Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

Secret lives and secret worlds hidden in Singapore's most popular coral reef.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

JOIN OUR EDUCATIONAL DIVES!

The next Hantu Blog dive is scheduled for Sunday, 26 August, 2007. For reservations and enquiries, email us. RSVP with the following:
1. Your name,
2. IC/Passport number,
3. Your email address,
4. Your handphone number, and
5. Equipment required* including weights

*Please list size of BC and wetsuit in S,M,L and shoe size for fins

Join the The Hantu Bloggers Yahoo Group to read the trip itinerary, and to be informed of future dives.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bumper harvest for anemone hunters

Research mission uncovers many new species in S'pore waters
By Shobana Kesava Straits Times 4 Aug 07

SOME gaze into the marine firmament to look for starfish. For Dr Daphne Fautin, sea anemones give her the thrills.

As she peers down a microscope, Dr Fautin, 61, exclaims with excitement: Yet another discovery has been made here in Singapore.

The sea anemone expert has not seen anything quite like it: an anemone with bumps all the way down its throat. Just hours earlier, she and a handful of local naturalists had found one with strawberry spots running down its base.

There are about 1,000 known species of anemone, the smallest and largest of which are found in Singapore.

The tiniest one known to science, just a millimetre across, was uncovered on blades of seagrass here.

The largest, over a metre in height and diameter, makes up a complete ecosystem, supporting clownfish and shrimp.

Dr Fautin's discoveries bring the total number of sea anemone species identified here to 40.

The discoveries are potentially significant because of the dual nature of sea anemones.

Dr Fautin said they produce the most complex cell secretions. Stinging cells called nematocysts lie on these carnivores' tentacles, paralysing prey and pulling the trapped creature towards their mouths.

'Past studies have found this secretion fights cancer in mice,' Dr Fautin said. New finds could lead to new drug developments.

At the same time, these animals are so simple in structure that developmental biologists can use them to understand how cells divide to become heads, limbs or tails.

While no species of anemone is believed to be endangered, Dr Fautin said that it is possible for some to disappear before they can be identified.

The hantuensis species, once spotted on Pulau Hantu, has eluded the researchers in these last few weeks despite their efforts.

Dr Fautin warns against thinking that the world won't miss what it never knew it had.

'Fishermen have seen crabs and fish go missing. Only later, we found out it was because the mangroves, the habitat of their young, had been destroyed.

'Right now, we don't know what part of the ecosystem will also be affected down the road, because anemones have been removed too,' Dr Fautin said.

Siva's del.icio.us link on Dr Daphne's trip

More photos of sea anemones of Singapore's shores on wildsingapore flickr

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blog Log, 29 July 2007

The cold and wet weather throughout the week made me a bit nervous about going for a dive. The last we hope for is having to cancel a dive because of bad and dangerous weather. But we should be so lucky, as moderate to good weather held up on Sunday, and thank goodness! Because Keppel Marina is undergoing renovations through to next year, we departed from Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal.

Though we saw generally fewer nudibranches than were were used to on the reef, there were some super finds that made the trip all worth our while. Silver moonies and schools of damsels played the top of the reef slope, and in the deep I encountered my first Ceratosoma Trilobatum Nudibranch. Thanks to Chay Hoon for spotting it for me! Thanks also to her for taking all the lovely pictures featured in this Blog Log as I so cleverly brought my camera less the memory card this trip!

We did manage to spot some Blue Dragon nudibranches such as the one above, which was really tiny! Other tiny creatures that we manage to spot were cuttlefish! Chay Hoon and I spotted 3 altogether, and in 3 different sizes too! One was the size of your pinky nail, the 2nd the size of date, and the last one was about the size of a clenched fist.

Another beautiful nudibranch we ran into was this Chromodoris Lineolata. Chay Hoon and her amazing memory, blurted the its Latin name the moment we surfaced from the dive! I was flabberghasted. These critters feed on sponges and are found throughout the tropical Indo-West Pacific, growing up to 30cm!

Take a closer look at this photo of the Icon Seastar, and you'll notice quite unusual. There's a tiny mollusc called Thyca crystallina right in the middle, on top of the seastar. It's a parasitic sea snail that lives and feeds usually on the underside of seastars, most commonly found in shallow reef-top locations.

Zoanthids are commonly sought after in the aquarium trade. In an aquarium, zoanthids are a demanding species of coral and require great effort to maintain. On the reef, zoanthids are sought after as prey by Hawksbill turtles.

Acoel Flatworms are often mistaken for nudibranches. Some species of acoel tend to be small predators of copepods, other small flatworms. They are not parasitic, but can reportedly damage corals by shading. Similar to corals, some species of acoel incorporate zooxanthellae in their bodies. Given enough food and enough light, they multiplies asexually. Normally, however, the worms disappear on their own accord after a few months, presumably after having exhausted some necessary nutrient. Mandarin fish purportedly feed on acoel flatworms.

A mushroom coral recruit amongst the algae, with its tentacles outreached.

A juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips frolicks amongst Goniopora coral.

Found worldwide in tropical and sup-tropical seas, primarily in sandy or muddy bottoms, tube anemones are another species that are highly sought after in the aquarium trade. Tube anemones are characteristically slender smooth cones topped with two sets of dissimilar tentacles. The outer fringing tentacles are particularly well armed with stinging cells. The shorter (less than two inch) inner labial or oral tentacles assist in food gathering and manipulation.

