We love seeing the amazing moments and memories our online community captures during their visits to the Aquarium! So, every week we’re sharing some of our favorite photos from YOU right here on our blog!
Here are this week’s picks:
A Blog for the National Aquarium Community
White-blotched river ray in Amazon River Forest!
A white-blotched river ray has been introduced into our Amazon River Forest exhibit!
Did you know? On average, these rays are only about two feet in length! Their diet mostly consists of freshwater snails and crustaceans.
This South American species makes its home in Brazil’s Xingu river basin.
Because of their limited natural range, these rays have been especially vulnerable to habitat degradation in recent years.
Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!
If you’ve been a follower of ours for a while now, you probably know that we have a peacock mantis shrimp, and that they’re pretty awesome creatures!
From their lethal, club-like appendages to their eyes (widely-considered to be the most complex of any living creature), peacock mantis shrimp have captivated scientists and online audiences alike, the latter is largely due to this comic created by The Oatmeal.
Did you know? Peacock mantis shrimp have 16 color receptive rods in their eyes (humans get by with only 3!). These rods allow them to detect 100,000 colors and many wavelengths of light, including ultraviolet!
Want to learn more about these awesome creatures? Check out our mantis shrimp infographic:
The first-ever biological expedition of Australia’s “lost world” – the small patch of rain forest in Cape York – has resulted in the discovery of three new species!
Cape York is a large peninsula located on at the tip of Australia’s state of Queensland. This secluded piece of the continent is largely regarded as one of the largest, unspoiled wilderness areas on Earth.
This past March, an expert team of scientists and filmmakers ventured to the small range of mountain plateaus on Cape Melville (located on the northeastern part of the peninsula). During their four-day expedition, the group discovered and identified three new species of animals: a leaf-tail gecko, a blotched-boulder frog and a shade skink.
These species are especially exciting and interesting for our community as they’re representative of the unique ways animals adapt to the harsh environment of Australia. For example, the blotched-boulder frog has evolved to minimize the need for water in its reproduction – an adaption to suit its dry rocky environment!
It’s thought that primitive versions of the leaf-tail gecko once flourished in the Australian rain forest. Now we know that they have survived over the years by using their flat, uniquely-shaped body to camouflage itself into the rocky terrain, avoiding predators and waiting patiently for prey!
It’s exciting to see these discoveries make headlines because many outside of the continent are unaware that a lot of Australia, a country almost the size of the continental United States, has yet to be discovered. Unlike the South American rain forest, which has been well-traveled and documented by scientists for decades, Australia’s land is rough and oftentimes difficult to navigate. It’s climate range can also make extended trips a challenge.
To learn more about these recent discoveries, click here. I’ll be sure to share more information as the team continues their expedition!
In late summer and early fall, Baltimore visitors and downtown workers are often startled when they glance down into the harbor and see large pulsing Atlantic sea nettles!
The Atlantic sea nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) is a jellyfish species native to the western Atlantic and the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. If we ever had a Maryland State jellyfish, it would be the notorious Atlantic sea nettle. While it’s true that most jellyfish species do make their homes in the ocean and are unable to tolerate fresher, “brackish” waters, this sturdy species can actually thrive in it!
Their umbrella-like bell is about the size and shape of grapefruit half. Long stinging tentacles trail from the margin of the bell and are used to capture food which includes plankton, other jellies and small fish. These jellies pulse up and down the water column, day and night, in search of food. During moving tides and windless days, large numbers of nettles may gather near the water’s surface.
Jelly species survive the cold winter in a sedentary, polyp stage attached to hard surfaces like oyster shells, rocks and pier pilings. These polyps resemble tiny sea anemones and capture microscopic plankton with stinging tentacles. In late spring and early summer, when water temperatures start to rise, each polyp will start to produce and release tiny free-swimming sea nettles.
Feeding on the Bay’s abundant supply of plankton these nettles grow and reproduce rapidly. A single sea nettle may release up to 45,000 eggs daily. By July and August, sea nettle populations continue to expand and push north into the upper Bay. By the end of summer and early fall, the lack of rain allows the waters of the Inner Harbor to become saltier. This is usually when Atlantic sea nettles start arriving in decent numbers into the Inner Harbor.
The abundance of good food in these deep harbor waters usually results in some fairly massive nettles! And, just as our downtown sea nettle show starts to attract attention, it will soon come to an abrupt end. As the water temperatures begin to drop, the nettles die off and/or start shrinking rapidly. Though the jellies quickly disappear, it’s exciting to know that millions of tiny Atlantic sea nettle polyps are scattered throughout the Bay waiting for the warming waters of spring to start the annual cycle all over again!