David Hardy (seeSnakeman!) arrived in Tobago in April of this year, armed with a rubber dinghy, several bottles of formaldehyde, two plankton nets, and a microscope. He was on yet another mission to add to his growing list (last count: 6,270) of "critters" living in Tobago.
Mr. Hardy has spent thirty years studying Tobago's flora and fauna. He was quickly nicknamed "Snakeman" because his first visits were to identify and catalogue Tobago's snakes. The purpose of this year's visit was to conduct an ichthyoplankton survey of Man-o-War Bay, Bon Accord lagoon and Petit Trou lagoon (neither of the latter two are true lagoons). Ichthyoplankton are fish eggs and larvae.
Night after night, Mr. Hardy, and his colleagues ventured forth in the little dinghy with a net trailing behind to collect the tiny organisms in bottles. (Fish larvae rise to the surface each night and sink to lower depths each day.) Under his microscope he identified some organisms, others will be taken back to be identified in laboratories the US and Australia.
No study of this kind has ever been done in Tobago. One important question which may be finally answered is: which species of fish spawn in these bodies of water? Before this question can be answered, Mr. Hardy will have to return in the rainy season to conduct part two of the survey.
Although numerous organisms were collected at Bon Accord and Man-o-War Bay, very little life was found in the waters of Petit Trou.
This was unexpected, as Petit Trou is a protected bay where tangled mangrove roots extend into the water, and where there are extensive turtle grass beds in warm, shallow waters. This type of environment is normally abundant with fish and other forms of marine life. Few of the usual marine ecosystems associated with turtle grass and mangrove were found. Mr. Hardy feels that the lagoon should be teaming with life and will be attempting to find out why it isn't on his next visit. To wisely our natural resources we must understand them. It is unfortunate that surveys of this kind are rarely conducted in Tobago. Very few of our environmentally sensitive areas have been studied. Little base line data has been recorded. Changes in the environment are, therefore, difficult to demonstrate or monitor.