Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The dancing sea hare - Aplysia species

Just one word. Mesmerizing!

And a short note, too:

Making a video clip of this sea hare wasn't easy. This was again because of Chai's Underwater Photography Rule no. 1: Don't touch them! and Rule no. 2: Keep a distance. That way, it is less likely that I would harm them, and they me.

But this guy kept swimming into my face. So, half of the time, I had to keep avoiding him & her (considering sea hares are hermaphrodites). But when it swam away, I had to follow it carefully so that I won't lose sight of it. And to make things worse, my snorkeling mask kept leaking!

Phyllorhiza punctata - Australian spotted jellyfish

Three short clips of a jellyfish I saw on the North Cottesloe Reef.

23/7/08: I managed to add some info to the clips this evening, but I suspect that handling in Windows Movie Maker and then saving them again must have compromised their quality somehow : (

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I think I know what the unknowns are now

In one of my earlier post, I showed the photos of three "unknowns". And it must be my knowledge of marine life improving with time :) that I think I have an idea now what they could be!

Unknown No. 1: Sea hare, I think it looks quite similar to this one.

Unknown No. 2: compound ascidian, like this one.

Unknown No. 3: lace corals growing on a sea squirt

Sea tulips, seagrass, worm, and hydroids

By now, I am getting picky in photographing sea tulips. But I still did these ones because they looked different.

These sea tulips look very much like the one shown in Australian Marine Life (Graham J Edgar's book). So I would think they are Pyura australis. But these didn't have stalks! In fact they were fused into one together with the wireweed (Amphibolis species). Anyway, the arrow - that's where something just popped out that made me jump!

WORMS! They never fail to give me the creeps. Marine or not.
And I was so happy that I have stuck to Chai's Rule for Beachcombing No. 1 : Never touch anything with your bare hands. At all.

And I don't like the way they wiggle :(

But well, this small of clump of sea tulips and seagrass is home to some hydroids too. How amazing that you can find several taxonomic groups co-existing in a clump.

I wasn't so sure about it initially. But after looking up a few books, I think the red arrow points to a bunch of hydroids. The black one points to some seaweed or algae. Hydroids are animals. In fact the feather-like structure is a colony of many tiny polyps. As typical of cnidarians, these guys sting. Their more famous hydrozoan relatives that are also colonies (not single animals) - the blue bottle (Physalis physalis) and By the wind sailor (Velella velella).

Another shot of them. Both were attached to the stalk of a wireweed - again! What a wonderful seagrass it is, providing a surface to live on for other animals and plants.

The first 4 photos were taken at South Beach, Freo; the last two, South Cottesloe beach.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What about the mundane ones?

Denis of The Nature of Robertson wrote this:
"We bloggers are guilty of posting about the rare and the exotic, and overlooking the mundane."

Well-said, Denis! That's so true.

I have to admit when I go beachcombing or snorkeling, I usually prefer to photograph animals or plants that are rare, exotic, weird, colorful, big, funny, extraordinarily ugly, handicraft-like, dangerous, poisonous, or even not looking like living things, etc. I hardly photograph the ordinary ones, and if I do, I would usually just keep them for record, not for my little blog.

Yeah, what about the mundane ones? They certainly make up part of the ecosystem. And the mundane ones have stories to tell too. I can almost imagine them saying this into my face: Hey, we are marine life too, you know!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Compound ascidians on South Beach, Fremantle

Another surprise when I was beachcombing on South Beach, Freo, was finding a compound ascidian, which is basically many sea squirts joining and living together as a chunk. And what I saw could be Botrylloides sp (?)

Each of the small yellow bits is actually an individual animal, called a zooid. Zooids of Botrylloides sp are arranged in double rows.

It just looks like something you expect to see in a handicraft shop!

Like any sea squirts, these guys need an inlet for water and an outlet too. The little pores in each yellow bit (zooids) are possibly the inlets. All zooids of a compound ascidian apparently share a large communal outlet, but couldn't find it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sea stars on South Beach, Fremantle

I went to South Beach, Freo (Fremantle) this arvo. I didn't expect to see much at first, considering it is near WA's largest port. But I got a few nice surprises - one of which being finding three large sea stars (~ 15 cm or more across) on the shore. I was so excited as I haven't seen one for a long time.

