The Betuline Cone – Conus betulinus

The betuline cone (Conus betulinus) is a large predatory and venomous cone snail, related to the textile cone.

It has a heavy shell that grows to up to 17 cm in length, and is distributed across the Indo-Pacific. The snail itself is velvet black and crawls around on a broad foot hunting worms.

In Hong Kong it occurs on sandy bottoms down to 5 m and in 1985 was still regarded common, although I haven’t ever seen a live one locally (yet!)

In contrast to the textile cone, the toxicity of the betuline cone is low. The toxins of cone shells are known collectively as conotoxins and act on the ion-channels regulating cells activities as well as on neurotransmitter functions.

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State-level marine park planned in Dapeng New Area

Dapeng New Area – just across Mirs Bay from Hong Kong – is planning to build a national marine park according to the Shenzhen Daily newspaper. The aim is to “create the first coral-themed marine ecological system in the country”, by which I think is meant the first man-made coral ecosystem in China.

Dapeng will install artificial reefs to connect the coral reef communities in Da’ao Bay with those in the Tung Ping Chau area of Hong Kong, in the hope of providing a good marine ecological environment

Dapeng New Area has commissioned marine protection organizations to install 68 artificial reefs and plant more than 13,000 coral seedlings in the sea area in recent years.

The new area said it will draw on the experience of Hong Kong’s marine parks and adopt tough protective measures to provide a good environment for the reproduction and growth of the coral reefs.

By joining hands with the Hong Kong Underwater Association they want to establish the first diving research base on the mainland to improve awareness of marine environmental protection and encourage NGOs to participate in coral conservation.

Currently there are 39 diving organizations in the new area.

Over the past two years, volunteers have completed 12 cleaning operations and salvaged more than 448 kg of marine waste, including fishing nets, fishing cages and plastic bags.

Update to the Rays of Hong Kong List

Sharpnose Stingray (Maculabatis gerrardi)

Image Hamid Badar Osmany, reproduced under cc-by-da 3.0

Up to 2 m long, lives down to about 50 m in over sandy or muddy ground.

Bennett’s Stingray (Hemitrygon bennetti)

Image by A. Biju Kumar, reproduced under cc-by-sa 3.0

Maximum width 50 cm. Occurs down to 50 m depth.

Pale-edged Stingray (Telatrygon zugei)

Image by BEDO (Thailand), reproduced under cc-by-sa 3.0

Up to 29 cm wide, lives over sandy ground down to 100 m

The Starfish of Hong Kong, Part 5

Pentaceraster chinensis (no English common name)

Pentaceraster regulus – a relative of P. chinensis. Image by Bernard Dupont cc-by-4.0

A tropical starfish know from several locations including Hainan.

Luzon Sea Star (Echinaster luzonicus)

Echinaster luzonicus from Pulau Tioman (Malaysia)
Author Ron Yeo, cc-by-nc-sa.

The Luzon sea star is prone to shed its arms, which then regenerate into new individuals. It is normally six-armed but often quite asymmetrical in appearance, because of it has a habit of shedding arms. Its colouring ranges from red to dark brown. It is found in the tropical and sub-tropical western Indo-Pacific region, ranging from Madagascar and the east coast of Africa to Northern Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is found on both reef crests and in the intertidal zone where it feeds on bacterial and algal films that it extracts from the sediment. By shedding its arms for regeneration the species can reproduce asexually. The shed arm regenerates, growing a new disc and further arms.  Up to 65 cm in diameter.

The Starfish of Hong Kong, Part 4

Eight-armed Luidia sea star (Luidia maculata)

Luidia maculata (Seven armed starfish) taken in Ras Sedr,Egypt in 2012 by لا روسا (cc-by-sa 4.0).

The diameter with arms is 12 – 20cm and it has  5 – 9, but normally 8 arms. The arms are long, rounded and tapered to a sharp tip. The tips bear small sharp spines on the sides. The underside is pale and the grooves along the arms bear large tube feet with club-like, pointy tips. The colours and patterns on the top side are variable from greyish blue, to brown and beige, but normally have a darker star-shaped pattern in the middle, and dark irregular bars running along the arms. It ranges from SE Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, Maldive area, Ceylon, Bay of Bengal, East Indies, north Australia, Philippine, China and south Japan. Occurs inshore at depth from 0-134 m. Observations in Hong Kong include near Kau Sai Chai in Sai Kung and near Port island. It burrows in soft sediments and eats small invertebrates including other starfish.

Astropecten monacanthus

image directly linked from the website: Echinoderms of the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba)

Distributed in SE Arabia, Maldive area, Ceylon, Bay of Bengal, East Indies, norh Australia, Philippine, China and south Japan. Lives inshore in tropical, Indo-west Pacific Ocean waters at depths from 0 – 50 m. Observed in Hong Kong from Tai Long Sai Wan, in sand substrate.

The Starfish of Hong Kong, Part 3

Cholcolate Chip Starfish (Nidorella armata)

image by Steve Ryan, cc-by-sa 2.0.

Nidorellia armata is also known as the chocolate chip star which leads to confusion with Protoreaster nodosus which is also know as the cholcolate chip starfsih in english. It has a diameter of about 23 cm and lives on rocky surfaces with algae and seagrass at depths of 5 – 70 m. They feed on small invertebrates and algae which they digest externally by turning their stomachs inside out  and covering their prey with it. They are found in tropical waters clinging on corals and rocky reefs.

Sand Star (Archaster typicus)

image by Rie Tan cc-by-sa 2.0 .

It is found in shallow waters in the western Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific , incouding the Maldive Islands, the Bay of Bengal, Singapore, northern Australia, New Caledonia, the Philippines, China, southern Japan and Hawaii. It usually occurs in areas of the seabed with soft sediments such as sand, silt and seagrass meadows at depths down to 60 m. Larvae settle among mangroves and the young adult individuals gradually move to seagrass and sandy habitats as they age.  It eats detritus and anything edible it comes across by everting its stomach through its mouth and on to its food item. The food is then engulfed and brought inside the starfish where the stomach is returned to its normal position.

Stranded Whale Rescued by Beachgoers in South China

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily, a dwarf sperm whale (Kogia simus) was stranded at a beach in Daya Bay on the 23rd of May. The report stated that over a dozen people joined in the rescue effort, using their hands to spread seawater over the cetacean to help moisten its skin before pushing the animal to deeper water. The animal eventually swam away on its own.

Staff at the Daya Bay Fisheries Provincial Nature Reserve Management Office said that dwarf sperm whales are “very rare” in the waters around Daya Bay. The species is known to generally live in deeper water near the continental shelf. The animal was noted to have red blotches and scars indicating disease or parasites.

on the 12 of May 2016 I posted about a dwarf or pygmy sperm whale that washed up dead at Sao Wan Ho (Hong Kong), click here for the blog post and images.