Monday, June 25, 2007

Perhentian '07: Corals and other creatures that don't move (much).

Southeast Asia and Malaysia in particular is blessed with a rich marine ecosystem, thanks to its relatively shallow waters, an abundance of protected coves, bays and lagoons, and warm temperatures that is very condusive for coral growth.

There are basically two kinds of corals, namely soft and hard coral. As the name suggests, hard corals are rigid owing to their calicified exoskeleton.

Hard corals come in various shapes and sizes and their common names often reflect what they resemble. eg. this coral formation is called the staghorn coral owing to its erm.. staghorn-like protrusions.

This, on the other hand is a garden of whip corals. Single strands of white corals seemingly 'grow' from out of the seabed. Often found in areas of strong currents, they are regarded as warning beacons or landmarks to avoid .

Then of course there is the soft coral, which does not have a calcified skeleton and often are whispily blown about by the moving current. They also come in various designs, such as this one, which is a large colony of bubble corals.

Aside from corals, there are many other sea creatures that 'hang around' the coral gardens to forage for food, very much like gazelles in the African savannah. The above is a cushion star which can double as a pin cushion for your spinster aunty's knitting projects.

This is a two-in-one: A sea sponge (in pink) with a growth of feather stars in its funnel. Sponges are perhaps the most primitive of multicellular creatures as they lack true tissues and organs like nerve cells or muscles.

This is a cucumber, and is what is commonly served in many chinese restaurants as the sea ginseng ("hai shen") IT is often regarded as a potent aphrodisiac (probably due to phallic shaped body) and has been a staple chinese delicacy for thousands of years. If only they knew that this creatures actually acts as a vacumn cleaner of the seabed, cleaning it of fallen and decaying debris.

This is another type of coral very commonly found in these waters.... but I'm not too sure of the name. Well, it looks like a comb.,.... so i guess it is a sea-comb, perhaps? Asther, what is your opinion?

Ok, this is the big mama of all sea urchins. It comes in at a whopping three feet in diameter and thos spikes are hard, sharp and full of poison. Although the locals swear by its delicious meat and entrails.

Sea fans are also a common sight in coral-rich waters, and are considered a type of soft coral, although it looks more like a plant than a coral. They come in various colours and can grow to be as big as a truck!

I also saw lots of sea-kelp growing near the coast and were constantly being washed up to the shore. The resort staff had a hard time clearing the beach of this 'trash' as they were rather sinewy and tenacious.

Last but not least, is the giant clam. They lie in between cracks in the wall, or in between the large hard coral formations... just lying in wait for morsels of food with their mouths wide open.... hmmmm kinda reminds me of my rather obese Uncle..... ;)


Friggindildo said... pretty... so blue.. makes me want to go now..siiiiigh

Asther said...

Photo 4:
Bubble corals are actually hard corals. The "bubbles" are water-filled vesicles that protects the delicate hidden polyps. The hard skeleton is completely obscured by the vesicles.

Photo 7:
I don't think this species of sea cucumber is edible. ;P Hehehe...

Photo 8:
It's another species of whip-coral

Photo 9:
This is not a sea urchin, lar. This is a Crown-of-Thorns Sea Star. Hehehe... Never knew it's edible! Yuck!

Photo 11:
This is a colony of algae called Funnelweed. They're useful as they produce oxygen thru photosynthesis