal walks, we would always ask our participants to let us (the guides) to walk first and want them to follow our trail. This is mostly because there are creatures out there which can cause one harm if stepped on. One example would be a blue-spotted fantail ray (picture below). It would give you a really bad sting using its one or two venomous sting on its tail.
There are also some interesting and nice looking shelled animals featured on the badges also. One of them would be the noble volute (picture below).The other would be the spider conch (picture below).And if you look closer at the badge and photo above, you would see that the spider conch actually has a pair of eyes!

Besides the two shelled animals, there are also other creatures which we and our participants find them adorable. One example would be a nudibranch, which is a kind of sea slug (picture below).
The seahorse (picture below)And the clownfish aka NEMO (picture below)Next up is the octopus (picture below). You might not know this, but octopuses are actually quite common on our shores. They are just not seen so often as they are more active in the dark.

And of course, how could the stars of any inter tidal walk, the Knobbly sea star, be missed out frmo the series of badges (picture below).
Right now, although I have the whole collection of all 18 badges, I do not have the photos or nice photos of all the them. Some of them inculde the puffer fish (picture below)The great-billed heron (picture below)
And the hawksbill turtle (picture below)You might be wondering if there are any sea turtles in our waters. Let me answer give you the answer to the question. It is a big YES. Some of my friends have actually seen them with their own eyes on Semakau before.

So that is all the 18 badges for you. But before I end this post, you would find a series of group photos from the participants I've lead for yesterday and today. I've uploaded them so they could download them for memories and also as a memory for me. =D

Friday, June 12, 2009

Semakau Inter-Tidal walk on 12 June 2009

Ninety Ninth Discovery Posting:

This morning, I visited Semakau land fill island again with RMBR volunteer guides and participants from various walks of life for another guided walk at the inter tidal area of Semakau.

And like yesterday, the sun greeted us as we walked leisurely towards the forest trail which would bring us to our destination (picture below).
Besides chasing our sleepy moods away, the sunrise also provided us a great photo opportunity (picture below).This scene (picture below) will be the sight and also our destination once one gets through the forest trail. The inter tidal area of Semakau.Today, the group I lead was called Upside down Jellyfish. And here's everyone standing in the seagrass meadow (picture below).
And after crossing the seagrass meadow, our first 'discovery' was marked out by our hardworking hunter seekers, two common sea stars, one on top of another (picture below). Discovery Note:
1. This unique positioning pattern is actually a part of the common sea stars' mating ritual.
2. The male, which is usually smaller in size, will be found on top of the female with its arms alternating with hers.
3. The common sea stars do not external reproduction organs. Therefore this behaviour is to increase the chance of exterior fertilisation.
4. Read more about this and the common sea star @

As the tide today wasn't low enough for us to look at the resident giant clam, we did see the juvenille giant clam around the coral rubble area (picture below). Second 'discovery'.Discovery Note:
They are the largest living bivalve mollusc and also known as the bear's paw clam
They can weigh more than 227 kilograms and measure as much as 1.2 metres across, and have an average lifespan in the wild of 100 years or more.
An interesting symbiosis occurs between a unicellular green alga (Zooanthella ) and the clam. The algae live in the tissues of the clam's siphon and mantle; they are able to obtain the sunlight needed for photosynthesis because the clam lies with its valves opening upward and part of the thick, purple mantle extruding over the shell.
In addition, there are crystalloid vesicles on the mantle surface that let in sunlight, thus allowing the algae to live deep within the tissues. The clam uses the algae as a supplementary or perhaps even a major source of food.
5. Read more about them @

Our hunter seekers also managed to find 2 knobbly sea stars today. And this was after some hard work and much walking around (picture below). Kudos to our hunter seekers. =D
Well, we never forget to take a traditional group photo with the knobbly (picture below).Next up, third 'discovery' is the sea slug which most of our visitors use the word 'cute' to describe it. A polka-dot nudibranch (picture below).Discovery Note:
'Nudibranch' means 'naked gills'. The name comes from the flower-like gills found on the back of many nudibranchs. These nudibranchs use the gills to breathe.
Nudibranchs are related to snails. Little baby nudibranchs are born with shells, but they lose them when they become adults.
Most nudibranchs are carnivores, they eat immobile or small, slow-moving prey. Examples are sponges, ascidians, hard corals, soft corals, sea anemones etc.
To protect themselves, some produce distasteful substances, toxins and even acids. They advertise this with bright warning colours. Others are camouflaged to match their surroundings. Those that eat colourful creatures such as sponges or corals, may themselves be colourful to match their prey. Being small and flat, they can also easily hide in narrow places.
5. Read more about them @

