Posts Tagged 'coral reefs'

The LAST Animal, a Napoleon Wrasse, Has Been Introduced into Blacktip Reef!

blacktip reef update national aquarium

We’re so excited to share that the LAST of our animals has been successfully introduced into Blacktip Reef!

Humphead Wrasse National Aquarium Blacktip Reef

Also known as a humphead or Maori wrasse (after a Polynesian group from New Zealand), this fish is found in reef habitats throughout the Indo-Pacific. This species of wrasse in particular can grow to be over six feet long!

This wrasse combs reefs in search of hard-shelled prey such as mollusks, sea stars and crustaceans – our aquarists keep the newest resident to Blacktip Reef on a similar diet!

National Aquarium, Blacktip Reef, Napoleon Wrasse

Napoleon wrasses have been known to live for over 30 years! It takes them 5-7 years to reach sexual maturity.

In the wild, this species’ population numbers have declined dramatically in recent years. This decline is due in major part to a high demand for this fish in the Asian luxury food market. Humphead wrasse meat can fetch up to $100 dollars per kilogram in Hong Kong. As a result of this recent and rapid population decline, the species has been listed under the Endangered Species Act and IUCN’s Red List.

 We hope you can stop by and meet the newest (truly stunning) resident of Blacktip Reef! In the meantime, look out for him on our live Shark Cam

Federal Government Donates Confiscated Coral to the National Aquarium

A shipment of illegally imported corals intercepted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been donated to the National Aquarium.

The corals are being used as educational tools in our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef, as well as for the Aquarium’s conservation outreach efforts, school science programs and fabrication templates.

blacktip reef education cart
The shipment, containing 20 pieces of Seriatopora hystrix (commonly known as birdsnest coral) and 22 pieces of Pocillopora damicornis (sometimes referred to as cauliflower coral), was intercepted by CBP at the port of Tampa, Florida. The corals were cut from the reefs off the coast of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.

Coral reefs are being threatened by human and environmental factors. Most species of coral are protected under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and require foreign permits. This international agreement between governments ensures that international trade of wild animals does not threaten their survival. CITES consists of 178 country signatories that protect species like coral worldwide.

As the nation’s border agency, CBP works closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that laws protecting endangered species are enforced at every US port of entry.

Corals play a critical role in the ecosystem as they provide spawning, nursery, breeding and feeding  habitats for marine species, protect against shoreline erosion and provide local benefits for fishing and tourism industries.

These authentic coral pieces have become important tools for our educators, who able to bring coral reefs to life for thousands of visitors every day! We’re able to show visitors the beauty of coral and the important role that corals play in our world!

Animal Update – September 20

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 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!

Meet one of Blacktip Reef’s most colorful residents – the harlequin tuskfish! 

Harlequin Tusk Fish

The harlequin tuskfish, a species of wrasse, can be found throughout the reef habitats of the Indo-Pacific (from the Red Sea to Australia).

Typically, the tuskfish will make its home in the sandy, shallow areas of coastal reefs. Their diet mostly consists of hard-shelled invertebrates, including small crabs and shrimp.

Harlequin tusk fish

Did you know? The harlequin tuskfish gets its common name from its bright coloration and sharp blue teeth!

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

Blacktip Reef Update: Things Are Getting Pretty Out-RAY-geous!


In the last week, our Biological Programs team has introduced two new species of ray to Blacktip Reef! 

Reticulate Whipray

honeycomb rays

Also known as a leopard or honeycomb ray, this species inhabits the coastal and brackish waters throughout the Indo-Pacific. Like most rays, these guys prefer the flat, sandy areas within reef ecosystems.

The largest recorded length of this species (tail, also known as it’s “sting,” included) is 14.8 feet!

Did you know? In addition to stunning prey, the reticulate whipray’s sting is used to help balance and steer.

Black-Blotched Ray

black-blotched ray

This large ray gets its name from the spotted black and white coloration on its topside. Also an inhabitant of the Indo-Pacific, this species usually sticks to the sandy bottom of the reef.

Black-blotched rays can reach up to 10 feet in disc width!

Have you spotted these new residents on exhibit? Be sure to share your photos with us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram using #BlacktipReef! 

A Blue View: Rainforests of the Sea

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

July 24, 2013: Coral Reefs: Rainforests of the Sea

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss the importance of 
protection coral reefs.

Sometimes called the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs are colorful, intricate ecosystems—among the most incredible natural wonders in the world. Their brilliant hues and diverse inhabitants make them a favorite of scuba divers and ocean enthusiasts around the world. But, coral reefs are also in grave danger—and saving these ancient splendors is both a necessary and feasible goal.

blacktip reef

Our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef, is the re-creation of a vibrant Indo-Pacific reef!

According to a report by the World Resources Institute, 75 percent of the world’s reefs are considered threatened due to a combination of risks. Climate change has made bleaching, which is a massive die-off of coral polyps, and disease outbreaks more common. Increased carbon in our oceans results in ocean acidification, which, in turn, destroys the very structure of the reef. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices are disturbing the balance of these complex ecosystems. Coastal development, pollution, coral mining, and unsustainable tourism activities are adding additional stresses to an already challenged habitat. Some scientists fear that at this rate, living coral reefs could vanish from earth within a generation unless drastic action is taken.

Surprisingly, while coral reefs make up just two-tenths of a percent of the ocean floor, they support about 25 percent of all marine animals. They are critical spawning, nursery, breeding, and feeding grounds for thousands of species.

Many people don’t realize that corals are in fact animals, closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are both hard and soft corals, and all live together in colonies, creating a foundation for all the other inhabitants of the reef, from tiny darting fishes to large apex predators like sharks and everything in between.

There’s no question that these ecosystems are environmentally critical, but they are also important economic drivers, creating millions of jobs and providing a sustainable tourism resource when properly managed. Coral reefs also serve as natural barriers for islands and other communities, helping to prevent erosion and minimizing the impact of waves and storms. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, up to 90 percent of the energy from wind-generated waves is absorbed by reefs.

NOAA also estimates that ocean temperature will rise nearly two degrees within this century from the greenhouse gases already released, which will undoubtedly threaten these critical ecosystems even more. As marine scientists explore just how coral reefs will cope with increasing acidity in the world’s oceans, it is abundantly clear that we must act to save these oceanic treasures.

Scientists are now studying coral reefs along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where underwater springs naturally lower the pH of the surrounding seawater. There, researchers are learning how corals respond to higher acidity in a natural setting. On the other side of the world, a U.S. climate scientist is conducting an experiment on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to see whether antacid could boost coral growth by slowing seawater acidification.

These researchers are taking threats to our coral reefs seriously, and we need to do the same. The single biggest thing you can do to slow the deterioration of reefs is to reduce your own carbon footprint by driving less and conserving energy at home. We can also to make sustainable seafood a priority and vigorously support steps to enforce proper management of these resources. We do well to remember that our actions on land—our stormwater, trash, and yard runoff—all eventually work their way to the sea and impact coral reefs. We can all keep coral reefs in mind as we go about our daily lives—and remember that water connects us all.


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