Archive for the 'Exhibits' Category



Animal Update – January 31

national aquarium animal update

Sailfin Sculpin in Surviving Through Adaptation

Two sailfin sculpins have been added to the Feeding gallery of our Surviving Through Adaptation exhibit.

national aquarium sailfin sculpin

Also known as the “eye-banded sailor fish,” sailfin sculpins are found through the eastern Pacific ocean – from Alaska to southern California. This species prefers to stay along the shoreline where there are lots of rocky, algae-covered crevices.

Did you know? Their common name is derived from the sail-like fin that sits on top of their heads!

Plumose Anemones Added to Surviving Through Adaptation

Two plumose anemones have also been added to our Feeding gallery!

national aquarium plumose anemone

Plumose anemones are common from southern Alaska to southern California. Young specimens will often form dense colonies on pilings, floats, breakwaters and jetties in bays and harbors.

These animals are easily recognized by their tall, column-like bodies, which are topped with a “plume” of many short oral arms.

To feed, these anemones sweep passing seawater with their tentacles to filter out zooplankton!

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

Aussie Week: Make Your Own Didgeridoo!

national aquarium australia day

Every year on January 26, Aussies around the world celebrate Australia Day! This national holiday marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British ships to Sydney Cove. 

In addition to our annual event in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes this Sunday, we’ll be celebrating Australia Day with special posts on WATERblog all week long! 

Day Three: DIY Didgeridoo

The didgeridoo is a wind instrument first created by the aborigines of Northern Australia over 1,500 years ago.  Didgeridoos are still an important part of cultural celebrations in modern-day Australia and have gained popularity in many other parts of the world!

didgeridoo player

Didgeridoo player (Image via Wikipedia Commons).

This Sunday, a didgeridoo player will be on-site during our Australia Day celebration to delight guests with some authentic tunes. Folks will also be able to make their own didgeridoo out of recycled materials!

For those of you who won’t be able to join us on Sunday, here’s how YOU can make your own didgeridoo!

Materials:

  • Paper towel rolls
  • Pencils
  • Markers and/or crayons

Directions:

  1. Using a pencil, trace a design or pattern on your paper towel roll.
  2. Use your markers and/or crayons to fill in your design.
  3. Have fun practicing different sounds on your new didgeridoo!

DIY didgeridoo

Stay tuned for more Australia Week posts and join the conversation online using #AussieWeek!

Get to Know Dolphin Discovery

For the 1.3 million people who visit us annually, there’s a lot to see and do at the Aquarium. However, there’s even more going on with our animals and staff behind-the-scenes.

Although our blog often offers sneak peeks into the everyday lives of our 17,000+ animals, we thought it would be fun to give our readers a breakdown from the perspective of our exhibits!

This week’s highlighted exhibit is Dolphin Discovery:

Dolphin Discovery, the Aquarium’s largest exhibit, first opened in 1990 and is home to our colony of eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins!

The Animals:

  • Six females: Nani, Jade, Spirit, Maya, Bayley and Chesapeake
  • Two males: Beau and Foster

Nani, our eldest dolphin at 42, is the mother to Beau and Spirit. Chesapeake was the first dolphin born at the National Aquarium and she is the mother to our youngest dolphin, Bayley.  Maya is a half sister to Chesapeake (via dam or mother) as well as half sister to Spirit (via sire or father).  Jade is the mother to Foster. All but one of our dolphins were born right here at the Aquarium. Nani came to us from another aquarium that had to close.

This colony structure represents a complex social group for the dolphins and provides them with essential relationships. Bottlenose dolphins live in a matriarchal society due to the level of care that females provide to their young; the males live in separate social groups consisting of a few members that are called bachelor groups or alliances.  Here are at the National Aquarium, we house our animals in what we call a nursery group which consists of all of our females ranging in age from 42 to 5 and our two males have formed a pair bonded group.

Exhibit Staff: In Dolphin Discovery, we have 13 marine mammal trainers, a Director of Marine Mammal Training, Allison Ginsburg, and our Director of Animal Programs, Sue Hunter. Our marine mammals team is responsible for the everyday care of our dolphins including medical care, diet and nutrition, teaching and learning, research, and of course a lot of playtime.

