Archive for the 'Reptiles' Category



A Blue View: Snakes In Our Backyards

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.

In a two-part interview series with Dr. Kat Hadfield, Associate Veterinarian at National Aquarium, CEO John Racanelli discusses the endangered status of the world’s seven species of sea turtle and how organizations like the Aquarium and working to save them.

February 20, 2013: Snakes In Our Backyards

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss snakes
and their bad reputation with humans.

As spring approaches, the stray warm, sunny day is going to start waking up our natural world from its winter sleep. Grass will grow, buds will burst from trees and shrubs, birds will migrate, and yes, snakes will come out of hibernation.

For many, the thought of a snake basking in the sunshine on their driveway is enough to send them running for the moving boxes. There’s no doubt about it, snakes—often thought of as creepy, crawly, slimy, and scaly—have an undeservedly bad reputation. Yet these creatures fill a critical role in our environment, and they’re pretty amazing animals, too.

Did you know that some snakes, despite their lack of legs, can climb trees and cave walls in search of food? Or that all snakes can swim, with some, like the water snake, able to dive beneath the surface to feed on fish and frogs? Some species even have infrared heat receptors, allowing them to find prey in the dark.

The emerald tree boa is just one species of snake that makes its home up in the trees!

The emerald tree boa is just one species of snake that makes its home up in the trees!

Snakes are uniquely designed to locate their prey. Though they don’t hear very well, they pick up vibrations from the ground. When snakes stick out their forked tongues, they actually smell the air, using the two-prong shape to establish a direction. “Odor” molecules caught on a snake’s tongue are translated by something called a Jacobson’s Organ in the roof of its mouth, so snakes literally taste the scent. This forked tongue is also used to avoid predators and to help male snakes locate female snakes during the breeding season.

Like other reptiles, snakes are ectotherms, meaning they control their internal body temperature from heat derived from an external source. When cold, they move into the sun; when hot, they move into the shade. Extreme heat or cold can kill them. In winter, snakes hibernate in areas below the frostline, and their dens can be found in narrow crevices in rocks, under trees and wood piles, and occasionally in basements. When snakes bask in the sun—like on those early days of spring—people are often faced with an animal they aren’t comfortable seeing up close.

It’s when snakes seem to encroach on our human space—like our yards or roadways—that many people get distressed, and they often take drastic action to get rid of snakes without thinking about the consequences. After all, snake populations are vital to maintaining balance in our ecosystems, helping to effectively control the population of small mammals, like mice and rats, and also serving as a valuable food source for hawks and other predators.

Here in Maryland, we have 27 species and subspecies of snakes. Of these, only two are venomous, the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead. Neither is aggressive unless provoked, preferring instead to remain motionless and blend into their environment. Two species are endangered, but all native snakes in Maryland are protected under the state’s Endangered Species Conservation Act. This means that native snakes cannot be killed, possessed, bred, or sold without acquiring the proper permit from the Department of Natural Resources.

This spring, if you see a snake, don’t run in the opposite direction. Instead, reach for your camera. DNR’s Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project, also known as MARA, is conducting a five-year program, using data collected by people to create a current distribution map of Maryland reptiles and amphibians. If you see a snake or amphibian, simply take a photograph of it, record the location, and e-mail it to the DNR.

This information helps the DNR to develop conservation strategies for native species so snakes and humans can live peacefully together.

Want to learn more about different snake species found around the world? Join us in Washington, DC for our annual Reptile & Amphibian day

Thoughtful Thursdays: Will You Be Our Valentine?

This Valentine’s Day, we’ve rounded up a list of the Aquarium’s most “romantic” animals! From seabirds that co-parent to seahorses that hold tails, learn how these marine animals show love:

French Angelfish

french angelfish

Ah, the French. (Known for their romantic flair both above and under water!)

French angelfish form a monogamous bond that lasts as long as both fish are alive. They live, travel and hunt in their pair. If a mature french angelfish is seen alone, it’s usually because their mate has passed away, they never look for a new one.

Clownfish

clownfish

Clownfish also mate for life. The male and his mate will live together (in the anemone or reef crevice of their choice) and aggressively guard their eggs until they hatch.

Seahorses

longsnout seahorses

Seahorses have a very intimate courtship, they hold tails, swim snout-to-snout and engage in a courtship dance. Once the male seahorse is pregnant (yes, the male carries the eggs to term), the female visits him every morning and holds his tail. They also mate for life.

