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Gene-Spliced Tardigrade/Damselfishes To Protect Blacktip Island Reefs

gene splicing

Blacktip Island researchers say a hybrid damselfish/tardigrade will soon protect the Caribbean island’s coral reefs from scuba diver damage (photo courtesy of Warnken Schokraie)


Researchers at Tiperon University-Blacktip Wednesday announced a successful gene-splicing of a yellowtail damselfish with a Blacktip tardigrade, creating a new species they envision safeguarding Blacktip Island’s coral reefs.

“It was a longshot, but it actually worked,” TU-B marine sciences professor Goby Graysby said. “The new species has legs and a spikey mouth like a tardigrade, but also fins a tail and can dart about quite quickly. They’re about the size of your hand and attach themselves to coral. And the bright blue spots make them impossible to miss.

“They have damselfishes’ aggressive attitude, too, and are all but impossible to kill, like tardigrades,” Graysby said. “We’re calling them ‘damsel-grades.’ Like damselfishes, they nurture algae gardens and are extremely protective of them. Any diver getting too close to the coral will get one hell of a nip. We reckon it’ll do wonders for keeping divers off the reef.”

Research team members agreed.

“We envision them as reef defenders,” geneticist Lucille Ray said. “Divemasters and Marine Parks staff can only do so much. Divers wear too much weight and crash into coral all the time. But one bite from a damsel-grade’s oral stylets, divers’ll damn well learn to respect the reef.

“Damsel-grades also can’t overpopulate the reefs because they’re sterile—we create them that way in the lab,” Ray said. “We’re working with Marine Parks on where and how many are needed so we can set up a production schedule.”

Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader was cautiously optimistic.

“We’re waiting to see how they work, but conceptually it’s brilliant,” she said. “With so many divers with crap buoyancy, the reefs are just taking a beating. We’re all but powerless to stop it. But if these critters work out, the reef’ll be able to defend itself. Like fire coral, but more aggressive.

“Before, divers would laugh us off,” Schrader said. “Now, they’ll get bit anytime they even get close to coral. If this works out, we can get back to nabbing poachers and fixing mooring lines.”

Some on the island worried the experiment went too far.

“Creating a totally new species from two very different ones isn’t experimentation, it’s monstrous,” ethics watchdog Wade Soote said. “These scientists are playing God, with no way of knowing how these creatures will work out. It’s not natural and it’s not right.

“Also, anytime people introduce an exotic species into an environment, that environment invariably suffers,” Soote said. “Goby and them have no idea what the long-term effects of these creatures will be. They say damsel-grades can’t reproduce, but how can they be sure? And what happens when one savages an oblivious diver?”

Graysby said multiple precautions are in place.

“We know they can’t reproduce because we designed them that way,” he said. “We also made them so they emit a high-pitched whine before they attack. That and the coloring will give divers plenty of warning.

“There’s no down side, unless you dive like an idiot,” Graysby said. “And since damsel-grades only live a year, and have to be created individually, it provides a new industry on an island desperately in need of income.”

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Blacktip Island Weather

Sunday, January 3

Sunday, January 3, 2021
Temperature: 79
Humidity 66%
Precipitation – Not today

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Blacktip Island Plans ‘Torch 2020’ New Year’s Day Bonfire

2020 community bonfire

Diddley’s Landing public pier will be the site of Blacktip Island’s New Year’s ‘Torch 2020’ bonfire celebrating the arrival of 2021 Friday night. (photo courtesy of Whitey Bottoms)


Blacktip Island community organizers are prepping for Friday night’s ‘Torch 2020’ bonfire at Diddley’s Landing to celebrate the end of the previous year.

“We talked about burning sage to chase off 2020’s negative energy, but there’s not enough sage on this island for that,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “Instead, we’re asking everybody on the island to bring anything 2020-related and chuck it on the biggest bonfire in Blacktip history.