We have staff who work in this exhibit full time and we also have team members who assist with the care of dolphins. Our veterinary team, led by Dr. Leigh Clayton, provides state-of-the-art medical care to each animal on a routine basis. It’s not unusual for guests to come in and see our vet team checking in.

A Typical Day: A day in the Marine Mammal Department can start as early as 6:30 in the morning. It takes two full hours to sort and weigh out the 200 pounds of frozen fish that make up the dolphins’ diet. The dolphins get fed between 7-10 times per day, roughly every hour and half.

Sorting fish for the dolphins

Food is an essential part of their training through positive reinforcement. Our trainers work with the animals to create an enriching environment where they can learn new behaviors through play. Play is also a great way for us to build our relationship with the animals, which is key in all of the training that we do. We even help the dolphins learn certain behaviors to help us take care of them. For example, as part of regular their physicals, our veterinary team needs access to a dolphin’s fluke fin to take blood samples, so our trainers work with the dolphins through a series of play/reward sessions to obtain the desired fluke-raise behavior.

Our staff does some of this training work behind-the-scenes, but most are done during the day while guests are in the exhibit. There are many different types of sessions they participate in: some are focused on training these brand new behaviors, others are dedicated to husbandry and some consist entirely of playtime.

When we’re not working directly with the animals, we spend a majority of our time cleaning. This includes buckets, toys, the kitchen, all of our back-up areas and even the animals’ habitat. All trainers are SCUBA certified, which allows us to enter the water and scrub and vacuum each and every day.

In 2012, we changed over our Dolphin Discovery exhibit to allow our guests more access to the animals and our expert staff. Every day our dolphin exhibit is open for visitors to stop in as many times as they like for as long as they like during operating hours!

Stay tuned for next week’s highlight of Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes!

Animal Update – January 17

national aquarium animal update

Toadfish in Atlantic Shelf! 

An oyster toadfish has been introduced into the Atlantic Shelf gallery of our Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit.

national aquarium toadfish

This species is easily recognized by its “toad-like” appearance.

Toadfish spend most of their time camouflaged within the sandy or muddy areas near the water’s bottom, where they can successfully ambush oncoming prey.

Toadfish are well-known for their “mating song.” Male toadfish vibrate their swim bladders to produce a grunt-like sound to attract females! Listen to the toadfish’s song here: 

Striped Bass in Migrating! 

We have 26 new striped bass in our Migrating exhibit!

national aquarium striped bass

These bass came to us from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). They are part of the Chalk Point hatchery‘s 2013 class!

Measuring anywhere from 3 to 6 feet in length, striped bass have been a popular sportfish in the Mid-Atlantic region and along the Atlantic coast since the early 1970′s.

Both sport and commercial fishing demands took a serious and rapid toll on striped bass populations in important breeding areas like the Chesapeake Bay. Since the early 1980′s, Maryland DNR has successfully worked with fisheries, fisherman and conservation organizations to revive the striped bass populations throughout the state!

FUN FACT: Did you know? Striped bass, also known as rockfish, is the state fish of Maryland, Rhode Island and South Carolina!

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

Animal Update – January 10

national aquarium animal update

Guieafowl Puffer Introduced into Blacktip Reef!

A guineafowl puffer has been successfully introduced into our Blacktip Reef exhibit!

national aquarium blacktip reef guineafowl puffer

Guineafowl puffers can be found in coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. They are omnivorous, feeding mainly on the tips of branching corals and, to a lesser extent, on sponges, mollusks, bryozoans, tunicates, forams, algae, and detritus.

Like other puffers, this species has the ability to inflate with water or air for protection!

Toby the Blue Lobster Settled into Atlantic Shelf

national aquarium blue lobster toby

Earlier this week, our blue lobster Toby was introduced into the Atlantic Shelf gallery of our Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit. We’re happy to report that Toby has settled nicely into his new home!

Did you know? The genetic variation responsible for Toby’s blue hue occurs in 1 of every 2 million lobsters.

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


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