Hatchling scampers to a new live at sea during our 2015 Velaa visit.
Q: What is the best way increase the odds of sea turtle hatchlings surviving?
A: Put them in nurseries to help them grow stronger?
Q: Buzzzzzz! Nope. The fairly common practice of collecting hatchlings and protecting them by nurturing them in special nursery pools turns out to cause long term problems for the turtles.
World Turtle Day today is the opportunity “to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive”. Most people know about the dangers of plastic refuse to turtles (they get caught in six-pack rings and mistake plastic bags for jelly fish which they try to eat). But even those keen to help the critters are less aware of the issues with well-intended turtle nurseries.
The nursery misconception stems from the “numbers game”. As Marine Biologists Tess Moriarty and Dee Bello (who kindly provided most of the research for this piece) from Velaa resort (THE Turtle resort – “Velaa” means “Turtle” in Dhivehi) describes, “For turtles it is always a numbers game, they have many threats to their survival and it is commonly known that many do not make it to adulthood.” The concept of nurseries is to allow the hatchlings to grow to a more significant size where much fewer predators would be able to manage eating them.
Unfortunately, turtle nurseries have a number of problems for the turtles they are trying to help…
- Predator Dangers – Turtles may evade predators when small, but then don’t learn to and how to avoid them later in life which keeps them vulnerable.
- Diet – Nursery turtles don’t get to eat the staples of the normal ocean diet like jellyfish or sargassum.
- Orientation – One of the miracles of turtle procreation is how they instinctively head to the water’s edge on birth, but then also they come back to where they were born to nest s adults. Studies show that taking hatchlings on birth into nurseries disorients them and they don’t return to nest.
So what CAN be done to help these endangered little tykes? Dee offers up the following…
- Hatcheries: This technique is when the nests are relocated from where the female lays the eggs on the beach to a different location. This is used on beaches that have severe erosion or flooding problems and thus the nests would not survive, nests that are too close to the shore line and would get inundated and mostly on beaches where human poaching of eggs for food is abundant. This method actively saves many eggs and ensured they can develop and hatch, thus increasing the number of hatchlings making it to the sea.
- Fencing the nests: Shielding both the hatchery and on the beach deters humans from poaching eggs from the nests as they are under surveillance. It also ensures that there must be someone present to release the hatchlings into the sea when they emerge from the nest and thus predation from crabs and birds is greatly reduced.
- Protection laws: Creating laws that prohibit the killing or possessing turtle products it directly influences their populations. The protection of adult females laying eggs, poaching of the eggs on the beaches and the capturing of turtles in the sea, increases the amount of turtles and nests on the beaches.
Of course, all these measures are focused on the young turtles. But even when they get all grown up, they still could use our help in surviving (especially since human actions cause many of the adult hazards)…
- Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED). Turtles need to breath air in order to survive and unfortunately when they get trapped in nets they are unable to do so. This can be avoided using TED’s where turtles can escape the nets intended for fishing other fish.
- Research: Understanding where turtles migrate to (using advanced tools like satellite tracking), at what times and their feeding and breading patterns can help aim protection to make it more successful and increase awareness.
- Awareness: By spreading the word about the turtle population’s vulnerability, more people understand their situation and need to protect them. This awareness leads to leads to less poaching and donations that support more conservation projects.
- Q: On this so-dubbed “Blue Planet”, what is the earliest and most prevalent word for a colour in early ancient langages?
- A: Blue?
- Q: Buzzzz…A bit of a misleading set-up there, but linguists have actually found that the word for the color “blue” is almost universally the last color to enter a language.
As a result, researchers have even questioned if these earlier generations possibly even perceived colours differently to modern peoples. With the sea around and the sky above, such a conjecture certainly would have limited the descriptive capacity of people living in the Maldives. Fortunately, at leas today, the Dhivehi language does have a word for blue – “noo.”
QI question of the day: Q: What is the base ingredient of gazpacho at Velaa? A: Tomato? Q: Buzzz…wrong. It’s cabbage.
