Archive for the 'Aquatic Life' Category



Animal Update – April 4

national aquarium animal update

Neon Gobies in Atlantic Coral Reef 

Two neon gobies have been added to our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

national aquarium neon goby

Generally, neon gobies only grow to be about 1 inch in length.

Did you know? Gobies are cleaner fish! These animals can oftentimes be observed in grouped “cleaning stations” throughout the reef, where larger fish like damselfish or grunts can stop by for a quick parasite removal.

Gilded Triggerfish in Blacktip Reef

If you’ve tuned into Shark Cam lately, chances are you’ve spotted Blacktip Reef‘s gilded triggerfish!

national aquarium gilded triggerfish

The gilded triggerfish, also known as the blue-throated triggerfish, can be found throughout the reefs of the Indo-Pacific. This is one of approximately 40 species of triggerfish identified worldwide.

Triggerfish are normally shy and solitary, but they can be very aggressive. Some may charge or attack intruders. When hiding from predators, triggerfish lock themselves into small openings with their trigger fin and bite down on the coral or rock to ensure their safety.

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

A Blue View: A Free Spring Chorus, Courtesy of Frogs

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.

April 2, 2014: The Sounds of Spring Peepers & Wood Frogs

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the
chorus of sounds produced by frogs to
attract mates during the breeding season!

Through the winter, woodlands and meadows are mostly quiet at night. But with the arrival of spring rains and warming temperatures, that silence is broken by loud choruses of wood frogs and spring peepers. These are the first frog species to come out of hibernation and begin the year’s amphibian breeding season.

Spring peepers are small, just one inch in length, but you wouldn’t know it from their sound. Each peeper can produce a call as loud as 90 decibels. Multiply that by the number of frogs in a wetland habitat, and you have a sound that can rival that of a rock concert.

Spring Peeper

Photo of spring peeper via Wiki Commons.

Why so noisy? That’s how the male spring peepers attract females from the surrounding woodlands. As the females come out of hibernation, they are carrying between 200 and 1,000 eggs, and the females are outnumbered by the males at about 9 to 1. Competition is intense, and females choose males based on the quality of his song.

Because of this competition, males wrestle for the best spots at the chorusing site. Interestingly, Dr. Don Forester and David Lykens of Towson University discovered that some spring peeper males were successful in breeding with females through a very deceptive strategy. Because calling requires a huge amount of energy, some spring peeper males, known as satellite males, don’t call at all.

Instead, these satellite males save energy by positioning themselves near the top singers. They then intercept females moving toward the calling males. Satellite males are smaller than calling males and would probably be at a disadvantage in trying to attract females with a less impressive voice.

Though the spring peeper is often considered the first frog to emerge from hibernation and therefore an early sign that winter is indeed over, the wood frog is usually ahead of the peeper. In fact, in mild winters, wood frogs have been observed arriving in woodland pools as early as February.

Wood Frog

Photo of a wood frog via Wiki Commons.

Wood frogs are often referred to as “explosive breeders” because they arrive in large numbers and have a short breeding season, usually only lasting the first few weeks of late winter or early spring. Wood frogs almost exclusively lay their eggs in vernal pools, which are small temporary bodies of water that form in depressions.

Because these pools dry over the summer, wood frogs must lay their eggs, the eggs must hatch, and tadpoles must fully develop and metamorphose before the pools dry. The wood frog’s strategy is to arrive first and maximize the time needed to make it the entire way through the process. Wood frog tadpoles often dine on the newly laid eggs of later arriving frog species.

Even as these frogs perpetuate their life cycle, they do face challenges. Their well-being is intricately linked to the survival of their woodland home and their vernal pools. Be considerate of these habitats in your neighborhood by preventing trash and other pollution from traveling through your waterways. Slow down while driving on warm spring nights, allowing amphibians to migrate safely across roadways. And when you pay these amazing creatures a visit in their natural habitat, observe but don’t disturb.

Want to buff up a bit more on your amphibian knowledge? Check out our latest infographic on all things frog

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

Reflecting On the 25 Years Since the Exxon Valdez Spill

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Oil spills have been an on-going topic of interest to the public for centuries, but was rapidly thrust to the spotlight 25 years ago when the Exxon Valdez vessel grounded in Prince William Sound, Alaska and discharged 11 million gallons of crude oil.

**Images via Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

Despite a broadened awareness of environmental risks, more stringent regulations and increased safety methods, the efforts to decrease oil spills on a global level have been largely unsuccessful.

There are multi-disciplinary studies to quantify the effects of oil on marine and terrestrial ecosystems, the wildlife that inhabits those ecosystems and the social and economic impacts to communities.  The pictures of oiled wildlife from the Exxon Valdez spill, similar to the ones from the Deepwater Horizon spill a generation later, and the recent photos from last month’s Houston ship channel spill are devastating.

Kemp's Ridley BP Oil Spill

This Kemp’s Ridley turtle was recovered from the site of the Deep Horizon accident site on June 14, 2010. Photo via Carolyn Cole/LA Times.

