08 June 2010

Been to Cyrene: Succulent Drumstick and Mystery Tentacles

Ling Ling shares a delightful report of her encounters at Cyrene. And I intrude in italics in her text:

Cyrene reef first came to my mind when I was planning for our tri-monthly Central Nature Reserve volunteer gathering. I wanted our ‘terrestrial’ volunteers to know that there are other valuable habitats in Singapore.
Today is Labour Day and full moon was just a few days ago. The moon was hanging over the water and there was serenity at Marina Keppel Bay before we depart for the reef. This is one taken when I was on the reef.

Although this is my second time to Cyrene, every trip is a surprise to me. It is beyond my comprehension that we can actually walk on a reef that is submerged most of the time and only become visible during low tide.
The sunrise was superb but after that, a big container ship sailed by slowly, reminding us that Cyrene is located at the junction of all the major shipping lines.
The intimate and complex interaction, behaviour and the appearance of all the creatures on this reef is downright amazing. I am not sure if this is a Favid Boulder Coral. (You're right, it is a hard coral from Family Faviidae! These corals come in a bewildering variety of patterns and colours!)
Ria, are those tentacles that are sticking out? (Great question Ling Ling! Those are actually the long skinny polyps of the hard coral Goniopora sp. With these long 'tentacle-like' polyps, this hard coral is often mistaken for an anemone. In fact, its common name is Anemone coral!)
One of my treats is to see the common sea stars mating and there are a few of these on the reef.
As a true Singaporean, we always relate very well to food and it is no exception on Cyrene too. Anuj shared with me that there are sea grapes and sea sausages and like a foodie searching, I chanced upon another one which I named ‘Succulent Drumstick’. Ria, may I know what is this?
(Ha, ha, I didn't know you were all that hungry on the trip. Thank goodness you made that delicious breakfast we all enjoyed afterwards on the boat. This looks like a leathery soft coral. You can see some of the tiny polyps sticking out in the part of the colony that is still submerged. While on the exposed parts, the polyps are retracted, leaving a smooth leathery surface that does resemble the skin of a chicken drumstick. I never thought of that!)

One of my favourites and these will retreat into a hole when they sensed moment or vibration.(Ria: My favourite too! They are tiny white fan worms!)
All these would not be possible without the constant effort of documentation and research. Collin and Jeremy were one of these dedicated people. Collin patiently explained and let us feel the difference between a male and female Alligator pipefish. There were other interesting fishes like the Razorfish which swims vertically.

Some of the volunteers have never been to a reef before and this is their first time. Some will exclaimed excitedly when they spot something and some filled with quiet curiosity. Everyone is paying attention to every single creatures and this just made my day. I am happy that they came to this reef and know that we have SO MUCH in our home and this reef is truly uniquely Singapore.
I wanted to bring Kareena to this reef but anyone younger than 19 years old is a no-no for this trip. I do not know if Cyrene will still be around in at least a decade or two from now so that I can bring her to this reef and tell her that Mummy wanted to show you all the wonderful creatures that I saw on this shore a decade ago.

Only you and I can help to protect Cyrene reef so that your children and mine can enjoy and take care of them too.

“For in the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand what we are taught.” Baba Dioum

Woon Ling Ling, 29, works at the National Parks Board and is the Volunteer Co-ordinator at the Central Nature Reserve. She loves nature and is an avid plant lover.

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