Thursday, June 6, 2013

Molluscs, ascidians, stars and cucumbers: Mini-talks at the Southern Expedition

We finally get an understanding of some of our common ascidians. As well as some of our echinoderms, and learn about molluscs and marine life in Thailand. In the last of the mini-talks at the Southern Expedition.
As Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers says so well: "I've learned so much from #megamarine survey! Learned/saw new things & learned more about things I already knew some about! Enriched!"

In her talk "What is an ascidian?" Dr Gretchen Lambert (University of Washington, USA) shared lots of information about these amazing animals. Although they look like blobs, they are quite complicated inside with organs. In fact, they belong to the same Phylum Chordata that includes vertebrates like us! She also confirmed that the cute little mushroom thing that came up with the dredge is an ascidian. Another one was found in a later dredge.
In the tradition of the early naturalists, Dr David Lane (University Brunei Darussalam) shared his colourful journey studying a wide variety of creatures during his long career in his talk "Stars, bats, cucumber". As his slide shows, he also studies flying fishes, which were found during the Southern Expedition too.
He spent some time teaching in Singapore, when he taught about bats!
Dr Lane is also the author of one of the beloved guidebooks to Singapore's shores, the one about our sea stars and echinoderms.
Dr Lane shared how sea cucumbers reproduce by releasing eggs and sperm. So over-collection can cause the population to collapse when the remaining sea cucumbers are too few and too far apart to reproduce.

In his talk "Marine mollusc diversity and their problems", Dr Kitihorn Sanpanich (Burapha University, Thailand) shared gorgeous photos of marine life in Thailand. He laments that an Expedition such as ours has not been conducted in Thailand for a long time.
Dr Kitihorn is also an expert in nudibranchs!
Sadly, the dive team were marooned outside Base Camp during the thunderstorm that happened during the talks. So they couldn't join us for the mini-talks. But I'm glad Debby managed to get a glimpse of the highlights from the live tweets on #megamarine.

It's been a whirlwind of learning and finding out. From these talks, I'm deeply impressed by the passionate work being in such a wide range of marine life, and how so much has been discovered about them. At the same time, that there is so much more to learn and discover.

Rene Ong has been videotaping the talks and will soon post them online for those who were unable to attend them.

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