Friday, December 08, 2006

Labrador revisited

Went to explore Labrador on Tuesday and Thursday this week, and it was the first time I'd been there in eons! The last time I was there was definitely before the work on the coffer dam started.

From the lookout point, although the menacing presence of the dredging equipment loomed on the landscape accompanied by the ugly brown fence slicing across Labrador, things actually looked pretty good, as the receeding tide revealed pretty much the usual stuff still around.

View from the lookout point. Dredging platforms now line the coast, and the coffer dam can be seen sticking out on the right of the picture.

Close up of dredging. The huge clampy thing sure looks nasty. It must be as big as a bus!

On the shore, all the usual suspects were out... sea spiders, snapping shrimp, the hairy crabs, juvenile catfish, the snails and hermit crabs, Copper-banded butterfly fish, filefish, loads of zoanthids, all hanging out amidst the rocks and the green stuff. Also quite a number of slugs and slimy things - Elysia, a big Discodoris boholiensis, Pteraeolidia ianthina, the blue dragon, and Acanthozoon, the spotted flatworm. It was good to see them still in action, especially with all the construction going on. And it's good that so far there doesn't seem to have been any increase in the silt, from just looking at it.

Sea spider!

Somehow at the end of the year we always see the Bryopsis blooming on some of the Southern shores, and with it comes my favourite nudibranchs! This is Elysia ornata, one of the green leafy sap-suckers.

Just before the sun set and we were about to call it a day, Ria's sharp eyes spotted this adorable pair moving amongst the Thalassia.

For photos of the other marine critters we saw, view Budak's blog.

Just before we left, we chanced upon one of Labrador's spectacular sunsets, blocked by the ominous construction works! It's all well and good to consider economic development, but sometimes you really have to ask yourself, at what price this development? I suppose it's all a matter of weighing the benefits against the disadvantages. Hopefully one day the benefits of preserving local habitats and biodiversity will become more important than the benefits gained from any further economic development.

Many thanks to Ria for providing the photos of the dredging!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Special crabs at Labrador

It was crabs galore at Labrador's rocky shore today. First spotted, by sharp-eyed Ria Tan of Wild Singapore, was a rarely seen moon crab, which are far more common on the Northern shores. It was swimming into a patch of seaweed when spotted. We placed it on the sand, where it promptly buried itself completely, presumably a way of hiding from both predators and potential prey.

The moon crab Matuta lunaris has legs which are flattened into paddles. They use their legs to dig themselves efficiently into the sand.

Next, someone else spotted a leaf moving amidst a clump of immobile leaves. Curious, she flipped it over to find a leaf porter crab hiding underneath! It did not seem to appreciate its sudden change in spatial orientation, however, and quickly flipped itself back under the leaf using its long spindly legs. We quickly placed it back into the pool of water, where it resumed floating around, looking like just another leaf.

Neodorippe callida, the leaf porter crab.

The most exciting find of the day was a pair of coastal horseshoe crabs, another rarely-seen animal in our Southern Shores. Horseshoe crabs are fascinating creatures, which I find really awe-inspiring to observe. They are known as living fossils because they have been around for a really long time (even before the dinosaurs!), and actually are more closely related to spiders than the true crabs of today. This is obvious when you look at their body plan, which is kind of alien to anything else I've ever seen. For example, they have pairs of walking legs sticking out at both sides underneath their helmet-like shells. These legs are used to grind up food as they walk, after which the food is passed into the mouth, located between the second pair of legs. The coolest fact about the horseshoe crab (for me) is that such an ancient creature has such an important and unique use in today's advanced medical industry. The blood of a horseshoe crab contains a medically important substance that is vital in testing iv drugs and medical equipment for bacterial contaminations, without which there would be no easy way of determining if something is sterile. For more information about these truly amazing animals, see Ria's horseshoe crab factsheet.

The pair of horseshoe crabs (Tachypleus gigas), one of 2 species in Singapore. They were spotted behind a pile of boulders on Labrador - the female was trying to crawl out over it with the male firmly attached on her back with his claspers, and may have gotten stranded there as the tide went out.

Here they are again, after we carried them out to the sand. The male is still tightly hanging on, on the back of the female. Horseshoe crabs are harmless, their tails are used for steering and helping them right themselves.

The alien-looking underside of a horseshoe crab - the mouth is located between the legs (see the hairy area?).

Many thanks to Ria for the photographs!