|Mingling sessions for the scientists (or taxonomists!)|
This workshop titled: "Marine Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Cooperation Project under the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea", is a second of such meetings. The first one proposed was held in 1997. During that period of political conflicts of the sea boundaries, Pak Hashim Djalal, an Indonesian diplomat suggested that a neutral and common ground shared by all countries involved within the South China Sea is Biodiversity! (Particularly marine biodiversity). Hence, with tensions rising again, this meeting has been called forth to gather the experts for a forum.
The map below shows the demarcation of the boundaries and who claims what waters. I must say it's rather complicated. :P There are much news about the SCS conflicts and I shan't dabble too much since I am not certain of the actual talks' contents. But on biodiversity, I surely can share a little of the on goings.
|China claims almost all of the South China Sea as its own, see claim outlined in red, raising tensions with neighboring nations that have claims of their own. Adapted from: http://blogs.voanews.com/state-department-news/2012/08/03/indonesia-working-to-calm-south-china-sea/|
As the host country, Prof Peter Ng and other fellow Singaporeans shared our marine biodiversity status and the continuous efforts in understanding our shores and reefs. Prof Ng also shared the most recent works by TMSI: Bivalve workshop and the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey.
|Professor Peter Ng, director of the RMBR and TMSI: Chairperson of the forum.|
A notable mention of the hard work performed by the CMBS volunteers! In this coming October, there will be another expedition for the mudflats and dredging to discover more about our marine diversity. Hopefully I will be able to share my experience as a volunteer this time! (Yes, it's going to be my first trip as a volunteer for CMBS!)
Experts from various countries within the SCS were invited to share their respective countries' marine biodiversity and specific taxa reports. I learnt very much about their marine life and also a good re-cap on my marine taxonomy! Siti from Team Seagrass was also invited to give a report about seagrasses and how we can better protect them through extensive risk analysis.
Overall, I gained the opportunity to meet giant clam scientists and others who are interested to culture giant clams for rehabilitation too! It was a great atmosphere for everyone to come together for further collaboration and for us, young scientists to venture our work further too! :) As for me, I cannot wait for my upcoming visit to the giant clam facility up at the Philippines! Whee!
Alas, during the workshop period was also the lowest tides of the month! Not deterred, I headed out on two of the three days to my favourite shore: Changi beaches. From this workshop, I come to learn that although it is crucial to know the various species present in an environment, it should also be coupled with some data that measures changes in species composition. I think with all of Ria's trips to various shores since about 10 years ago, these are very important data for us Singapore! Currently, Ria has also started taking photographs of transect quadrats for better quantification of our environment. :) Everyone on the team plays a role on reporting their sightings on their various blogs.
On this trip, we noticed that the seagrasses were covered with much more silt and mud, and that density of seagrass appears to become slighly sparse. Could it be affected by the on going construction works?
Upon attending the Bivalve workshop, I can't help but take notice of the bivalves on this trip... (and others as well!) The first picture shows a myriad of Venus clams (Veneroidea). Shells are highly variable and a feature is that the hinge has 3 cardinal teeth on each valve. They are mostly burrowers (benthic).
|A myriad of venus clams|
It is hard to tell the species just by looking at the surface patterns, so on dissection, then we can tell the species apart. This venus clam (below) is one that I have not encountered. Unlike most of the veneroidea, the surface of this shell has corrugations. Ria suggested that it might be this species: Placamen calophylla. I did a quick search on the web and found that some collector had collected this specimen before!
|Also a venus clam - Placamen callophylla (?)|
Scallops (Pectinoidea) are mostly free-living, byssate (i.e. produces byssal threads and attaches themselves onto substrates). The shells are inequivalve where the anterior adductor muscle is absent while the posterior adductor muscle is enlarged. An interesting fact about these scallops is that they have 'eyes' - the pallial eyes are primitive pinhole organs that allows them to detect changes in light and/or detect shadows.
|Scallop, Volachlamys singaporina (?)|
Ark clams (Arcoidea) are relatively large bivalves with trapezoidal ribbed shells. An interesting fact about the ark clams is that they possess haemoglobin. A close relative is the blood cockles (see-hum) that we eat here in Singapore. The presence of haemoglobin may explain why the taste of the see-hum is slightly metallic!