Fourth 'discovery' is another piece of finding from our wonderful hun
ter seekers, a sea horse (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. They are hard to find as they are well-camouflaged.
2. Do you know that a seahorse is actually a fish? Yes, it is, but instead of having scales, they have an inflexible armour of overlapping bony plates.
3. A seahorse cannot swim faster because it doesn't have tail fin and pelvic fins like other fishes, thus it is well-camouflaged. But they can make a short burst of speed if in danger.
4. They may look harmless, but they are actually quite voracious predators. It sits in wait and ambushes on any tiny animals that drifts or wander by.
5. They have a very simple digestive system (no stomach) thus they need to eat almost constantly. Baby sea horses are known to eat thousands of tiny shrimps in a day!
6. And of course, the most well-known fact of the sea horse is that the male can get 'pregnant', this is because the female seahorses lay eggs in the pouch of a male seahorse and it is in their where the eggs will be fertilized and then the male seahorse will carry them till the eggs hatch.

Read more about it @

As we headed back, we encoutered this long queue over at the sea grass lagoon. I wonder what was making everyone stop there?
After some simple investiagation, i discovered that they were actually stopping to take a closer look at a spider conch. The fifth 'discovery' of this posting (picture below).Discovery Note:
1. As a result of their really nice shells, spider conches are not only collected for food, they are also collected for their shells.
2. Due to this collection, spider conches have been labelled as a 'vulnerable' on the Red list of threaten animals of Singapore.
3. That aside, the movement of spider conches is quite interesting. They make use of a curved, knifed shaped operculum or in short, a 'leg' or 'pole' to pole vault around.
4. The spikes that are found on the shell helps to prevent the spider conch are rolling around after making a 'hop'.
5. Read more about the spider conch @

Lastly, the sixth 'discovery' is a juvenile cushion star spotted by the participants from KS's group (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. They are more oftenly seen during diving, so it is always a treat to spot them in the inter-tidal areas.
2. They have been found to feed on some species of hard corals. Their diet could also consist of immobile animals, organic particles found on sediments and sea weeds.
3. Read more about them @

In conclusion, today was another great day out, as the jellyfishes were an attentive and interested group. Thank you, everyone! =D

a) Read KS's posting for this trip:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Semakau Inter-Tidal walk on 11 June 2009

Discovery Posting Ninety Eight:

Together with a group of fiddler crabs (the group name for my group of participants), we stepped onto the Semakau land fill island to visit the beautiful inter tidal area. And as we made our way towards our destination on the island, the rising sun decided to give us a morning greeting by rising slowly behind us (picture below).
After a short trek through a forest trail, we reached the inter-tidal area and proceeded to make our way towards the reefs. And of course, I stopped the fiddler crabs in the seagrass meadows for a quick and wacky group photo (photo below). So our first 'discovery' of this posting is flatworms (pictures below)Discovery Note:
1. If you have a chance to look at them in real life, you will notice that their name is as such because they have a really flat body (probably some of you can spot this by looking at the photos).
2. Being flat has its advantages, being flat means that flatworms can easily move into any space. This allows them to hide or find food easily.
3. Do you know that flatworms actually have a central nervous system and a simple brain to help them co-ordinate their muscular system.
4. Flatworms also do not have a blood circulatory or respiratory system as oxygen can diffuse rather quicky across their skin and to the other parts of their body.
5. Read more about flatworms @

