Thursday, August 08, 2013

New surprises at Cyrene Reef with Large seastar and Cone snail

Cyrene Reef never fails to surprise us. Seated in a major shipping lane surrounded by the container terminal on the mainland and petrochemical plants on two island, there is always something interesting to see during each intertidal trip despite its location.

What a large Astropecten sp. seastar I found trying to burrow itself into the sand. It is as big has my hand!
Size of Astropecten seastar

Not only did I found out how big this seastar was, I also felt how spiny it was while making attempts to handle the seastar. It has two sets of spines along the edge of its body.
First set of spines pointing upwards
Second set of spines along the edge of the seastar
Such a pretty seastar comes with pretty orange underside.
Overview of the Astropecten seastar
Underside of the seastar
Tube feet?
Here is a close up of the seastar's overview.
Close up of overview
Here is the video of the Astropecten seastar burrowing into the sand.

Other types of seastars seen on this trip includes the Common seastar (Archaster typicus), Brittle star, the Knobbly seastar (Protoreaster nodosus) and the Cyrene only Pentaceraster seastar (Pentaceraster mammilatus). I will share about the Knobbly seastar later in my post.
Common seastar
Brittle star
Pentaceraster seastar
Underside of Pentaceraster seastar
This brittle star looks like it was feeding on some marine worm?
Brittle star feeding?
Somehow, it Cyrene seems quite unfamiliar to me the moment I landed. Even the highest level of the sandbar looks different. The sand has shifted by some extent on Cyrene. Since I am already on Cyrene, I checked out the seagrass situation.

On the Oval sea grapes seaweed (Caulerpa racemosa) there were many isopods swimming and clinging onto the seaweed if we observe them carefully.
Hiding on the seagraas blade is a famale shrimp with eggs.
Female shrimp carrying eggs
Oh, a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) on Cyrene, but it was not occupied with the False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris).
Giant carpet anemone
This poor octopus was stranded on the sand when the tide went out.
Stranded octopus
I helped to shift the stranded octopus to a pool of water and it was relieved.
Relaxed octopus
Here is a video of the octopus and towards the end, it came towards me and placed one of its tentacles on my booties.

On the eve of Singapore's National Day, the knobbly seastars of Cyrene are out in full force. They come in different shape, number of arms, colour and arrangements.

The best highlight of this trip would be the live sighting of the Cone snail (Conus magus). Mei Lin did a check and told me that the last sighting was record close to 30 years ago. We have seen many dead cone snail shells but never have we seen the live animal until today and we have over 20 species of cone snails. The cone snail has a venomous dart like sting that is capable of killing humans. It should not be handled by bare hands.
Cone snail
Thanks to Siong Kiat from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, we found the operculum of the cone snail. The cone snail has a very tiny operculum for its size.
Tiny operculum
Cute eyes

It was amazing to be one of those to be able to see a live cone snail after so long.

Read about the posts by others on this trip:
Mei Lin - A LIVING Cone Snail on Cyrene Reefs and more about the cone snail
Russel with photos on his Facebook.

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