“We went around and collected all the 2020 phone books to use as fire starter,” Cobia said. “We’re gonna do everything we can to burn away the ugliness of last year, literally and figuratively. It’s our way, as a community, to say, ‘F-U’ to that damn 2020 and make sure there’s no residual negativity in 2021.”

Organizers emphasized the all-inclusive nature of the event.

“We’ll light the fire right after sundown so kiddos can join in before they have to go to bed,” chamber of commerce president Whitey Bottoms said. “The fire’s open for everyone, and anything flammable is welcome. Have something that reminds you of 2020? Bring it. Burn it. We’ll all cheer.”

Others stressed the event’s festive nature.

“This isn’t some end-of-the-year bitch fest,” Catalina Luxfer said. “It’s a celebration of bad things going away and good things looming on the horizon. There’ll be music and food, and all the island bars have donated booze, so there’s free drinks for everyone who attends.

“The idea’s to get the psyches of the entire island focused on this,” Luxfer said. “The more people who participate, the better chance we have to generate positive vibes for 2021.”

Officials noted the safety measures in place.

“Sure, having a giant bonfire and free alcohol seems like a recipe for disaster,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “But they’ve set it up on the public pier, with water on three sides, so there’s low risk of it spreading to vegetation, and there’s plenty of room for spectators without crowding. We’ll try to keep folks upwind if anything plastic gets thrown on. And when it’s over, we’ll bulldoze the ashes into the sea.

“We’ve also stipulated the drink tables be set up far from the fire itself, especially the ones with the high-proof spirits,” Marquette said. “Open-container laws will be suspended at the pier for the duration of the fire. Booze was the only thing that’s kept this 2020 shit-show together, so, really, there was no way to exclude it.”

Officials were unsure how large the fire will be or how long it will burn.

“With the way this year’s gone, if everyone brings everything that sparks bad memories, this could be a multi-day affair,” Cobia said. “Folks are welcome to bring sleeping bags and tents and what have you.

“At dusk, Jerrod’ll say a few appropriate words before he’s had too much to drink,” Cobia said. “And Rafe’s promised to turn a blind eye to any interpersonal shenanigans going on. It’s a celebration, after all.”

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Blacktip Island weather


Sunday, December 27, 2020
Temperature: 78
Humidity 64%
Precipitation – Not happening

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Blacktip Island Fishermen Capture Manta Claus On Video

Video from Thursday afternoon of what two Blacktip Island residents claim was the mythical Manta Claus bringing Christmas gifts to island residents. (video courtesy of Linford Blenny)


A pair of Blacktip Island residents fishing from shore Christmas Eve recorded video of what they claim was Manta Claus on his way to deliver holiday gifts to islanders.

“It was almost dusk when me and ‘Tonio seen a commotion in the water just off the dock,” Linford Blenny said. “It was something big, flapping its wings. Pretty sure it had a red cap and a bag full of toys, too. I pulled out my phone right quick and got footage to prove it.”

Blenny’s companion confirmed the sighting.

“The fish stopped biting, there was a sparkle in the air and a tingle down my spine,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Knew something important was gonna happen out there. Could feel it down deep. Then BAM! there was Manta Claus flapping in the sea, just like the stories say.

“With Santa not being able to come to Blacktip this year ‘cause of the COVID quarantine, we knew Manta Claus would come early, doing double duty,” Fletcher said. “For years folks been saying he’s a myth. Well, now we got proof. This isn’t Dermott saying he saw a platypus behind the Sand Spit. We got by-God video.”

Many islanders welcomed the news.

“This was shaping up to be a rough Christmas for the kiddos, big and small, what with Santa being banned,” Chrissy Graysby said. “Word about Manta Claus spread around the island like you wouldn’t believe. It’s the happiest I’ve seen people in months.”

Others questioned the sighting.

“It’s a great island myth—the manta ray who brings goodies to good scuba divers, and dead lionfish to ones with crap buoyancy,” Jay Valve said. “This story picked up everyone’s spirits, but there’s no evidence this was anything but a normal, everyday manta ray.

Some brushed aside such criticism.

“If Jay wants to be a Scrooge, that’s fine, but he shouldn’t spoil the holiday for the rest of us,” Christa Goby said. “Besides, if you don’t really believe in Manta Claus, he won’t slip under your door and leave you any presents anyway. You just wait and see. “How do you think presents get to a tropical island, some old man in a fur coat and his reindeer?” Goby said. “Please. It’s Manta Claus and his eagle ray helpers who fill kids’ stockings and eat the conch fritters we leave out for him. Santa handles the gifts north of here, and Manta covers us from the West Pole.”

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Blacktip Island Weather


Sunday, December 20, 2020
Temperature: 82
Humidity 68%
Precipitation – nah

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Blacktip Island To Host Multi-Denominational Holiday Parade

holiday parade

Blacktip Island holiday parade organizers are hoping this year’s all-inclusive theme will attract more than the one car that participated in last year’s Christmas parade. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/BTT staff)


Blacktip Island will host a cross-denominational holiday parade Saturday afternoon, celebrating the multiple religions with holidays in December island residents will be observing, organizers said.

“We started out planning the annual Christmas parade, but then a hullaballoo broke out between members of different religions,” Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council president Jerrod Ephesians said. “Folks wanted us to include Hanukkah, Kwanza, Pancha Ganapati, Yule, Chalica and a bunch of others I can’t remember.

“The compromise solution was to have a generic ‘holiday’ parade,” Ephesians said. “It didn’t make everybody happy, but at least it shut some people up. Mostly. This year, deck your float out any damn way you please and get in the spirit of the holiday of your choice.”

Residents welcomed the compromise.

“For a while it looked like there’d be no parade,” Chrissy Graysby said. “It’s wonderful it’s back on, whatever the theme, given all that’s happened this year. People need a pick-me-up, and a parade, no matter how small, will do just that.

“The name of the holiday doesn’t matter much to me,” Graysby said. “I just like to watch all the flashing lights and hear the music. And the kiddos love to see the floats go past, even if it only takes a minute or two.”

Organizers were unsure how large the parade would be.

“Right now, it’s slated to have three cars, but there may be more. Probably will be, depending on holiday drinking,” Kay Valve said. “There’s always last-minute additions, and people joining the parade after it starts. Usually yahoos on scooters, but last year Dermott Bottoms cut in with the construction haul truck. Didn’t even realize he was in a parade, he was that toasted.

“The Blacktip Haven float will be totally non-religious,” Valve said. “Elena Havens read ‘ecumenical’ as ‘ecological,’ and by the time she realized, it was too late for a re-do, so they’re doing a Save Our Mother Ocean float. There’s also rumors the pagans are doing a Mōdraniht float, but we’ll see if they show up so close to Solstice.”

Others were vocal in their support.

“The all-inclusive theme’s just what this island needs to pull folks together,” Rocky Shore said. “No one’s excluded. And there’s no war on Christmas, just on a-holes. We’re encouraging everybody to respond to whatever holiday greeting they get with, ‘thanks, you too.’ Xmas, Xmas Xmas! That’s right, I said it!”

The parade will be followed by other cross-denominational festivities, Ephesians said. “There’ll be beach Yule fires, plus food and drinks for everyone afterward,” he said. “We’ll have eight fires roaring between Club Scuba Doo and the Sand Spit bar as a kind-of implied menorah, to cover as many bases as possible. Guests are free to view the fires religiously or non-religiously, depending on their personal preference. Either way, we want folks to have a good time. And over-indulgers are welcome to crash in the resort’s hammocks.”

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Wednesday, December 16

Ah, Wednesday.

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Blacktip Island Weather

Sunday, December 13

Sunday, December 13, 2020
Temperature: 81
Humidity 64%
Precipitation – none

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