Weird, Wild, Wonderful: Shore life in Singapore

9 min read

To commemorate International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May, ISTS brings you another edition of Weird, Wild, Wonderful!

Singapore’s marine life is more diverse than you might think – and many can be easily found at our numerous beaches and reefs. This article introduces just a tiny fraction of the amazing creatures found on Singapore’s shores, showcasing the stranger and more beautiful representatives from the major marine animal groups.

To locate Singapore’s numerous pulau (islands), terumbu (reefs), and beting (shelfs), you can use this map of Singapore waters. Most of these intertidal areas are open to public, though the most accessible intertidal areas to visit are at our mainland beaches (Changi, East Coast Park), and at Sentosa (Tanjong Rimau).

Many of these creatures are revealed during spring tides when the moon is either new or full, so do check the tide timings on NEA’s website before planning your visit!

Cnidaria

Coral, sea anemones and jellyfish are all cnidarians. Cnidaria are a group of organisms with stinging cells that shoot out tiny harpoons, mainly used for catching prey or as defense against threats.

Clams (Bivalvia)

Clams have two shells, e.g. cockles, oysters and scallops. Some live buried in the sand, others attach themselves to rock, and some even swim.

Gastropoda

Snails and slugs are a diverse group of organisms found in a wide variety of habitats. Snails are gastropods with a single shell, while slugs do not have a visible shell. Nudibranchs are some of the most beautiful slugs found in the oceans.

Decapoda

Crustaceans, such as shrimp, prawns and crabs belong to a group of organisms called Decapoda, meaning ten (deca) legs (poda). They however have more than ten appendages, used for feeding, gripping things, walking, and swimming.

Saron shrimp (Hippolytidae) can be found at our mainland shores, as well as our southern islands and reefs. They are not very active and are difficult to spot from a distance with their camouflage. When examined up close, they are actually quite beautiful.

Echinodermata

Echinoderms, such as sea stars, feather stars, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins have radial symmetry, usually five-fold.

Cephalopoda

Squids, octopuses and cuttlefish are known for having tentacles, the ability to change color and skin texture, and releasing ink as a defense mechanism. More often encountered as food, these creatures are actually very beautiful when alive.

A bigfin reef squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) found at Terumbu Raya.

Fish

Fish are probably the most well-recognised of marine animals. Singapore is home to some very strange looking fish!

To learn more about Singapore’s shore life, a good place to start would be WildSingapore, which archives a vast record of our intertidal biodiversity. The website also includes a photo index for easy identification of the wildlife you might spot.

Due to our location, Singapore supports diverse marine habitats capable of hosting such a rich variety of intertidal wildlife. Our warm waters and sheltered coasts are suitable for key habitats like mangroves, seagrass and coral.

As a global shipping hub and whose 25% of land area has been reclaimed, the marine wildlife in our small island is particularly vulnerable. So, in your next trip to our coasts, do respect these nature spaces as wildlife habitats and only leave your footprints behind!

Written by James Koh and Kow Zi Shan
Photos by Loh Kok Sheng
Illustrations by Jia Qi

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