Today, our hunter seekers (guides who move off eariler than any group to locate interesting organisms for participants to see and also an important batch of people who help to make the guided walks an easier job) also managed to find us the star of the walk, the knobbly sea star (picture below).
With the star on-show, we just have to take a photo for memories with it (pictures below)The fiddler crabs pose... hehe (picture below)As we moved closer to the reefs, our hunter seekers found another two organisms nearby to one another. Here's one of them, the second 'discovery', a sunflower mushroom coral (picture below). Discovery Note:
1. Corals mostly live attached to something, a rock, the seafloor, etc. But mushroom corals, when large, live disattached.
2. However when they are young, they attach themselves onto things like rocks.
3. Another difference is that while corals are a group of animals living together (this animal is called a polyp), the mushroom coral is either made up of a single polyp or just a few polyps.
4. As their skeleton is really hard and sometimes spikey, and of course not forgetting that polyps have stings, it is best not to handle them with your bare hands.
5. Read more about sunflower mushroom corals @

And just nearby laid a sand fish sea cucumber, our third 'discovery' (picture below). Discovery note:
1. This is one of the species of the sea cucumber which humans commonly consume for food.
2. It is important to note that they need to be properly processed before eatting as tests indicate that they contain toxins.
3. We also call them the garlic bread sea cucumber due to its appearance.
4. Read more about them @

Well, that about warps up this posting for today. And oh ya, these were not all the organisms we saw during today's trip, it's just that I did not take photos for every organism. If you are interested to find out what other organisms we saw today, you can refer to the extras section.

Before I end, thanks again to the fiddler crabs for coming and I hope you had an enjoyable morning. =D

a) Read KS's blog posting for this trip:
b) Read MY's blog posting:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Discovery @ Hantu on 7 June 2009

Ninety Seventh Discovery Posting:

The time was near to 4am and a boat ferrying a batch of RMBR guides, including myself, docked at the jetty of Hantu. It has been almost a year plus since I last visited Hantu and therefore looking forward to this trip despite having to wake up at 1am plus.

So the first 'discovery' of the night, ops, i mean morning, are fiddler crabs. Here's a male fiddler crab (picture below).
And here's a female fiddler crab (picture below).Discovery Note:
1. Only male fiddler crabs have an enlarged claw. Female fiddler crabs, on the other hand, have two smaller claws.
2. The enlarged claw can be either on the left or right side.
3. The enlarged claw may be as large or even as heavy as their body and also it cannot be used to hunt, feed or effectively scare off predators. So what is it for?
4. It is used attract female fiddler crabs and intimdate rival mates.
5. The small claw is used for eating, so if you think about it, the females can eat twice as fast as the males as they have two small claws. This is logical as they need the energy for reproduction purposes.
6. Interestingly, fiddler crabs can change colours. They can appear different in the day and night and in some species, the male fiddler crabs have brighter when it's the mating season.
7. To read more about fiddler crabs, visit

One thing which I really wanted to see on this visit was feather stars. The reason being that I haven't seen one for quite a while and according to KS, one can find them more easily compared to other inter-tidal areas we visit in Singapore.

And I wasn't disappointed, I saw almost 10 red feather stars in that morning. Second 'discovery'.
Here's how one look like when it's 'closed' up (picture below). And when it's 'opened' (pictures below). And as I walked back into the lagoon on Hantu, I come across a black feather star (picture below)!Discovery Note:
1. This is not really easy to find feather stars near shore areas. They are however more commonly sighted during diving trips.
2. Their long and spiny arms are quite fragile, so don't handle them if you see them.
3. They belong to the Phylum of enchinodermata, like the sea stars and sea cucumbers. Like the other enchinodermata, feather stars are symmetrical along the five axis, have spiny skin and tube feet.
4. Read more about them @

The third 'discovery' is a fringe-eyed flathead (picture below). I'm not really good with fishes, so only after a check with KS, who was nearby, then did i know what this fish is. This also translates to more things to learn and read up on...hahaha Close up view of its head (picture below).Discovery Note:
1. If you look closely at the close up photo of its head, you will find that this fish has eyelashes!
2. The two times I've seen it on this same trip, both individuals were lying on the seabed. This might be a way for camouflage itself looking at its appearance.
3. Another reason for this appearance might be because it feeds on creatures that lives in the sea bottom.
4. Read more about them @

After spending almost 3 hours plus, our trip ended as the sun rised above the horizon (picture below).Thanks to R and LK for organising this trip and everyone else who helped to keep one another awake throughout the trip...hahaha

The above were not all the things we saw during this trip, I just highlight those which I wanted to, if you are interested...
a) Read KS postings on this trip:
b) ST's post:
c) Last but not least, E's post: