Archive for the 'Aquatic Life' Category

Animal Rescue Update: Cold-Stunned Turtles Released!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

On June 21st, the National Aquarium and the National Marine Life Center jointly released sea turtles from this year’s cold-stun season!

Throughout their stay with the National Aquarium, each of the turtles we released had a different reason for being in rehabilitation, and a different path to recovery.

Let’s take a closer look at Maverick, Charlie, and Tombstone:

Maverick was one of the season’s first Kemp’s ridley patients in November 2013.  He was a cold-stun off of the New Jersey coastline.  Upon arrival here in Baltimore, our husbandry and veterinary staff put Maverick on antibiotics and monitored a shell fracture that we found under all of the algae on his carapace (top part of the shell).

Maverick

Maverick being released yesterday!

After just a couple months, the fracture was starting to stabilize and rejoin at the base of the carapace.  At an entry weight of 1.04kg, we are proud to say that Maverick has put on weight and is currently 2.58kg, eating about 38g of capelin, blue crabs, squid, and shrimp per day.

Charlie, also a Kemp’s ridley, was one of the more intensive cases for our team this year. During his initial exams here in Baltimore, we discovered a small mass near Charlie’s heart. At the time we found the mass, Charlie had also begun to refuse food, and became increasingly lethargic. Husbandry and Veterinary staff put all of their effort into finding out why this mass had developed and how to treat it.

Charlie

Charlie making his way to the water during yesterday’s release!

We started an innovative form of baby aspirin therapy, and the mass started to decrease in size. Earlier this month, our vet staff cleared Charlie for release. We could not be more proud of how far he has come!

Tombstone, who joined our ranks from Cape Cod, presented an interesting housing situation for our team. Tombstone started his rehabilitation with two other pool-mates, and staff noticed that he would float at the surface of the water, another turtle would take the midline of water, and the third would rest and eat along the bottom.  To ensure that the turtles are able to forage and swim properly out in the wild, we didn’t want to further encourage floating at the surface, so we transferred Tombstone to a separate pool by himself.

Tombstone

Tombstone being released at Point Lookout State Park!

Between battling the current and chasing food, he finally learned to dive to the bottom and look more comfortable in the water, exhibiting more normal behaviors!

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining sea turtle patients! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

An Exciting Week for Ocean Conservation

This is an exciting time for the National Aquarium to be stepping up its engagement in the ocean conservation arena.  We are fortunate to be a part of several special events this month calling national and international attention to some very important issues.

National Aquarium is proud to have sponsored and be participating in Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2014, an event that promotes dialogue among all sectors of the ocean community and with the public around critical current issues. After three days of inspiring conversation, we look forward to being a part of the next steps as we help improve ocean health, protect special ocean places, ensure sustainable fisheries and plan for new uses like renewable energy production.  We applaud our partners at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for hosting another great ocean conservation event.

The momentum continues, and I am pleased to have been invited to represent the National Aquarium at the Department of State’s Our Ocean Conference next week. More than ever, our ocean conservation challenges require work at the international scale.  Protecting ocean health, managing migratory fish stocks and ensuring sustainable fisheries increasingly require coordination among countries and local communities around the globe.

Focused on the key pillars of Sustainable Fisheries, Marine Pollution, and Ocean Acidification, the conference will convene an international audience around pressing environmental issues.  Many of these same issues are also at the forefront of the National Aquarium’s conservation priorities.  This meeting of the minds aims to develop innovative solutions to some of the oceans’ biggest problems.

[youtube http://youtu.be/sOifRu6WdXs]

To highlight the forward-thinking solutions being sought, the event kicks-off this weekend with a Fishackathon.  Along with three other sites across the US, National Aquarium will convene hackers, coders, and other IT specialists to work on solutions to fisheries management problems in developing countries.  We are delighted to be a host site to facilitate the use of modern technology to address sustainable fishery issues in this new and exciting way.

I will not be the only National Aquarium presence at Our Oceans Conference – volunteer youth from our Climate Change Interpreters high school program will be assisting NOAA staff at the Science on a Sphere station in the expo hall.  Delegates from around the world will be able to learn how the National Aquarium uses this technology to engage our guests in active and solution-focused conversations around climate change.  In the past four years over 350 high school volunteers have become skilled in these communication techniques.  We are proud to have these outstanding young people represent our organization!

The Our Ocean Conference may be by invitation only, but engaging in ocean conservation is not.   Make your voice heard through social media campaigns or public comments on environmental legislation.  Or, take direct action by pledging to make a change in the things that each of us does daily in support of our oceans.  Volunteering for a a local conservation project, energy conservation, Bay friendly landscaping and wise seafood choices are just a few of the things each of us can do to support conservation of our oceans. To learn more about opportunities to take action, click here 

Eric-Schwaab

 

 

 

Celebrating Awesome Animal Dads!

In celebration of Father’s Day, we’re highlighting some of the animal kingdom’s most attentive and incredible animal dads!

Midwife Toad

What this amphibious species lacks in vibrant look and behavior it makes up for in paternal care.

midwife toad

Once fertilized, the male midwife toad wraps strands of eggs around his legs to protect them from predators.

Then, once they are ready to hatch, the male toad will wade into a wet, shallow area to allow the tadpoles to spring from their eggs.

Midwife toads can be found throughout western Europe and northern Africa.

Siamese Fighting Fish

Sure they’re best known for their looks and popularity at the pet store, but did you know Siamese fighting fish are some of the most dedicated dads around?

siamese fighting fish

Males must work hard to impress a mate, fighting amongst themselves and showing off their ornate plumage to attract a female. Their work is not done once they find a partner; male Siamese fighting fish must also build a nest made of floating bubbles, coating each individual bubble in saliva to avoid any popping.

The male continues his fathering duties by immediately swallowing the freshly-born eggs and spitting them into his nest. He ensures the survival of almost all eggs, spending the 24 to 36 hour incubation period catching any falling eggs and returning them to the nest. The father wards off any potential predators – even the mother! After the eggs hatch, the fish guard the newborns while grow strong off of their egg sack.

Jacana

Male jacanas are known for their intense display of paternal pride.

jacana

Female jacanas are rather flighty, mating with as many males as possible and mostly ignoring their eggs. The males complete all of the preparation and care for their children, including:  building nests, incubating eggs and protecting newborns!

Jacana males are such good fathers they’ll even nurture other males’ fertilized eggs!

Seahorses

The vast majority of the members of this family share an unusual reproductive strategy. The males have a specialized pouch into which the female deposits her eggs. It’s the fathers who brood the eggs. That’s right: Males brood and bear the young.

longsnout seahorse

May and June mark the peak breeding season for the Chesapeake’s two species of pipefish: the Northern and the dusky pipefish. The males brood their eggs for two weeks before giving birth to fully formed baby pipefish.

How are you celebrating Father’s Day? Tell us in the comments section!

 

Turtle Tuesday: An MRI Scan For Blade

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

Participating in the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. As you probably already know, the National Aquarium is part of a stranding response network that encompasses the North East region of the United States. Many of the turtles we handle initially are found as “cold stunned” along Cape Cod beaches in Massachusetts.

New England Aquarium stabilizes animals and rehabilitates many, but often reaches out to partner organizations such as us for assistance. This was the case for one of the animals currently in our care, Blade, who came to us last December.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Blade initially had a large fracture of the upper and lower shell (carapace and plastron) that healed nicely over the first two months of rehabilitation. After initially improving, Blade started to decline significantly in mid-February. Diagnostics showed he was septic (systemic bacterial infection) with a resistant strain of Enterococcus bacteria.

His front flipper digit joints began to swell and it appeared he had bacterial infections developing in them and he stopped using his front limbs. This is very rare in sea turtles; normally digit infections don’t impact their swimming ability.

Radiographs and a CT scan showed the shoulder joints were infected as well. Biopsy and cultures confirmed the joint infection was due to the same bacteria found in the blood.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

After aggressive antibiotic therapy and general supportive care, we were able to resolve the sepsis and distal limb infections and he showed some improvement in strength, but remained unusually quiet and weak and refused to use the front limbs. A physical therapy program was started to improve limb motion.

In order to check for bacterial abscesses in his organs and brain, we took Blade for an MRI scan at Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake. There were was no evidence of organ or brain abscesses found on MRI, although the shoulder joints were abnormal, as expected.

**Photos courtesy of Red Leash Photography

In the last month, Blade has continued to improve clinically and we are planning to do an arthroscopy to remove abnormal and potentially infected tissue from the shoulder joints. Our ultimate goal is to get Blade to a point where we can be released.

