Learning logarithms from sea snails, and other benign creatures

Date January 27, 2014

The Hantu Blog is very privileged to be a part of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) that continues to explore Singapore’s oceans even though most of the media attention has since died down. For this survey, we got to travel onboard the NUS vessel Galaxea!

Conditions were mostly overcast and hazy.

During our first dive at Lazarus, where the visibility was an incredible 40-50cm, we were so busy collecting coral rubble that all I managed to take a photo of was this pair of Phyllidia sea slugs. Stirring up heaps of silt as we were collecting the rubble and sediment samples didn’t help with improving the underwater visibility conditions!

However, the amazing Chay Hoon managed to find a cone snail while out collecting rubble. She didn’t know it was a cone snail at first, and picked it up with her bare hands thinking it was an ordinary and benign snail. Cone snails are venomous. They hunt fish with the help of this venom that’s delivered through a harpoon-like tooth. Scary stuff. Like all snails, they move slowly, but it can deliver venom into its prey in just 250 milliseconds. That makes a cone snail, not benign. The venom from cone snails was recently discovered to have profound pharmacological qualities.

Barnacles on a whip coral.

An ascidian-encrusted pen shell.

A hydroid in its gorgonian host

Gorgeous gorgonian seafans and the things that cling onto them like crinoids (centre) and basketstars (above)

Creatures that live on whips like Bryaninops goby (top), allied cowries (center), and pen shells (above)

More nudibranches

A ribbon of nudibranch eggs perfectly coiled within a tiny piece of calcareous algae. I think nudibranches must be very good at logarithms. It’s a very nice spiral! (After publishing this post, I was informed that this spiral made by the nudibranch is more likened to an Archimedean spiral)

There were tons of flatworms

A brittle star clings on to a crinoid that clings onto a sea whip

An ascidian with intestines full of poop. It’s so crazy that everything else is transparent, and that the only reason we can “see” its intestines is because it’s filled with poop!

A piece of coral rubble…

Hold your horses… it’s actually a Devil scorpionfish (aka. Sea Goblin) Like the cone snail, they like to appear benign. But they are far from it. These fish have no scales (except along the lateral line), instead its body is covered with venomous spines and wartlike glands which give it a knobbly appearance. Do not touch fish that look like coral rubble! This one was a itty-bitty tiny one, that black digit on the left of the photo is my index finger!

More photos from this dive!

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