For our marine issue this year, we wanted a set of articles about zany, lesser-known marine critters. Tanvi Vaidyanathan writes about the trade in sea horses, a fish which has ‘a head like a horse, tail like a monkey, a kangaroo-like pouch, and eyes that move independently like a chameleon’. Sea horses are also remarkable because the male carries the eggs around in his pouch till the young ones hatch, a rare instance in nature where males give birth. Mahima Jaini tells us about her journey from studying lobsters in Maine to larvae under microscopes in the Andaman Islands. She uncovers ‘bizarre-looking’ and ‘alien-like’ creatures from her plankton nets. And Kristin Hultgren gives us a glimpse into the lives of snapping shrimp, which produce some of the loudest sounds in the ocean with their oversized claw. These are also the only marine animals that show advanced social behaviour like ants, bees and wasps. If these weren’t enough, Vikas Nairi’s black water photographs offer a window into just how weird and wonderful marine organisms are.
Bookending the stories about fantastic beasts are two articles that delve in different ways into our relationship with nature. At one end, Rohan Arthur recounts his long-running love affair with the reefs in the Lakshadweep, and reflects on the role of symbiosis in our lives. At the other, Caitlin Kight’s essay provides insights into our physiological and psychological responses to nature and reveals the many benefits it has for our health and wellbeing.