Stay tuned for more updates on Blade as his rehabilitation continues!

national aquarium Leigh Clayton

Animal Update – June 6

national aquarium animal update

Purple Tang in Surviving Through Adaptation

The purple tang’s coloration ranges from a light violet to a deep blue. They can be easily recognized by the small dark spots that appear on their face!

purple tang

Did you know? These vibrantly colored tangs can be found throughout the coral reefs of the Red Sea. Tangs are generally quite active swimmers and primarily graze on algae!

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

A Delicate Balance: Inside the Jellies Lab

Described as mesmerizing, beautiful, even otherworldly, jellies are unique in the animal kingdom. Not technically fish, they have no heart, brain, blood or bones and are 95 percent water.

Most closely related to corals and anemones, their pulsing translucent bod­ies drift an unchoreographed dance based mostly on water currents, not choice.

The full life cycle of these incredible animals actually takes place at the Aquarium, as baby jellies grow up and are cultured by skilled aquarists in what is referred to as the jellies lab.

Bringing Up Jelly

Jennie Janssen, Manager of Changing Exhibits, is in charge of the jellies lab, located on Pier 5 in the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, and Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance on Pier 4 inside the National Aquarium.

Janssen and her team of aquarists are responsible for many species, includ­ing moon jellies, lion’s mane jellies and Atlantic sea nettles.

In the lab, the Jellies team cares for a community of jellies, raising them until they are large enough to go on exhibit. Sometimes there are hundreds of babies being cul­tured, at other times as few as five or six.

During a visit to Jellies Invasion, guests can sometimes see what look like baby jellies pulsing alongside the adults, but in fact they are more like teenagers. Jelly babies are extremely small, developing from tiny polyps (resembling small sea anemones) that attach to the inside of their exhibits.

Polyps are collected from exhibit walls and viewing windows and allowed to attach to petri dishes in the lab. There, they are fed, kept clean and encouraged to strobilate, releasing free-swimming ephyrae. At just 2 millimeters, these ephyrae are easy to miss, except by those with a trained eye.

moon jelly polyps

Once the ephyrae are released, they ride the water flow into a larger container where they grow until they are big enough to be put on exhibit.

There’s No Place Like Home

While specific jelly species have different exhibit needs, they are generally cared for in the same ways. Jellies eat zooplankton, small fish and other jellies in the wild. Jellies at the Aquarium eat brine shrimp, grown by the Jellies team, two or three times per day. As the jellies grow, their food gets larger as well.

A precise balance of water flow, salinity and tem­perature is critical to a viable jelly-breed­ing program, and sophisticated water measurement technology allows aquarists to keep careful watch over the conditions.

jellies lab behind the scenes

The size and shape of the tank, in addition to the direction and speed of water flow, are important in ensuring the jellies don’t rub against the walls or become tangled. The aquarists on staff are constantly tweaking the instruments and engineering the tanks to make sure that flow is perfect for these drifters.

In fact, Janssen says that getting that water flow rate just right is one of the hallmarks of a great jelly aquarist. And the Aquarium’s Jellies team is among the best. Not only do aquarium-raised jellies appear on exhibit here in Baltimore, but many are sent to other aquariums for their exhibits…kind of like a jellies invasion!

Turtle Tuesday: Three Animal Rescue Patients Ready for Release

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

We are happy to share that three (Charlie, Maverick and Tombstone) of our remaining 6 sea turtle patients are ready for release!

In the past two weeks, these turtles have successfully come off their antibiotic treatments and have a clean bill of health from our veterinary staff! As typical with every release, we’re in the process of scheduling exit examinations, so that each turtle patient can be properly tagged for release later this month!

sea turtle tag

An example of one of the tags used to track some of our released sea turtle patients.

The patients still in-house receiving treatment are Cougar, Blade and Iceman.  Our team is currently trying to manage the ongoing shoulder joint injuries both Cougar and Blade presented with at the time of admittance.

Just yesterday, Cougar traveled to Annapolis with our Animal Health team for an arthroscopy procedure. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which an examination is performed using an endoscope inserted into the joint through a small incision.  This procedure allows our veterinarians to better assess the full scope of damages to the area for a better outlook on treatment options.

Cougar is back and resting in his pool with his tank-mate Blade, who is having the same difficulties with his forelimb joints.  Our husbandry staff and team of veterinarians are developing plans for both of these Kemp’s ridley sea turtles so that we can get them back on track and healing properly.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Blade

Iceman is still receiving treatment for some plastron shell abrasions.  Our team was able to remove infected tissue from the areas a last week so that his abrasions could heal properly.

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining patients, and as always, thank you for supporting our work!

national aquarium animal rescue expert


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