Velaa not only served two of my favourite soups – gazpacho and bisque – but they did so with an entirely refreshing slant. In many respects, they were nothing like gazpacho and bisque and everything like them at the same time.
For starters (pun intended) the gazpacho had no tomato (pretty much the defining ingredient to gazpacho – “Spanish Cookery. 1. a soup made of chopped tomatoes…”). Instead, it uses red cabbage as the base. It also blend in green apple and passion fruit which is a bit more exotic than the classic cucumbers and onions.
Their “Laccadivian Essence” (named after the Maldives sea) was really a bisque of lobster, coconut, fennel, and seaweed. Both were Michelin star quality. They were sort of non-bisque bisque and non-gazpacho gazpacho.
The inventive twists reminded me of the food-play by Heston Blumenthal at his world-famous restaurant the “Fat Duck”. Just down the road from us in the UK, we used to go when Heston first started playing with his culinary chemistry set. We were sometimes the only people dining there and he would step out of the kitchen to have us try some wonderfully weird new concoction.
One of Heston’s signature dishes was the Orange and Beetroot Jelly. As ‘Boots in the Oven’ describes…
“The mousse was trailed by two small trays bearing two squares each; one a garnet red and one a deep yellow. The waiter explained that we would be eating orange and beet root jellies. This opening dish is the perfect example of the Fat Duck dining philosophy. Heston and his team don’t just want you to have an awesome eating experience; they want to f*ck with your head.” [HINT – Not is all as it appears]
In fact, Velaa’s gazpacho might just have been inspired by Heston as Red Cabbage Gazpacho also featured is on his menu years ago.
“On the reef, there is not only competition for living space, but a continual contest…it’s the arms race between them that…has produced today’s extraordinary diversity of form.” – David Attenborough, Blue Planet
Q: What small creature lives in a colony, has a “queen” who is the only one to lay eggs and others are specialized to perform particular tasks?
Q: Buzzzzzz – Wrong. Sponge Shrimp. The piece below from BBC’s extraordinary “Blue Planet” provides a glimpse into the hive of activity for these underwater eusocialites.
This week, the crackerjack of the counterintuitive, Steve Fry, has announced his plans to step down from his iconic BBC series, QI. He will be replaced by a new queen bee/shrimp, Sandi Toksvig. This post here is the 6th instalment of the Maldives Complete’s special tribute “Maldives QI”. And the Latin word for “six” has provided this inspiration for today’s reef reproductive repartee.
Q: What gender is a black Ribbon Eel?
Q: Buzzzzz – Wrong.
Q: Buzzzz – Wrong.
Q: Actually, black Ribbon Eels are juvenile and at that stage of their development, they have no gender. They are believed to be “protandric hermaphrodites” which is a creature which both male and female organs. But the juvenile has neither. It is only when it matures that it first becomes a male of the species. One could say that it literally “grows a pair”. You can distinguish male Ribbon Eels by their blue colouring (see above). But not for too long because as it matures even further, then it becomes a female of the species and changes colour once again to yellow. So at least in the Ribbon Eel world, the females are definitively the most mature beings of the species.
“Part Sex” is particularly fitting for the lead photo above where the tinges of yellow on the head indicate that this ribbon eel has started his/her/its transgender operation.
Posted in: Uncategorized \ Tagged: ocean, QI
Question – What type of plant does bamboo come from?
Answer – Tree?
Actually bamboo is a “grass”.
Question – How often does a bamboo plant flower?
Answer – Once a year?
Actually, a bamboo plant will only flower once in 65 to up to 120 years. And for good reason because once it has flowered, it then dies. Botanists don’t really know why it does this though it has a few thoeries including stabilizing selection, predator satiation and the fire cycle hypothesis.
And that’s just a few of the “Quite Interesting” aspects to Bambusoideae. Many of which will be discussed at the The World Bamboo Congress which convened today in Damyang, Korea (here’s the link if by now you think I’m just making stuff up). For example…
- Strength – The tensile strength of plated bamboo cables is as strong as or stronger than a steel cable of the same size. Hemp rope loses 20% of its strength when wet while bamboo cables increase in strength by as much as 20% when wet.
