Archive for the 'Aquatic Life' Category



Did you know? Today is Manatee Appreciation Day!

Sometimes called sea cows, manatees are a large, but graceful, endangered species that thrive in warm-water environments ripe with vegetation. The West Indian manatee, one of three living species, can be spotted off the coast of Florida year round.

manatee

Here are ten things you may not know about manatees! 

  1.  Manatees are a migratory species, sometimes traveling up the East Coast in the warmer summer months—some have even been spotted in Maryland.
  2. These herbivores feed on patches of vegetation on the sea floor and can eat up to 1/10 of their body weight in just one day!
  3. With a diet sometimes rich in sand, Manatees’ teeth are made for grinding, not biting, and are constantly being replaced.
  4. Some waterways in Florida have manatee “speed zones” to protect these gentle creatures from boat collisions, one of the leading causes of injury and death in manatees.
  5. Manatees’ closest living relatives are elephants and hyraxes, small mammals found in Africa and the Middle East.
  6. Slow moving, manatees typically travel at about 5 miles per hour but have been known to swim faster in short bursts.
  7. Some manatee species can travel freely between salt and freshwater.
  8. Manatees have to visit the surface for air, but can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes while at rest.
  9. Manatee calves are dependent on their mothers for up to two years. When a calf is born, its mother must help it to the surface for air, but most can swim on their own shortly after birth.
  10. It is believed that the legendary “mermaids” spotted by sailors throughout history were actually manatees.

Being the gentle, slow-moving animals that they are have put manatees at risk of extinction in the face of oil spills, increased motorboat traffic and entanglement. These animals were first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1967 and their population numbers have increased in recent years, but there is still much work to do protect manatees and the habitats they depend on.

To learn more about how to get involved in manatee conservation efforts in here in the United States, click here

Animal Rescue Update: 11 Turtle Patients Ready for Release

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Health and Animal Rescue staff have been busy continuing to care for the 19 cold-stunned sea turtles currently in rehabilitation. Over the last three months, many of our patients have been treated for critical conditions, including: fungal and bacterial pneumonias, infections in their flipper joints and severe shell lesions.

I’m happy to announce that we currently have 11 turtles that are no longer on medications and are considered stable! We are now working with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the state of Florida to schedule a release date in the near future!

All the stable turtles have been getting full exams that will act as pre-release screening  exams, which include recheck radiographs, blood work, physical exams, and tagging. All releasable turtles must be tagged in some way – either metal flipper tags, a PIT tag (a microchip like your domestic dog/cat might have), or both. The metal flipper tags are applied to the rear flippers and are the equivalent of getting your ears pierced.

sea turtle tag

These tags will stay with the animals for many years after release, but may eventually fall out as they corrode or as the turtle grows. As a more permanent method of identifying the animal, we implant a small microchip under the skin that will stay with the animal indefinitely. These forms of ID are passive ways researchers can track released turtles and provide insight to migration patterns, foraging areas and past medical history.

Meet some of our patients ready for release! 

Chipper

This green sea turtle stranded in Ocean City, MD as a cold-stun and arrived to the National Aquarium with a dangerously low body temperature of only 37o F. A temperature this low in sea turtles can be fatal, and our staff had to be careful to warm the turtle very slowly over several days. In fact, he was so cold on admittance, that in order to prevent his body temperature from rising too quickly, we actually had to utilize ice to stabilize his temperature.

national aquarium animal rescue turtle

Chipper has amazingly made a full recovery. He was prescribed long-term fluid therapy to combat blood changes due to the cold-stunning, but otherwise has had a clean bill of health.

Goose

Goose is a Kemp’s ridley that was cold-stunned in Cape Cod and transferred to us by the New England Aquarium. Goose is the smallest turtle this season – he was admitted weighing less than 2 lbs, and is now over 3.5 lbs! He was treated for anemia (low iron), a high white blood cell count, and mild pneumonia.

While Goose is the smallest turtle we currently have in rehabilitation, he has a big personality and makes our staff laugh. He’s not ashamed to scavenge small pieces of produce from his green sea turtle neighbors, even though Kemp’s ridley’s don’t typically eat plant-based foods.

Jester

Jester is a Kemp’s ridley that also came to us from New England Aquarium. He was treated for pneumonia, shell lesions, and mild skin lesions.

national aquarium animal rescue

Jester has gained 2 lbs on a diet of squid, shrimp, capelin, and crab while in rehab!

Stay tuned for details on their upcoming release! 

Happy World Frog Day!

Can YOU freeze during winter hibernation, thaw, and continue on? Yeah, we didn’t think so… 

In celebration of World Frog Day, we’ve put together an infographic that highlights some of our favorite amphibian facts!

national aquarium frog infographic

Did you know? The word amphibian comes from the Greek word amphibios, which refers to the fact that the early life stages of many frogs are aquatic and that the adult stages are generally terrestrial.

There are approximately 6,000 known species of frog found worldwide (on every continent except Antarctica)! Frogs are especially prevalent in North and South America! Not all frogs are poisonous, but run-ins with those that do posses toxins can be fatal.

Join us in sharing your love for frogs on Facebook and Twitter

Happy National Wildlife Week!

national aquarium conservation expert update

This year’s National Wildlife Week is dedicated to the Wonders of Wildlife and this year’s theme, “Wildlife and Water,” highlights our connections through water.  The National Aquarium is an obvious place to think of when you think about water and wildlife.  Like we do every day, we invite you to discover your connection to water and to the other plants and animals sharing this precious resource.

It is no coincidence that National Wildlife Week coincides with the beginning of Spring.  Both occasions start us thinking about the natural beauty and waking wildlife that begins to emerge this time of year.  We are already seeing flowers popping up from the snowy ground and frogs beginning their spring mating rituals.  Osprey are beginning to return to the region after a long migration north and soon we’ll see other birds leaving or passing through.  Fish are moving in and out of the bays and rivers as they are headed to spawning grounds.  All of these amazing sights and sounds are intricately tied to water and to each other.  How they move, the food they eat, what they drink, where they raise their young – it’s all about water.

World Water Day quote

As warmer weather approaches and snow starts melting, vernal pools are filling and streams and rivers are flowing.  Get outside and discover how these changes to the water around us are providing opportunities for wildlife to thrive.  Birds and frogs are active, animals that had been hibernating are emerging and looking for food, turtles are basking in the stronger sun.  The world is waking from the long winter and this is often the best time to take a pair of binoculars (or a magnifying glass) and see what is happening in your local area.

Also, don’t miss the chance to celebrate wildlife that shares our world during National Wildlife Week.  Our friends at the National Wildlife Federation are highlighting more than 50 species of wildlife throughout the week.  I’ll bet even the most savvy of wildlife enthusiast will learn something new!

Are you celebrating National Wildlife Week? Share your plans with us in the comments section! 

national aquarium conservation expert laura bankey

Animal Update – March 14

national aquarium animal update

Purple Urchins in Surviving Through Adaptation

Five purple sea urchins have been added to our Surviving Through Adaptation exhibit.

national aquarium sea urchin

Did you know? Sea urchins are sometimes referred to as sea hedgehogs! These spiny animals are echnioderms – they’re related to sea stars, sand dollars and sea cucumbers.

Sea urchins have movable spines that are used mostly for protection. Depending on the species, the spines can be solid, hollow or filled with poison!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!


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