Archive for the 'Reptiles' Category

Turtle Tuesday: Baby Northern Australian Snapping Turtle!

We’re excited to share some baby news out of our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit! On the morning of February 14th, one of our herpetologists discovered a northern Australian snapping turtle hatchling!

national aquarium northern australia snapping turtle hatchling

The eggs, laid by our female Australian snapping turtle on September 4, 2013, were immediately placed in an incubator behind-the-scenes for close observation. This is the first hatchling to emerge from the group!

The National Aquarium is the only Aquarium in the United States to house this turtle species. Further more, this occasion marks the first time any facility has successfully bred northern Australian snapping turtles!

Our baby currently ways about 24 grams. Adults of this species can reach up to five kilograms in size!

national aquarium northern australia snapping turtle hatchling

Our new hatchling will remain behind-the-scenes until it is large enough to safely transition onto exhibit.

Stay tuned for more updates as our team continues to monitor the remainder of our eggs! 

Three New Species Discovered in Australia’s “Lost World”

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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.

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Cape Melville. Photo via National Geographic.

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!

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Leaf-tail gecko perfectly camouflaged. Photo via National Geographic.

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!

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Animal Update – October 25

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Frilled Lizards in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes! 

Our herpetology staff is currently caring for four juvenile frilled lizards behind-the-scenes in our Australia exhibit! These juveniles will spend a few more weeks behind-the-scenes for observation and acclimation before going on exhibit.

Also known as “frillnecks,” this species is found in the humid woodlands of northern Australia and parts of southern New Guinea. They spend most of their time perched up in the trees, perfectly camouflaged, only venturing down to the floor in search of food.

Frilled lizards get their name from the large ruff of skin around their necks. When the animal is threatened, it gapes its mouth open to display its “frill” and, hopefully, discourage any predators from further pursuit.

national aquarium frilled lizard

This species is also known for their ability to run at high speeds on their hind legs – which allows them to reach the safety of a nearby tree quickly, if threatened. It’s quite the sight to see! Check out this awesome video of a frilled lizard in action: 

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

Animal Update – October 11

More than 17,000 animals representing 750 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community, so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Juvenile Australian Water Dragons! 

We have seven new water dragons in our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit!

national aquarium water dragon

Australian water dragons are semi-aquatic animals. They possess long, powerful limbs and claws for climbing and a laterally compressed tail for swimming.

Water dragons are primarily found in eastern Australia (from Cooktown down to the coast of New South Wales). They spend a lot of their time in areas with flowing water, ample tree cover and basking sites.

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

Endangered Species Week: The Bog Turtle

Endangered Species Day, celebrated on May 17th, was established to raise awareness of the issues (both human-related and ecological) facing endangered species and their habitats. 

To help further amplify this day, we’ll be highlighting some endangered species that can be found in our home state of Maryland, at the National Aquarium and around the world! Our hope is that as this week progresses, others will feel inspired to help us protect these amazing animals! 

Meet the Bog Turtle.

bog turtle

The bog turtle is the smallest species of turtle found in the United States (and one of the smallest species of turtle in the world)! Easy identified by the orange blotches found on either side of its head, this turtle gets its name from the areas of moist, soggy ground within wetlands known as “bogs.”

Bog turtles are only commonly found throughout the Northeast coast and, unfortunately, populations have been seriously impacted by the effects of climate change. Erratic weather patterns, in particular, throw a wrench in the fragile balance between these turtles and their habitat. Other major factors for their population decline include habitat loss, due to human construction and development, as well as a high demand for the pet trade.

This species was granted protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1997 – at which time, the northern population of bog turtles (from New York to Maryland) had declined by 50 percent.

Currently, the total number of bog turtles found in the United States is unknown. The estimated range is only between 2,500 and 10,000 turtles.

Want to help the bog turtle? Join us at our next habitat restoration event!

Stay tuned for more Endangered Species Week features! 


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