IYOR Intern's Take on Singapore's Marine Life - Sea Anemones aka 'Sea Ninjas'

Celebrating Singapore Shores 2019 at Berlayer Creek! It couldn't have been possible without the hard work of our IYOR Interns!
Our IYOR Interns are such a talented bunch! From making videos to creating art works, they have done so much to raise awareness about Singapore's shores over the past year. In this mini series, we will be featuring one intern's passion for sea anemones as she shares about them through writing about them in a fun and creative way! She hopes that you will fall in love with the sea anemones, just like she did! 😁😁😁

The Sea Ninjas - Sea Anemones

Sea anemones are like the middle children of marine life. They don’t get as much attention as their more popular siblings i.e. your corals and jellyfish. Like corals and jellyfish, sea anemones fall in the phylum known as Cnidaria. Cnidaria is an ancient venomous phylum, which is distinguished by a unique feature known as cnidae. Cnidae play a variety of role in predation, adhesion and defence. Cnidarians are incredibly diverse in terms of diet, behaviour and habitat. 

The anemones of Singapore were neglected for a while. It’s only the last decade or so, that we started documenting and classifying the anemones of Singapore. The shores of Singapore are populated with mysterious and marvellous species of anemones. 

Haeckel's anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli): This bizarre and scary-looking anemone is sometimes seen on our shores. Like all anemones, their tentacles can sting you real bad!
We have the Haeckel's anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli), who can casually drop off their tentacles and then regenerate them like it’s nothing. We have the Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.), whose one touch can make you feel like you’re actually on fire because of its incredibly potent venom and cnidae loaded tentacles.

Bubble-tip sea anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor): This anemone with bulbous tips is sometimes seen on our seashores. The Tomato clownfish is one of several animals that lives happily among and unharmed by the tentacles of bubble tip anemones.

Bubble-tip sea anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) can form friendly relationships the anemone fish of Singapore. We have miniscule invaders in the form of Lined bead anemone (Diadumene lineata); an invasive orange stripped species of anemones who thrive in tropic to temperate terrains. We even have an anemone that can swim! The Swimming anemones (Boloceroides mcmurrichi), swims in a very endearing way by beating its tentacles in a coordinated way. When they swim, it looks like flower which blossoms and closes it petals repeatedly as it drifts through the sea. 

Lined bead anemone (Diadumene lineata): This tiny anemone is often seen on our Northern shores, on hard surfaces near the high water mark.

Lined bead anemone (Diadumene lineata) : Often found in clusters of numerous individuals, on hard surfaces such as jetty legs.

Let’s not forget the handful of enigmatic anemones which haven't been classified yet.  

Unlike jellyfish, most sea anemones are sessile. This sessile nature of sea anemones don't appear to slow them down as they stick to rocks like passive blobs and wait for a chance to capture their passing prey. The reality is that sea anemones are like sea ninjas. They have cunning and creative ways of capturing prey and fending off predators. They can disappear into the sand within seconds…never to be seen again. They have microscopic weapons in the form of cnidae. They have a treasure trove of potent and diverse toxins. Compared to other Cnidarians such as corals and jellyfish, the sea anemones have a wider variety of toxins in their venom. 

The different types of cnidae found in the Frilly Anemones (Phymanthus pinnulatus). Image taken from Yap et al. (2019).

Let us dive into the saga of these merciless marine mercenaries!

About the writer:
Shabdita Vatsa recently graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelors in Life Sciences (Molecular and Cell Biology). She spent most of her undergraduate days obsessing over sea anemones and their toxins. Her fascination became research projects, working with scientists from the Reef Ecology Lab and Protein Chemistry Lab to study anemone toxins.

A passionate writer, Shabdita loves creative writing, popular science writing, and scientific writing. You can find more of her writings on her personal page: https://lifesciencepotluck.tumblr.com/

References used:
  • Shick (1991) Functional biology of sea anemones. Springer.
  • Fautin et al. (1995) Costs and benefits of the symbiosis between the anemoneshrimp Periclimenes brevicarpalis and its host Entacmaea quadricolor. Marine Ecology Progress Series 129: 77-84.
  • Fautin et al. (2009) Sea anemones (Cnidaria: Actiniaria) of Singapore: Abundant and well-known shallow-water species. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 22: 121-143.
  • Fautin et al. (2015) Sea anemones (Cnidaria: Actiniaria) of Singapore: Shallow-water species known also from the Indian subcontinent. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 31: 44-59.

