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Thu 02 Aug 2007

Mangrove anemones and seagrass

Category : marine

I thought I was going to be solo in the mangroves on Thursday, to collect mangrove anemones for Daphne Fautin, the world expert on sea anemones. At the most a couple of Toddycats might be in tow for exposure. When Rafffles Museum's Swee Hee said plans to hit some other sea shore had fallen through and that Daphne and him would join me as well, I thought well, that would make it especially nice! Then I got Hua Qin to come along to maintain his mangrove exposure and Swee Hee got Trixie and Ivy to join us for the same reason.

In the morning at Buloh, Ria greeted us with enthusiasm and she had rounded up a whole crew! My jaw dropped for there arent; exactly a LOT of anemones in mangroves. Still, it was nice to see the anemone team faces after reading so much about them in several blogs and I announced, well, I needn't get muddy now.

We dropped in to a site that has gradually become sea anemone and sea grass central over the past few years (the micro-terrain keeps changing all the time), and we got to work.

Having heard about the collections in the tougher substrate of rocky shores and sea walls, this collection was a treat, even with the burrowers. When a fleshy, shiny and often stripey blob is pointed out, you just have to sink your hands up to your elbows on either side and cup them upwards.

Then the pointer clutches at the mud madly and eventually an anemone, complete with retreating tube, is caught. it is almost as technical as catching mangrove shrimp, but that is more muddy for it requires mud and water mixing to channel out the rare shrimp (see image on left). this was more dignified.

After an hour or so, Daphne thinks we have four species and we'll need to be back to help sort one species out.

The guidebook (which Ria helped put online) shows two species (the images have strangely disappeared; so see the print copy) and gives one, wrong name.

"Mangrove anemones
Size: up to 5 cm in diameter

Sea anemones are common in mangroves, especially in areas with calmer waters. The stinging cells at the tip of the tentacles paralyse small animals which it consumes whole.

The Giant mangrove anemone (Anthenopleura africana, Family Actinidae) is the largest, with its body buried deep in the mud, while smaller species are often anchored on buried wood or rocks."

Okay this is pretty much true as it was carefully worded to avoid gaps in knowledge. Still, the species name is nonsense and the page sort of suggests two instead of up to four species. So you can imagine how delighted we are that Daphne is here. Finally, sea anemones are afforded the respect they deserve!

Turns out the sea grass on the forest platform was the cause for some excitement too. I had asked Murphy or Lawrence Liao about this moons ago when I realised their presence with my face in the mud photographing collembola. Never reported it to the present crowd and it turns out they had not known about it. I realised then there are fewer mud-lovers (well it does suck your knees out). Still, it seemed criminal not to have mentioned it to an actual whole team of seagrass people in Singapore! Talk to each other people! And that means me too...

But at least it was a double whammy for them and before I can blink, Ria and Kok Sheng have blogged it. Amazing, huh? They did an incredible job over Daphne's entire visit and along with a few other posts by our new breed of seashore lovers; there are so many that I del.icio.us-ed them with the tag "dapnefautin" to cope!

It was lovely visiting Buloh and a great break from shifting the office. All these years, I've not needed holidays somewhere else; it happens each time I'm in the mud. Glad I will be going on a holiday again soon!

Thanks to Kok Sheng for the photos and his camera! More photos here.

Posted at 3:32PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news