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AQUATIC ADVENTURES
Divers' Log


SERENDIPITY GARDEN
Pulau Redang, Malaysia

by Paul Jambunathan; Co-authored by Dr. Stephen Jambunathan

LIST OF WHAT WE SAW AT SERENDIPITY GARDEN.
4th June 2001, 5.10pm.

  1. Immediately upon descent we were greeted by a green banded blenny (Salarias fasciatus) on a piece of concrete.
  2. A few minutes later the chance find of a Fingered Dragonet (Dactylopus dactylopus) sent 'currents' of excitement among the dive team. I was told it was a relatively rare find. It had the significant 'fingers' and the signature first dorsal fin.
  3. The sandy-shelled 'box crab' is a master of disguise. Its shell is literally sandy (like sand paper) and it spends most of its time with its claws boxed in. It is found submerged just below the sandy surface with a barely visible outline.
  4. Mantis shrimp. Found hidden in a small hole the size of a 20cent coin.
  5. Loads of sea hares (Aplysia dactylomela) and a garden full of eggs. Now we were really surprised and pleased as we were given to believe that sea hares were becoming quite a rarity in these parts. Sea hares have large rhinopores that give them the rabbit like appearance. They have a chopped-in-half like appearance with a lump between their parapodia - the backward and upward folded wing-like portions. Stimulation of this lump - later identified as a pore, discharges a purple dye which is toxic to its predators. By the apparent abundance of eggs we preferred to think that we had tumbled upon a nursery of sorts. These eggs were typically found woven onto a small variety of sea grass. The eggs look like a small ball of 2mm twine laid onto the grass presenting like a loosely woven, clumsy net. The grass was not of the long dense variety. This variety was about 8 inches long, green and about 3mm thick. Occurring in clumps and about 4 inches apart they literally provided a garden for sea hare breeding. The eggs were in several shades of green and even brownish. We were not sure whether the brown coloured eggs were older, maybe oxidised or dead, but the majority of eggs spotted were light green in colour.
  6. Mating sea hares! We observed sea hares mating and some mounting, probably in preparation to mate. Sea hares are hermaphrodites. They remain so as individuals. As they approach and 'court' one another one of the sea hares assumes the female sex and the other becomes male. The male mounts the female from the rear and rests between the parapodia of the female. The female then would carry on her journey with the male almost riding piggy-back. As soon as intercourse was complete they would disengage and resume their hermaphroditic status. This information was found on the Internet.
  7. Transparent shrimp. Tiny (1-2cm long) cleaner shrimp found on a large sea cucumber. They were identified as Periclimenes imperator shrimp. These have a transparent body with white, maroon or black parts that distinctly stand out. It is believed that cleaner shrimp are faithful to their host for life. We had previously spotted these shrimp on sea feathers at Sandy Bottom, among anemone and on other sea cucumbers.
  8. Spider crab - very stringy crab with little definition but significant in its presentation with pincers.
  9. Sea urchins. It was as though we had stumbled upon a universal convention of sea urchins. There were literally thousands marching in one direction. It was an amazing sight to behold. The sad bit was our apprehension for the many sea hares and their eggs that lay in their wake. We had earlier spotted a Melibe fimbriata (nudibranch) and were desperate in our attempts at trying to relocate it. However in retrospect it may have been an interference with natural selection.
  10. Banded pipe fish. About 6 inches long with brown bands.
  11. Comb sea star. An amazing starfish that has comb like processes on both sides of its tentacles. These comb teeth are clearly visible and prickly. The amazing nature of this starfish is its behaviour at burying itself in sand as soon as it is disturbed. It is sand coloured and perfectly blended with its sandy background. The discovery of the comb sea starfish was a lesson in serendipity. Sifting through a small mound of sand we uncovered this beauty. As soon as it was uncovered it began moving its hundreds of 'comb teeth' which almost vibrated itself into the sand.
  12. Diving wrasse. These beauties hover over the sand and dive into the sand at lightning speed when threatened. It is almost impossible to anticipate its dive or its entry point.
  13. Sand divers. These are slim long fish that behave exactly the same as the diving wrasse.
  14. Panda anemone fish. In the middle of nowhere we stumbled upon a sand anemone that had panda anemone fish as its inhabitants. Unfortunately one of us accidentally stimulated the anemone and were treated to a frightening display of withdrawal. The anemone immediately withdrew into the sand with a couple of fish within. It was both frightening and amazing that responses like this were survival techniques for both the anemone and fish.
  15. A mimic cleaner blenny in a bottle. We discovered a tiny blenny peaking out of a bottle lying on its side.

5th June 2001, 10.20 am.

  1. White bristleworm. About 3 inches long. It behaved exactly like the comb sea star.
  2. Sea hares. This was an unusual sight as we were confronted with many sea hares that had partially buried themselves in sand mounds. They seemed to be burying their heads in the sand. It was beyond our reason. We are amazingly lucky to have spotted these creatures as they are presently the focus of an interesting neurological study in Florida, US linking it with the neurological system of the human being.
  3. Sea hare eggs on a bottle. This is absolutely confounding as all the material reviewed suggested that sea hares lay their eggs on sea grass. This find gives rise to a possible conjecture into survivalistic behaviour. It could be argued that sea hares have chosen alternative laying sites once previous sites have been identified as food to predators. It was interesting to note that a dive-buddy who revisited the site two weeks later reported no sightings of sea hares and eggs. The question arises; was early June the mating season for sea hares?
  4. A different variety of sea hare - Pleurobranchus brockii. About 1 cm in length is takes the form of a tiny shell-less snail. Not to be confused with a nudibranch, it does not have any semblance of gills.
  5. Nudibranch. White nodular nudibranch with black markings - Phyllidiopsis pipeki (??)
  6. Black crab. A jet black box crab - very flat and slim. About 2 inches across and shiny in nature. It mimicked a twig and was only identifiable when it exposed its pincers. It was a passive crab which did not endeavour to hide itself nor be aggressive when disturbed.

5th June 2001, 4.45pm.

  1. Many sea hares mating and loads of eggs on sea grass.
  2. Different sea hare - Pleurobranchus brockii. A strain on the eye, as it is minute - about 1cm long and dark brown.
  3. Snake eel peering out of a hole in the sand with only its head visible. It was white and with discernible teeth.
  4. Periclimenes shrimp - transparent cleaner shrimp.
  5. Remora. A solo and lost remora that accompanied us for about 10 mins. It attempted to attach itself on a rather large pelagic animal in the form of Dive Instructor Lam.
  6. Diving wrasses.

Other life forms spotted included: star fish, banded string-worms, giant grouper near the reefs.

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