Images 1, 2, 3
(1) This is the first one I saw. It was upside down. (I found the broken tip and put it on the body.)
(2) Close-up of the broken tip. I love the colours.
(3) I turned it and took another shot.

Images 4, 5
(4) The exposed end on the broken tip. The orange color reminded me of the yolk of salted egg.
(5) The exposed end on the broken arm. Look at the tiny tube feet!
Seriously, don't they look like some rice biscuit sticks with orange-flavor filling?

Images 6, 7, 8
Close-ups of the upper side of the sea star

Images 9, 10
This is the second sea star I found.

Images 11, 12, 13
Close-ups of its arms

I think this is Archaster angulata - it looks very similar to the photo in Australian Marine Life by Tassie scientist Graham J Edgar, who works for UTAS. And similar to some photos I found on the net, too.

Anyway, the most striking thing about this sea star is that they make out one "on" one during the breeding season! The two known Archaster species sea stars are believed to be the only ones that do it one-"on"-one.

The male simply goes and sits on the female and as soon as the female spawns, the male will release its sperm. (They seem to have better control than many : ) ) Apparently, other sea stars just come together in a big party and spawn together, hoping that there will be some successful fertilization. Having some body contact is nicer I think.

Sea anemones of Bickley Bay, Rottnest Island

These are also Heteractis malu, I think.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Blue button (Porpita species)

Alright, what I thought was some dress button was very likely the skeleton of the blue button (Porpita species), or the blue button jelly as some people will call it.

(Thanks to Mosura who suggested I look up Porpita!)

Wikipedia says this:
This "animal" is actually a colony of animals. Each of those radiating tentacles is actually one individual animal.
These guys are "house mates" that share the same air-filled disc made of chitin.
(The brownish disc does look like the ones I photographed.)
And a blue button is not a jelly. So calling it a blue button jelly is a bit misleading. After all, a jelly is an animal, not a colony.


I have seen these dead blue buttons only once on the beach. Although Wikipedia says "mass beaching is common", I didn't see many of them that time. And that was a couple of weeks ago. I don't think I have come across any during my last two visits to the beach.

In fact, it is interesting that one or two months ago, I also saw heaps of blue bottles on the shore once, and then I just don't see them anymore, not even one.

What are these?

I have no idea at all what these are. My first thought was sand dollars. Then I began to suspect these could be some plastic thingies that were washed ashore or that people threw on the beach. Any idea?

This is the view from above

When I turned it

This is the underside of another one, which obviously differed from that in the last photo.

This is another one - probably similar to the first one before the brown coloration began disappearing.

A blue one!

Any ... yet another color - could all these be somebody's dress buttons?

Sea anemones in Parker Point Marine Sanctuary, Rottnest Island

These were the sea anemones I saw at Parker Point, Rotto. It's the same place where I saw those pink corals.

I can't remember how large they were, probably 10 - 15 cm across. The great thing is that they were in water that was less than one meter deep and was near the shore.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beautiful sea anemones

Of course, I got these images from the NOAA Photo Library. And I am using them in a proper manner, i.e. crediting NOAA and the photographers. I surely don't want to do anything silly to ruin this blog .

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce

Photographer: Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR
Image ID:
reef0529, NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection
Location: Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia
Photo Date: 2006 late September

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce

Photographer: David Burdick
Image ID:
reef0795, NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection
Location: Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce

Photographer: David Burdick
Image ID:
reef0792, NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection
Location: Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia

Such beautiful creatures!
I hope I will see some beautiful marine life like these ones in two weeks' time when I have my holiday at Coral Bay. I just couldn't wait for it!

I have often heard about the Ningaloo Reef but I have never thought of visiting it. It is just so far away. It will take me probably 16 hours by bus to get there. As much as I would like to fly there, the airfare is simply too costly for me - a poor student. (I wonder if you have read in the news about Aussie postgraduate students living below the poverty line.)

16 hours to get there and another 16 to get back. But I still believe it will be worth going. I have been not snorkeling long enough because of winter. It is time to hit the water again. And to take heaps and heaps of photos for this little blog!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Snail eggs

I couldn't think of anything else, except that these are eggs of sea snails.