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Expedition to Anilao, Philippines 

May 22, 2010

Day Six

The weather this day started off very nice with glass flat water, but eventually the winds picked up and the seas became very choppy. The first two dives of the day were at Ligpo Island about a 30 minute boat trip north. The first dive was down to 110 feet and featured large seafans, fields of soft corals, lots of anemones with clownfish, squid and even jellyfish!

The second dive was on the opposite of the rock outcrop that we had just been at. Here was a wall and slope filled with all kinds soft and stony corals, primarily more robust corals such as Echinopora, Favia, Montastrea, Plerogyra and Pectinia to name just a few, as well as entire fields of soft corals such as Cespitularia, Xenia, Lemnalia, Sinularia, Anthelia, Clavularia and Tubipora. Here we collected a few stony and soft corals for the Academy and photo documented the area. Other exciting finds were giant clams, Tridacna maxima and a flashback cuttlefish, Sepia latimanus!

The final dive of the day was at a location known as Cathedral, which is one of the most dived reefs in the Philippines. Here we observed extensive thickets of Acropora in the shallows and a lot of fish such a fusilers, damsels, surgeonfish, rabbitfish, tangs, sweepers, cardinalfish, shrimpfish and angelfish. Since the dive took place between 4:30 PM and 6:00 PM we also observed spawning behavior in several groups of fishes as well as the “changing of the guard” as the day active fish began to seek shelter for the night and the night active fish such as lionfish, squirrelfish and cardinalfish began to appear from their daytime hiding places. The water temperature on this reef was 87 degrees, and extensive areas of the Acropora thickets we showing the first sign of coral bleaching, where the corals become extremely pale in color as they begin to loose their golden brown symbiotic algal partners, zooxanthellae. It has become very obvious on this trip that when human impacts are decreased on a reef system, it can and does begin to recover; coral reefs are very resilient provided they are given the opportunity to recover from human impacts.

Soft coral field at Ligpo Island

soft_corals

Rhizostome jellyfish, Crambione mastigiophora

jelly

Cuttle, Sepia latimanus

cuttle

A pair of cleaner wrasses (Labroides dimidiatus)give a good look over of a small parrotfish. The same behavior can be seen every day in the Philippine coral reef exhibit at the Academy.

cleaners

A pair of shrimpfish, Aeoliscus strigatus

shrimpfish


Filed under: Collection,Uncategorized — anilao @ 4:52 am

May 20, 2010

Day Four

Today two of us (Seth Wolters and Charles Delbeek) headed to Manila to ship out the corals we had been keeping in our coral corral. We up early in the morning and retrieved the corals and placed them in a cooler with seawater and made the 4 hour trip to Manila. There we worked with our local exporter AquaScapes to pack not only our corals but also to ship a number of fish we had previously ordered for our Philippine coral reef exhibit. With all the necessary paperwork completed the boxes of fish and corals were taken to the airport at 5 PM for their non-stop flight to San Francisco. At 11 PM Thursday night, Steinhert biologists Matt Wandell and Richard Ross retrieved the animals and took them back the Aquarium. So not much diving for Charles and Seth today, but a good day nonetheless!

Corals are attached to pieces of styrofoam to keep them afloat and upside down in the water and away from the sides of the bag.

coral-packing-1

Placed inside of styrofoam boxes, they are then sealed and placed in cardboard boxes with cooling packs.

coral-packing-2

Photos Courtesy: Dennis Ty


Filed under: Collection,Shipping,Uncategorized — anilao @ 7:12 am

May 17, 2010

Collecting Begins

Today marked the first day of collecting for the aquarists as we began looking for colorful, unique specimens of coral. When we collect we look for small pieces that may have broken off of a nearby larger colony or for small pieces attached to loose rubble. This allows use to collect specimens without damaging entire colonies. In the case of branching corals such as Acropora, Porites, Seriatopora etc. we may also use small pliers to gently break off small side branches. These cut areas quickly heal and begin to grow again, sometimes spouting two or more new branches where there was once one. Reproduction by fragmentation is a natural occurrence in these species and they have evolved to quickly regrow damaged areas. The fragments thus generated also quickly grow once they attach to a suitable substrate. Using this natural ability to quickly heal and grow allows aquarists to easily propagate corals in this manner.

The first site we visited was Aphol’s Rock, where there is a wide array of corals and fishes. The current was strong that day, which made collecting difficult but we still managed to collect over 40 small pieces of coral. The second dive was at a location known as Bethlehem, with a reef slope that extends down to about 70 feet. Here we observed, photographed and made videos of the fish population and reef structure for future exhibit ideas. We also found our very first Weedy Scorpionfish, Rhinopias frondosa!

Cardinalfish, Apogon sp.
cardinal

Black Cap Jawfish,Opistognathus sp.
jawfish

Dragonet, Synchiropus sp.
dragonet

Weedy Scorpionfish, Rhinopias frondosa
rhinopias

Once we collect our corals its back to home base where we then begin the process of attaching the coral fragments to small plastic plugs using a fast drying non-toxic glue. These plugs are then placed into a plastic grid material, which is turn placed inside a small holding cage which we then sink off the resort in about 10 feet of water until we are ready to ship them back to San Francisco.

One dive worth of specimens
_mg_8120

First the glue is added to the plug …
_mg_8122

… then the coral fragment is inserted and the glue is allowed to dry.
_mg_8123

Happy fragments waiting to be placed in the ocean!
_mg_8124

Next up are a few more dives including a night dive and an update on our coral “nursery”. Stay tuned!


Filed under: Collection,Research — anilao @ 8:48 pm

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