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Fri 17 Jun 2011

Tue 21 Jun 2011: 7.00pm @ NUS LT23 - The Sea Anemone Public Lecture by Professor Daphne Fautin

Category : talks

The Sea Anemone Public Lecture

"Hidden treasures of biodiversity: flowers of the marine world"

By Professor Daphne Fautin
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Kansas
& Curator,
Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center
University of Kansas

Tuesday 21st June 2011: 7.00pm
Lecture Theatre 23 (next to Science Canteen; map)

Science Drive 2, Faculty of Science
National University of Singapore

Getting here
Take SBS No. 95 across the road from Buona Vista MRT Station. Stop at the second bus stop after the bus turns right into NUS/NUH.

Register to let us know you're coming - http://tinyurl.com/fautin-21jun2011


Sea Anemones of Singapore

About the talk - "Nemo lived in a sea anemone. These animals, which look like harmless flowers, are actually carnivorous that can eat Nemo and other larger prey. My study of Singapore's sea anemone diversity over the past five years suggests that there about 50 shallow-water species and most of them undocumented until recently.

The sea anemone diversity in Singapore waters include one species that can swim and several that can sting humans. The diversity is so high that it was postulated that Singapore has more species of sea anemones than the entire west coast of north America!

In this talk, I will explore questions like: What allows clownfishes to live in such a hostile environment? What factors are responsible for Singapore having a greater diversity of sea anemones than any area its size anywhere in the world? Where else do sea anemones live? And what role do sea anemones play in nature?"

About the speaker - Daphne Fautin is the world authority on sea anemones working with the Ocean Biogeographic Information System and the Census of Marine Life and she has produced a resource webpage "Hexacorallians of the World".

She is in Singapore to figure out the biodiversity of sea anemones and conduct a capacity-building workshop as part of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey. In the meant time, she has been discovering new records and species with the help of local naturalists in the field.

Having visited Singapore on and off since the late 50's with a keen eye, and who lived and worked in Malaysia during her stint with the Peace Corps, she has experiened many faces of Singapore and Malaysia.

We are lucky to be having her come and teach and share - she is a great teacher and will be conducting a workshop at St. John's Island for a week and is looking forward to this public talk. A fiery, energetic and scholarly speaker, she is not to be missed.

Hexacorallians of the World

Posted at 2:16AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

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 |

Tue 24 Jul 2007

The Swimming Sea Anemone, Boloceroides mcmurrichi

Category : marine

The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research is hosting Daphne Fautin, an expert on sea anemones (Phylum Cnidaria: Class Anthozoa: Order Actinaria). She is in town to help identify the Singapore anemones. She has been on several field trips with Singapore's seashore crews and is now immersed in the very tough job of taxonomy which involves dissection and histology.

Last Saturday, she conducted a workshop for some twenty of us and Kok Cheng blogged about it. He mentioned, as I did, the swimming sea anemone; I checked my notes and its Boloceroides mcmurrichi:

Photo by Airani.

Here is Airani's video of B. mcmurrichi swimming. You can hear Daphne Fautin say "This is spectacular behaviour. Because its so coordinated." A rowdy (what else) Ria fills the rest of the audio track, its quite funny.

Excerpts from Josephson & March (1966):

"When the pedal disk is detached the raised tentacles lash downward, driving the animal away from the substrate with the oral end leading. Swimming continues with the tentacles repeatedly and nearly synchronously flexing orally and lashing aborally, each beat moving the animal forward in the oral direction. A full cycle of tentacle movement will be termed a stroke. The stroke frequency during swimming is usually slightly greater than 1 per sec. Swimming bouts are of variable duration, even in a single anemone, and are typically quite short. ...

Boloceroides swims up, down, or horizontally apparently equally well. Often it swims in a nearly straight line, but sometimes the swimming course is rather erratic. The tentacles apparently beat in planes which are slightly inclined to the oral-aboral axis, for the anemone usually rotates about its longitudinal axis as it swims, making a complete revolution every 6-20 strokes. This rotation probably stabilizes swimming to some extent. ...

During swimming the tentacles are functionally organized as a series of concentric rings on the oral disk. During the downstroke portion of the cycle, the most lateral tentacles, the smallest of the crown, are the first to beat. The inner tiers follow in a regular fashion with a brief delay before the onset of lashing in each. The tentacles near the mouth are the last to respond."


  • Photos of the workshop by Airani on Flickr.
  • I. D. Lawn & D. M. Ross, 1982. The Behavioural Physiology of the Swimming Sea Anemone Boloceroides mcmurrichi. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 216 (1204): 315-334. [Abstract; JSTOR article on NUS Digital Library (login required)]
  • Josephson, R. K. & S. C. March, 1966. The Swimming Performance of the Sea-Anemone Boloceroides. Journal of Experimental Biology, 44: 493-506. [pdf].

Posted at 12:45PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news