14 Sep (Sat): Fishing community joins MPA Marine Clean-Up Day

The folks behind sustainable fishing, Marine Stewards Singapore, are officially joining in MPA's Marine Clean-Up Day. Fishing teams, boats etc will show that the fishing community are contributing and helping to keep our environment clean.
From their facebook event post, you can:
1) Clean up whereever you fish (even on a boat, scoop passing trash)
2) Join the beach cleanup, or
3) Join the kayak clean up (18 years or older, experience required)

You must register to be counted! Even if you do a clean up by yourself or on a boat.

Hope for Sisters' Islands Marine Park being named a Mission Blue Hope Spot!

Singapore aims for its first marine Hope Spot with Sisters' Islands Marine Park. Photo: Straits Times Lim Yaohui.
The Sisters' Islands Marine Park might become the Republic's first "Hope Spot" under the international initiative, Mission Blue, which draws public attention to marine areas which may need more protection!

7 Sep (Sat): Project IsLand-A-Hand - Coney Island

Love the environment, keen to explore the wilderness of Coney, and want to make a difference? Join the volunteers of Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) for Project IsLand-A-Hand (PIAH) on 7 Sept 2019 as they lend a hand to protect our environment!
What's new this time? Look forward to interesting learning journeys - join guided nature trails and butterfly surveys at Coney Island. Come meet some of Singapore's environment advocates and learn what YOU can do to protect the environment.

FREE, sign up now at: https://tinyurl.com/OBSPIAHSept-19

Shore exploration for kids with Young Nautilus (Oct-Dec 2019)

Join Young Nautilus to explore our own coastal backyard in Singapore, and take a closer look at the amazing animals! Expose your children to science and nature, see in action what they have learnt in schools about wildlife! Here's their public programmes.

Founded by educators equipped with degrees in Life Science and Marine Biology, Young Nautilus is an education enrichment partner for schools and families that provide fun and engaging science learning journeys. By fostering a deeper understanding of the world and the dynamic changes that shape it, we enrich what are taught in the MOE syllabus.

4 Aug (Sun): Registration opens for FREE walk at St John's Island on 1 Sep (Sun)

Registration opens on 4 Aug (Sun), 10am for this FREE guided walk at St John's Island on 1 Sep (Sun) at 10am.
This free 90-minute guided tour (capped at 45 participants) will be held on the first Sunday of every month. NParks volunteers will introduce you to the key features along the St John’s Island Trail. This land-based trail covers a distance of 1.6km. The tour does NOT go down to the seashore.

Codefish-SG: How to build a Singapore fish library

Today is the launch of the Singapore Marine Fish Expedition 2019! Scientists and volunteers are coming together for 12 days to build a fish library.
Why do we need a fish library? Why is it even important to know what fishes Singapore has?

20 Jul (Sat): Volunteer training for NParks Biodiversity Beach Patrol

Want to monitor Singapore shore for marine animals like sea turtles and horseshoe crabs? Join the next volunteer training session on 20 July 2019 (Sat), 2-4pm. Register online here.
Photo by NParks
Beach Patrol is a citizen science programme where trained volunteers look out for sea turtles and horseshoe crabs on Singapore’s shores. Volunteers will be trained to identify species and possible nests. Volunteers will have to go through a pre-event training workshop before participating in the patrols.

Singapore's corals unlikely to be impacted by rising seas

NUS marine scientists found that coral species in Singapore's sedimented and turbid waters are unlikely to be impacted by accelerating sea-level rise.
Corals at the reef slope of Raffles Lighthouse.
The researchers found that species present in deeper areas are able to tolerate a wider range of conditions, and are unlikely to be threatened by a rise in sea level, provided that other stress factors such as sedimentation do not increase.

Launch of Private Lives Exposé of Singapore's Coral Reefs!

The final book of the Private Lives Series has been launched! 

An Exposé of Singapore's Coral Reefs was first conceptualised 6 six ago, with Professor Chou Loke Ming at helm. Together with his team of young marine biologists (Dr. Huang Danwei, Dr. Zeehan Jaafar, Dr. Toh Tai Chong, Dr. Karenne Tun), and contributions from >40 other scientists, this book tells the past, present and future of coral reefs here.