14 April 2010

Cyrene: "Chek Jawa of the South"

Lying so close to world-class industrial facilities, a first time visitor is often astounded by the marine life on Cyrene.
View of reefs at Cyrene
Some parts of the reef are thick with marine life.

Best seagrass meadows in the South?

Cyrene has lush and vast meadows with seven seagrass species in healthy condition. The only other shores in Singapore with as many species are Chek Jawa and Pulau Semakau.
Cyrene Reefs: Magnificent seagrass meadows
A downloadable 300dpi poster of seagrasses on Cyrene.

Cyrene also has the special Syringodium isoetifolium, called Noodle seagrass because it resembles stiff green 'mee hoon'. The only other place where Noodle seagrass grows in abundance is at Pulau Semakau. Indeed, Cyrene probably has among the last few large seagrass meadows on our Southern shores. Certainly, the closest to the mainland.
Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium)
The cylindrical Noodle seagrass is not commonly seen in Singapore.
Cyrene is one of the key monitoring sites of TeamSeagrass, volunteers who gather data on various seagrass meadows in Singapore.

Echinoderm Heaven!

Cyrene is especially rich in echinoderms: a group that includes sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sand dollars and feather stars.
Cushion stars (Culcita novaeguineae)
Cushion stars are frequently encountered on Cyrene.

Astonishingly abundant are the large cartoon-like Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus). Cyrene is probably the only reef in Singapore where juvenile Knobblies are commonly seen. In fact, Cyrene may be home to the only sustainable population of Knobblies!
Knobbly sea star babies (Protoreaster nodosus)
A bunch of baby Knobblies in different colours and patterns!

Home of the Special Star!

A spectacular sea star find at Cyrene is the amazing Pentaceraster mammilatus, a new record for Singapore! It was previously known only from the western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Recently, a juvenile Pentaceraster mammilatus was also spotted, suggesting that these special sea stars are breeding on Cyrene!
Pentaceraster sea star (Pentaceraster mammilatus)
The intriguing Pentaceraster mammilatus.

Living reefs!

Cyrene also has lots of hard corals. One survey reported in 1991 found Cyrene Reefs to have "the highest diversity of hard corals, with 28 genera covering 48.06% of the transect". (from Hsu, L.H.L. and Chou, L.M. 1991. Assessment of reef resources at sites identified for artificial reef establishment in Singapore. abstract on the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO website). Enormous leathery soft corals the size of a dining table, large boulders of hard corals and a wide variety of all kinds in between, are home to an array of fishes and other marine life.
Rich reefs adjacent to major shipping lanes
Rich reefs of Cyrene

The sand is alive!

Cyrene's broad sandy shores are teeming. Besides the abundant common sea stars and sand dollars, other surprises include moon snails and other burrowing snails and sea cucumbers.
Living sandy shores of Cyrene off Pulau Bukom
Wide sand bars thick with sea stars and sand dollars!

"Chek Jawa of the South"

Cyrene Reef also has some kinds of marine life that are common in Chek Jawa but less frequently encountered in the South, such as Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni), peacock anemones (Order Ceriantharia), Olive snails (Family Olividae), various sea hares. Unlike at Chek Jawa, the carpet anemones on Cyrene are often inhabited by anemone shrimps.
Anemone shrimp in anemone among seagrass
Nestled among the seagrasses, are Haddon's carpet anemones
homes to tiny anemone shrimps!

We have also seen a variety of animals on Cyrene, that we seldom see in the South but often encounter on our Northern shores such as Chek Jawa and Changi.
Thorny sea urchin (Prionocidaris sp.)
The Thorny sea urchin is commonly seen on our Northern shores,
but in the South, I've only seen it at Cyrene.

White sea urchin (Salmacis sp.)
As at Changi, White sea urchins are sometimes seen in large numbers
on Cyrene, something I've not seen on other Southern shores.

Red scaly sea star (Nepanthia sp.)
The Red scaly sea star is commonly seen on the North,
but so far for the South, I've only seen it at Cyrene.

More marvels and mysteries!

Here are some recent interesting encounters on Cyrene, some of which have yet to be identified!
'Blondie' the unidentified sea star
'Blondie' - the unidentified sea star on Cyrene.

Cowrie (Errones walkeri walkeri)
The special Walker's cowrie,
found by Chay Hoon and identified by Chim Chee Kong.

Remarkable sea cucumber (Holothuria notabilis)
The Remarkable sea cucumber,
first seen on Cyrene and identified by Robin Ngiam.
It was eventually also seen on Changi and Chek Jawa.

Variegated Sundial (Heliacus variegatus)
Variegated Sundial (Heliacus variegatus)
found and identified by Chim Chee Kong,
possibly a first record for Singapore.

Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)
Seen in Oct 08, a Fluted giant clam.

Unidentified sea cucumber
A sea cucumber that has yet to be identified!

Melibe viridis
A huge nudibranch, the Melibe is not often seen elsewhere,
but is sometimes abundant on Cyrene

Olive snail (Family Olividae)
A large burrowing Olive snail, yet to be identified.

Hammer oyster (Malleus sp.)
T-shaped Hammer oysters are common in Cyrene's seagrass meadows,
first highlighted by Tan Sijie.

Cyrene is always a delight to visit as we almost always find something interesting or even entirely new to us!

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