- Sustainability – It grows easily and cheaply (again, think “lawn of grass”, not “forest of tress”) so it easily regenerated. An acre of bamboo can sequester about 25 metric tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere per year (better in bamboo than in the oceans acidifying them and hurting the coral reefs).
- Inspiration – The ancient bamboo toy called the “dragon fly” is the origin of the modern helicopter.
(thanks to MidAtlantic Bamboo for their fine page of fun facts about bamboo)
If you want to get into the expert level topics, here are few of the papers being presented this week…
- “Bamboo: The Secret Weapon in Forest and Landscape Restoration”
- “Bamboo Carbon Potential for Mitigating Climate Change”
- “The Ghana Bamboo Bicycle Initiative”
- “Bambusa: pioneering Latin America’s first craft beer made out of bamboo”
Yes, Bamboo Beer! We actually have a bamboo wood floor in our own bathroom (not round tubes of you are used to seeing, but a flat veneer sheared from the “logs” horizontally). In fact, I even wear underwear made out of bamboo (still not making this stuff up…BAM”)!
No resort exploits the versatility of bamboo more than Velaa where it is a thematic element to all their design. It is used extensively as both a building material and a decoration. I’ve included photos of a few examples here from the practical (fence below) to the ornate (flower wall scone above).
QI Question of the Day: “In what type of landscape is the Huraa Marine Protected Area found?”
A: The ocean?
QI: <BUZZ> No, the Huraa MPA is a mangrove swamp found o the Huraa island in the North Male atoll.
Think all “Marine Protected Areas” (MPAs) are under water?
Well, one of the MPAs are actually only semi-aquatic. The “Huraa” MPA is actually a mangrove island…
“Huraa Mangrove Nature Reserve (HMNR) has been designated a Protected Area, in recognition of the fact that it is an important natural mangrove habitat which contains species of particular conservation significance to the Maldives and the rest of the world. A human community also live on Huraa Island who is itself affected by the existence of the Nature Reserve, and whose day-to-day life and activities in turn impact on the mangrove ecosystem.”
Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is its namesake neighbour and plays an active role in supporting is preservation.
Q: What gender was Nemo?
** BUZZZZZ **
Q: Actually, neither (or both) in all likelihood. Juvenile clown fish are born as hermaphrodites who can become either males or females later in life.
Q: What gender is Nemo’s Dad?
A: Ok, definitely got this one. First, the “Dad” is grown up and no longer a juvenile. Secondly, “Dad” means he is definitely “male”.
**BUZZZZZ ** Actually, Nemo’s “Dad” might have been a “male” at one point, but the key word here is “is”. What is he today? In all likelihood he is now a “Mom”. It turns out that when a “harem” of clown fish loses its dominant female, the largest male changes its sex to become the new female.
Tonight concludes Series “L” of “QI” which means that the team are now in the process of researching Series “M”…for “Maldives”. Maldives Complete has a whole series of potential Maldives-oriented questions the QI staff could consider especially concerning the ubiquitous “Nemo” fame. The latest twist is this latest discovery of this perplexing creature…
“Some species exhibit sequential hermaphroditism. In these species, such as many species of coral reef fishes, sex change is a normal anatomical process. Clownfish, wrasses, moray eels, gobies and other fish species are known to change sex, including reproductive functions. A school of clownfish is always built into a hierarchy with a female fish at the top. When she dies, the most dominant male changes sex and takes her place. In the wrasses (the family Labridae), sex change is from female to male, with the largest female of the harem changing into a male and taking over the harem upon the disappearance of the previous dominant male. Natural sex change, in both directions, has also been reported in mushroom corals. This is posited to take place in response to environmental or energetic constraints, and to improve the organism’s evolutionary fitness; similar phenomena are observed in some dioecious plants.”
Posted in: Uncategorized \ Tagged: QI
Having recently had a beer with a writer from QI and keeping up the humour, I thought it time for the next installment of ‘Maldive QI’…
- Q: Where do you find the ‘Maldives Coconut’?