Another pretty snail that I personally have not encountered. A brief conversation with Siong Kiat brought up that these snails may be seasonal. So where do they go during 'off-season'? No one really knows... Perhaps when they come up the substrate, it is for mating. The snail resembles the olive snails but with a quick verification with Siong Kiat, he gave a clue! These are from the family Mitridae.
|Family Mitridae, Pterygia undulosa (?)|
The Mitridae snails are commonly known as Miter shells. Miters can use their long proboscis to feed on worms and clams. They burrow in sand, usually to keep their siphon underground. This group of Miters are highly variable in shell shape and colours, hence some could be easily misidentified. I'm proposing that this one above is the Pterygia undulosa. An observation from this snail is that the black patterns peel off, leaving the shells white.
|Gastropods: Top - Olive snail; Noble volute and Baler snail|
My first bubble snail (Opisthobranchia)! I propose that this is probably Bulla ampulla based on its mantle patterns. They are very fast burrowers and this individual here was about 1cm long (fully expanded mantle). This one is suggested to be herbivorous, feeding upon algae. My camera was not able to resolve the features clearly. (Sad...)
|A type of bubble snail|
The Armina nudibranchs (Heterobranchia) were also common on the shores this time, all of them wiggling their way out of the sand. There appears to be two species occurring on the same sand bar! The colourful face nudibranch (top) is locally known as Semper's armina nudibranch (Armina semperi) while the bottom one with bushy face is known as the Bumpy-faced armina nudibranch. The latter species is much larger than the former species.
Another new nudibranch for our resident nudi-scope (Chay Hoon). It wasn't too difficult for her to give an ID. First it seems to be an aeolid, and finally narrowed it down to the Limenandra fusiformis. Chay Hoon also shared an interesting tidbit about this nudibranch. If you noticed in the picture below, some of the cerata (finger-like projections) are of variable lengths. It is said that upon disturbance, these cerata extends their lengths, seeming pointing them. An analogy to us pointing fingers, 'stop disturbing me!'.
|Limenandra fusiformis; found by Ria.|
Ria was also very excited by the motherload of seagrass anemones! We hope that when Dr. Daphne Fautin comes over this October, she can help identify these little critters.
Also commonly labelled as an anemone, the Peacock anemones are not true anemones, with >2 rows of tentacles around its mouth. But they come in a myriad of colours such as this one below.
Fan worms (Sabellidae) are also pretty creatures... They are filter feeders, feeding from the water when the tides come back up. They are also very shy, retracting at the slightest detection of danger and we hardly see the actual body column! Here shows one where we call the Spotted fan worm.
Changi has been a haven for echinoderms and the regular seastars are mostly omnipresent. A good sign that the substratum is still hosting a good diversity of them - both food and shelter.
An unusual find for me:
|Black furry sea cucumber, unknown of its species|
The white sea urchins are coming in! They seem to be increasing in numbers with each visit!
|Aggregation of white sea urchins, Salmacis sp.|
Even animals can host animals. The white sea urchins have been seen to host a type of polychaete and including this cone-shaped parasitic gastropod!
|Possibly a parasitic gastropod; found by Siong Kiat.|
The crustaceans weren't very many on this trip. Besides the usual swimming crabs, moon crabs and elbow crabs, I found this Pebble crab that I have been finding on the last few trips. Good to know of their presence!
It appears to be hatching season for the fishes! I found many juvenile fishes hanging out amongst the seagrass beds. This included the flathead, tripod fish, filefish, and seamoths! I was also surprised to find another super junior!
Now can you spot this fish in this photo?
|Can you see me?|
Now try spotting the eyes... ... ... ... Can you see it now? It is actually a 2cm long solefish! I think it is a Tongue-sole. It was a lucky find when I was poring around the sand for stuff... :) Now we do know that these baby soles hang out amongst the seagrasses too...
|Can you now? :P I'm a tiny solefish!|
Now that the pre-dawn low tides are almost over, we are about to transit into the dusk tides! We'll see where we head to in the following months. Catch me sometime next month again!