Carnival under the Seas

We dress up to blend into a sea of beads and feathers. Two days in fancy dress is enough for most of us; and now the Carnival is over. However, there are marine creatures that spend their lives masquerading under the sea in the Caribbean. Dr Anjani Ganase presents some of these creatures in the Carnival that continues year round under the sea.
The Basket Star: Like something out of an alien movie or an old mas band, the basket star can be found wrapped in a tight ball under rocks and in sponges during the day, but at night they extend ornate arms into the water column to trap plankton. Careful not to shine the torch on them too long or they’ll curl up and retreat back into hiding.
The Snake Eel is common on Caribbean reefs and is the reason that many people believe sea snakes can be found in the Caribbean. Alas the snake eel is a type of fish, and not a snake. There are two species of “snake eels”, the sharptail eel and the golden spotted eel. Sea snakes are only found in the Indo-Pac…

Walking tall around the world

With technology, some skills may be “endangered.” Dr Anjani Ganase looks at the traditions of stilt walking around the world, and celebrates the revival of Moko Jumbies. 
The art of stilt walking was created by multiple cultures around the world for practical purposes. There were many advantages to being elevated, to be able to reach higher, see farther, wade deeper and move faster. In many places, the skills of stilt walking also drove the competitive and entertaining aspects of proving one’s skills, from which emerged the use of stilt walking in dance and games.Today, we may have moved beyond the need of the stilts as tools, but they continue to be used in lively art forms, with special appeal to youth.Here, in Trinidad and Tobago, our stilt walkers, the Moko Jumbies dare to go higher, and to move in more complex manners. Being among Moko Jumbies is mesmerizing, it’s like being among giants. Let’s dig into their history and find out what they represented.

China In northern provinces of…

The Parrot and the Parrotlet

Faraaz Abdool, photographer and birder, tells us about the members of the parrot family that are native to Tobago. All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool

Widespread across tropical and subtropical regions around the world, members of the parrot family have charmed humans with their vivid coloration, extraordinary intelligence and charismatic personalities. Whether we’re speaking of cockatoos, lorikeets, macaws or budgerigars, members of this family are immensely popular and immediately recognizable. It is theorized that ancient parrots have been present on the earth for up to 66 million years. Indeed, this would mean that our feathered friends were present during the major extinction event that marked the end of the Cretaceous period; the end of the reign of the dinosaurs. It is universally accepted that they have at least been around since the Eocene, 50 million years ago. After surviving various mass extinction events, even coexisting with the fearsome giant snake Titanoboa, currently in …

Do we look like aliens to an octopus?

Paul the Octopus shot to fame when he was used to predict World Cup winners in 2010. How intelligent are these creatures? Dr Anjani Ganase explains in this creature feature.
Cephalopods (head-foot)
The group of marine creatures that includes squids, cuttlefish and octopus are in a family called cephalopod, which literally translates head-foot. Most cephalopods look as if they completely lack a body. The basic anatomy of a cephalopod consists of a mantle (the head), a siphon or funnel for propulsion, two large eyes and eight tentacles. While some cephalopods have internal structure or bone, such as squid and cuttlefish, octopuses lack any bones or skeletal structure and as a result are extremely flexible and capable of morphing to fit through tight spaces. Conversely, the nautilus, which is a distant cousin, has a more rigid shape because of its large, external coiled shell. The shell features a series of chambers that can be filled with air/ gas and used as ballasts to control their bu…

The Shape of Water

Dr Anjani Ganase looks at the influence of rivers, the creation of deltas and the places where the sea comes in.
River deltas are formed where rivers meet the ocean. The dynamic water movement driven by the forces of waves, tides and river flow all shape deltas and result in unique wetland ecosystems that live within the narrow margins between the land and sea. As seasons change, as storms surge and tides turn, we also observe shifts in the distribution of soil, vegetation and aquatic life that utilise the confines of the delta. Rivers bring soil from inland, and the sediment settles out as the river slows where it nears the ocean. This is because of the flatter, even terrain that occurs when the river reaches sea-level that allows the river to widen as it is no longer is restricted by the river banks and can spill over a low lying flood plain. Apart from the river flow, ocean waves, tides and even the spin of the earth (coriolis effect - which is the deflection of water flow because …

The Pelicans of Tobago

On coastlines around our island, you can see easily pelicans. They nest and breed on the offshore islands that have been designated sanctuaries, and roost on rocks or fishing boats, any perch that offers a vantage point above the waters where fish school. Faraaz Abdool tells us what makes this bird such an efficient fisher. (All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool)
“A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!”
- Dixon Lanier Merritt Popular in poetry, prose and legends, pelicans have charmed our hearts for centuries. With a lineage extending as far back as 30 million years ago, the eight species of pelicans alive today don’t look much different from their prehistoric ancestors. These large, distinctive birds are distributed across the world, occurring near water on every continent except Antarctica. Their closest relatives are the Shoebill and Hamerkop – both also incred…

Watching a Big Island Burn

What do we have to learn from the environmental disasters in Australia? Dr Anjani Ganase, coral reef ecologist, who studied and worked at the University of Queensland, reviews the timeline to extinction. 
The fires in Australia are examples of the abrupt and severe consequences of human induced changing climate. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 2019 has been the hottest (1.5 C above average) and driest year (40 % less than the average rainfall) on record; their data goes back to 1910. The fire season is longer and more severe than ever; bush fires started since spring in September and have yet to ease. Along the eastern and southern parts of the country, over 100,000 square kilometres of land have burned. This area is equivalent to the size of Cuba, the largest Caribbean island. 
The Australian bushfires are the most obvious among the environmental disasters that are the result of the climate getting drier and hotter. Most severely impacted are framework ecosystems …