The immediate threat to wildlife and the human communities that depend on healthy natural resources is obvious.  The long-term effects on our ecosystems (through direct exposure of through food chain interactions), while not as readily apparent, is equally concerning.  These emerging impacts are profound in any environment, but when the oil is released in a spawning or nursery area like the Gulf of Mexico, effects can be compounded and impact entire year classes of fish.  A recently published study found that even passing exposure to petroleum compounds can cause damages in developing embryos that may ultimately prove lethal months to years later.

Protecting wildlife from oil spill incidents, and subsequently responding to oiled animals are not easy tasks. While all plants and animals can be affected by oil spills, the most visible and easily accessible animals are typically those that are collected to be decontaminated and rehabilitated. Examples often include birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Oiled wildlife response is just one small part of the overall spill response.

Our Animal Rescue team ensures our preparedness to respond to oil spill events involving marine mammals or sea turtles in our area by participating in oil spill training and drills, maintaining internal protocols, and meeting with the Regional Response Team for our area (RRT III). RRT III is a group of federal, state and local organizations that oversee written plans for response to oil spill events within the region of Pennsylvania through Virginia. These plans, known as Area Contingency Plans, include information such as: environmentally sensitive species/areas, culturally sensitive areas, high risk locations and critical infrastructure.

Our dependence on fossils fuels ensures that there will always be a risk of oils spills. To mitigate for this risk we need to understand the true cost of this dependence and take responsibility for making better life style decisions in our daily routines.

Support and implementation of cleaner energy alternatives will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and the risk of oil spill events.

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Celebrate Spring by Taking a Walk on the Wet Side!

national aquarium families expert update

As we enter “Earth Month,” let’s take some time to celebrate the one thing that all living things need – water! Now that Spring is (finally) in the air, animals that depend on the water are all around us and it’s a great time to get outside as a family to explore.

Before Your Hike

A water-themed family hike can connect children with the importance and beauty of water and remind us all that water is a shared resource, one that deserves our protection! Here are a few things to consider before hitting the trail:

  • Scope It Out - Learning about nature is about making careful observations. Scientists use spotting scopes or binoculars but children are right at home using two toilet paper tubes taped together to peer through. Children can practice spotting animals and natural objects by looking at items up close through the tube and then moving back and looking at it again. To focus their attention, ask questions like, Does it look the same? What do you think it feels like? What color is it?
  • Meet The Neighbors - Review common animals that might be found in your area and have your children guess what animals they expect to find on the hike. Free field guides and/or lists of local animals are available through your local Department of Natural Resources or library.
  • Mind Your Manners - Walk only on existing trails when near the water to help reduce erosion. Practice the 7 “Leave No Trace” principles.

During Your Hike

Experience a familiar park or hike in a new way by directing your gaze and questions around water: what kinds of animals live in water? Who spends time near the water and who lays eggs in water? Here are a few ideas to keep the conversation flowing:

  • Look in wet, muddy or moist areas, especially near puddles and stream banks. Along with bigger tracks, try to find smaller bird tracks. Look for tracks as they are easier to find and photograph well! You can encounter tracks from animals like: great blue herons, great egrets, deer and raccoons.
  • One of the easiest ways to see frog eggs is to listen for frog calls and look for temporary, shallow ponds. The eggs may be floating in shallow water or attached to sticks and plants underwater. As tempting as it may be to touch, only look and take pictures.

 After Your Hike

Once you’re home, find a large piece of cardboard or butcher paper and have the whole family participate in drawing a mural that includes all of the animals you found on your trek. As you’re drawing, ask questions like, Where do you think the water we saw came from? Where do you think it goes? Do you think we could help keep the water clean and healthy for the animals (and us)? What ideas do you have?

As the Spring weeks pass and you continue to explore the outdoors you can begin to compare and contrast your murals, giving you and your junior trekkers an idea of how diverse the habitat in our own backyards can be and how we can protect them!

national aquarium families expert heather doggett

Animal Update – March 28

national aquarium animal update

Balloonfish in Lurking

A balloonfish has been added to our Lurking exhibit!

national aquarium balloonfish

Balloonfish are mostly nocturnal animals, spending most of their nights feeding on a mixed diet of mollusks, sea urchins and crabs.

Did you know? Balloonfish have fused teeth, especially designed to crush through the shells of their prey!

Like other species of pufferfish, this species will fill with water and expand to nearly twice its size when threatened.

Wolf Eel in Kelp Forest

A small wolf eel has nicely settled into our Kelp Forest exhibit!

national aquarium wolf eel

Did you know? Wolf eels are not actually eels, instead they part of the Anarhichadidae family of “wolf fishes.” These animals are fairly solitary and territorial – they have even been observed in the wild biting at sharks to keep them out of their caves!

This fish lives in the North Pacific from the Sea of Japan, to islands off the coast of Alaska, to the coast of southern California.

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


Sign up for AquaMail

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 236 other followers