A large marine flatworm, and possibly one of the most commonly encountered species on our reefs. Pseudobiceros sp.

Tomato clown anemonefish are usually found together with bubbletip anemones, as I was told by Chay Hoon. These fish feed on zooplankton and algage amongst other things. They have also been observed to take care of the anemone they are living in by feeding it! As they say: There ain't so such thing as a free lunch!

A tube worm with its feeding tentacles outstretched. That summed up the end of our day. Other critters we saw but didn't manage to photograph include: juvenile Tiera batfish, Six-banded angelfish, Emperor grouper, Eight-banded butterflyfish, Long-beaked butterflyfish, Paradise whiptail, Dotted Sweetlips.

For more photos of Hantu's marine life, and a host of other beautiful living creatures in Singapore's shores and waters, check out Chay Hoon's Flickr site and be BLOWN AWAY!

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Blooming Anemones!


A research team comprising Dr. Daphne Fautin from the Natural History Museum of Kansas University, Dr. Tan Swee Hee of the RMBR, NUS undergrads and nature enthusiasts made a trip to Hantu on Friday morning with the sole purpose of discovering the many species of anemones that thrive along the islands reefs.

Learn which anemones are special to Singapore and why Pulau Hantu is such an important spot for studying them at the ever exciting Budak Blog!

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Singapore's biodiversity may provide potential cures for diseases

Channel NewsAsia 19 Jul 07

SINGAPORE: You may think that Singapore lacks biodiversity, but the latest collaboration between National Parks Board and an international pharmaceutical company may just prove you wrong.

Drug discovery company MerLion Pharmaceuticals and National Parks Board have inked an agreement to tap into Singapore's diverse plants, animals and micro-organisms.

The company will collect samples from here to support drug discovery that's based on natural products.

Singapore is one of many stops the company collects samples from.

The move will boost MerLion's library, which now contains more than 100,000 micro-organisms. Royalties from any successfully produced drug will also come back to Singapore. – Full

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Love island

Though just 40 minutes from the mainland, Pulau Hantu is proving to be quite the idyllic island getaway for lovers.. that is if you're a shrimp.

In your private and gorgeous anemone, anything can happen! Swing by the Budak Blog for a peek into the secret and naughty life of a little shrimp in the sea.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wildfilms exploration at Hantu


The Wildfilms crew visited Hantu islands intertidal over the weekend and uncovered a remarkable find of Mushroom Corals amongst other things.

How many kinds of underwater fungi can you find at Hantu? Bedazzled with the answer at the Wildfilms Blog.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blog Log! June 17

A nice coral head

Last Sunday wasn't too good a day for being outdoors. As you all might know, we had torrential rains almost all of last week, which probably accounted for the disappointing or rather, challenging visibility conditions at the island.

A phyllidia sea slug


To add to that, we thought that as we moved out of the marina, that the weather might clear up as we headed out to sea, but for some reason the clouds over Telok Blangah looked far brighter than they were looking Southwards! So we braced ourselves for a cool dive in warmer waters, because the strong winds that swept across the sea was absolutely chilling!

The day's first flabellina

We managed to pull into our first dive site with few problems and one of our divers clocked a dive time of 60 minutes as she drifted along the fringing reefs and spotting a Juvenile Sweetlips along the way!

A colony of sponges

Usually after our 1st dive, we'd anchor up at the 2nd dive site as we sit through out surface interval and chow down our lunch. But today, strong winds made that regular task very challenging. So we took refuge by docking at the Big Island jetty, and took a walk on the island, checking out its lagoon and mangrove. Despite the gloomy weather, the island still burst with tranquil bird songs.

Some sponges take on wacky shapes

Though the weather had worsened, the 2nd dive proved to me far more encouraging!

A seemingly innocuous-looking hydriod

Tons of fish took to schooling near the surface during the storm, and the wonderful sea whips and corals had all their tentacles out to take advantage of the increasing current.

Gloomy skies, rain, wind, and waves

ReefXplore guide and Hantu Blog volunteer Marcel, managed to turn out 2 seahorses and an eel during the second dive.

Trees swayed in the wind, as our boat did on the surface!

It's been awhile since we dived at Hantu in the midst of a storm. It was refreshing albeit more challenging, as sometimes it necessary to be reminded that nature doesn't always comply to our needs or wants, and that sometimes a change, even if for the worse, is good. It was all part of the experience of being outdoors - the choppy sea definately looked impressive and the rain made the day a whole lot cooler.

The jetty in the storm

The rest of the pix are for your viewing pleasure! As with most low vis times, it a good opportunity to look out for interesting coral instead of the usual hunt for queer fish!

An unusually-shaped neptune's cup (barrel sponge)
Whips favour sites with strong currents
A young sea fan
More whips reaching out into the current
A huge sea slug! Compare it to the size of the coral-encrusted glass bottle its resting upon!
A young crinoid (feather star) seeks cover in a crevice
Tube worms
A young soft coral colony
Various corals growing together
A red swimmer crab scavenges on a tusk fish
A closer look
Flabellina
The Tan and White cowry is often found in association with red encrusting sponges.
Red and Blue algae
Whiptail
Whiptail
Coral
Coral
Seafan