- A: Maldives?
The ‘Maldives Coconut’ is very much a part of the Maldives history, but curiously not part of the Maldives itself. Der Spiegel recently did a piece on the intriguing nut…
“The captain surely imagined it all a little differently. The French adventurer Francois Pyrard intended on sailing to India in 1602. But when his ship Corbin gave out on the open seas, he had to seek refuge in the Maldives. Unfortunately, the king there wouldn’t let the shipwrecked party leave for five years. When Pyrard and his crew were finally able to flee, they took the tale of the strange fruit with them back to Europe. It had been found frequently on the beaches of the islands. It wasn’t just that they were gigantic, the fruit’s shape was also reminiscent of a woman’s pelvic region. The king demanded that these alluring finds be delivered directly to him, and threatened that those who didn’t comply would lose a hand, or even be put to death. What Pyrard saw was the nut of the Coco de Mer palm, one of the rarest palm trees on the planet, also known as the Lodoicea maldivica. It is three to four times as large as an average coconut. They are also heavier than anything comparable that biologists can find, weighing up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds).”
It actually grows in the Seychelles, but makes its way to its namesake islands (“maldivica”) floating on the Indian Ocean waters which may account for its colloquial name, ‘Coco de Mer’. Der Spiegel describes this intriguing species in some detail on the occasion of the Botanical Garden in Berlin succeeding in germinating it. Despite its rather fertility-suggstive appearance, it is actually dubbed the ‘Panda of the Plant World’ for its difficulty in growing.
I researched the beguiling nut talking to Verena Wiesbauer Ali who not only helped with the previous QI pieces, but also co-authored the first definitive picture guide to the flora of the Maldives ‘Maldives: Trees and Flowers of a Tropical Pardise’. There are dozens of various guide books to the underwater delights of the islands, but this is the first that provides a comprehensive catalogue with dazzling colour photos for land lubbers. You can get a copy by writing to the co-authour Peter Dittrich (25 Euros) to find out what coconut palms and every other type of colourful and curious tree and plants that do grow there.
Question: What is this a picture of?
Answer: A Yellow Box Fish.
[Soundeffect]: Ding! Correct. You get no points because that was so easy (it is yellow and it looks like a box). Now, what is the fish below?…
Answer: A grey/green boxfish?
[Soundeffect]: Buzzzz! Wrong. This is also a ‘Yellow Boxfish’ or Ostracion cubicus. The Yellow Boxfish, which you can see quite prevalently in the Maldives, loses its bright yellow colour as it matures.
Thanks Chase (unofficial president of the Boxfish fan club).
Question: What is this a picture of?
Answer: A Jelly Fish.
[Soundeffect]: Buzzzz! Wrong. This is a ‘Portugese Man of War’ which is not actually a ‘jelly fish’ but a “siphonophore. Siphonophores “differ from jellyfish in that they are not actually a single creature, but a colonial organism made up of many minute individuals called zooids. Each of these zooids is highly-specialized and, although structurally similar to other solitary animals, are attached to each other and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival.” In this respect, Portugese Man Of Wars, also know as just ‘Man of Wars’ or ‘Blue Bottles’, are more like coral polyps.
As it turns out, this fact was so obscure that it escaped the Ceremonial Master himself in the first series of QI. Stephen Fry referred to a ‘jellyfish’ as the ‘right class of animal’ as a ‘Portugese Man-of-War’. In reality, Man of Wars are not even the same of the same Order as jellyfish. They are in the order Hydrozoa, while jelly fish are in the order Scyphozoa…
Bill: Forget the buzzers. Off the buzzers now. I would hazard a guess and say the, erm, the Portuguese Man-of-War.
Stephen: Oh, now, do you know, I'm gonna give you five points, 'cause you're so much in the right class of animal.
Bill: Ah! See?
Stephen: It is a jellyfish.
Bill: A jellyfish.
Stephen: Yeah. It is a jellyfish.
Just one of the many fascinating facts we learned about Maldive ocean life during the talk by Marine Biologist Verena Wiesbauer Ali put on by Kurumba.