Barramundi

barramundi

Barramundi perform a love dance during mating. Every year, the barramundi return to their birthplace to spawn (they also only mate during a full moon). Many Australian myths claim these fish have special aphrodisiac qualities. It’s because of that belief that they’re colloquially  known as “passion fish.”

Scarlet Ibis

scarlet ibis

To attract a female, the male scarlet ibis performs a complex array of mating rituals (including a shaking dance and head rubbing). After a successful courtship, the female will lay eggs and the pair will both watch over the eggs and co-parent their young. Scarlet ibises mate for life!

Puffins

puffins

Puffins also form long-term pair bonds. The female lays a single egg and both parents incubate it and feed the “puffling” once it hatches. Puffins will often return to the same nesting site every year.

Happy Valentine’s Day! How are you celebrating today? Tell us in the comments! 

MPT Feature Program: The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt

Throughout 2012, National Aquarium staff worked closely with Maryland Public Television to film and produce an educational, 30-minute special, “The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt!”

Tune in to watch the program at 8:00 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013!

“The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt”
This educational, live-action, family program follows the fictional students of South Town Middle school on their class field trip through the National Aquarium! But this time there’s a catch – Science Teacher Mr. Hedgeman has turned it into a Treasure Hunt!

The great aquarium treasure hunt with MPT at National Aquarium - Dewey and Trevor

Join Dewey and Trevor on a wild exploration of the National Aquarium, home to thousands of species of marine life!

Throughout their journey, the students meet and learn from National Aquarium experts.  They explore marine life of the Chesapeake Bay, go “down under” to visit the crocodiles of Australia, discover the frogs in an indoor rain forest and submerge into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for an up-close look at the array of deep sea life from sharks to rays to dolphins.

In the end, Dewey and Trevor will explore the entire aquarium, but can they be the first team to have all the answers before it’s too late? Tune in to find out!

Check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the filming below! 

A special thanks to all National Aquarium staff who were involved in the filming, especially our amazing on-screen stars: Allison, Beth, Jessica, Kyle and Andy!

In addition to airing on MPT, the program will be played at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai Hospital through its internal cable systems in patient rooms and waiting rooms.

Major funding for The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt is provided by LifeBridge Health.

Don’t forget to tune in to MPT for the premiere of “The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt” at 8:00 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013!

Super FISH Bowl: Our Fantasy Team Line-Up

As the competition between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers heats up in anticipation of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII, the National Aquarium, Baltimore and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco are enlisting the help of their aquatic animals to take their own friendly rivalry off the green and into the blue in the Super FISH Bowl!

You can’t have a #SuperFISHBowl without a strong team! As part of our fun wager, each organization is building their ultimate fantasy animal line-up!

Here’s who we’ve got out on the field:

Kicker – Blue Crab
Cornerback – Golden Lion Tamarins
Defensive Line – Sand Tiger Sharks
Fullback – Dolphins
Linebacker – Porcupine Fish
Quarterback – Blue Hyacinth Macaw (Margaret)
Center – Snapping Turtle
Wide Receiver – Tarpon
Tight End – Roughtail Ray
Coach – Octopus (Poulpe)
Referees – Banggai Cardinalfish
Cheerleader – Green Sea Turtle (Calypso)

Tell us your favorite player & they could be our fan-voted MVP!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Conserving Australia’s Natural Wonders

In honor of our upcoming Australia Day celebration, today’s Thoughtful Thursday highlights the issues facing Australia’s fragile marine ecosystems.  

“Grief for the Reef” 

Possibly the most iconic coral reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef, is home to close to 6,000 different species of marine life. Since becoming a protected marine park in 1975, researchers have closely monitored the effects pollution, overfishing and ocean acidification have on the overall health of the reef and its inhabitants.

Thanks to "Finding Nemo" the Great Barrier Reef and species like the percula clownfish have become loved by many!

Thanks to “Finding Nemo” the Great Barrier Reef and
species like the clownfish have become treasured
icons for coral reef ecosystems!

Although it has been historically well-protected (due in part to its global popularity), the reef has still been devastated by these effects. In the last 27 years, the Great Barrier Reef has lost 50 percent of its coral.

Without immediate action to curb pollution and activities that contribute to climate change, the reef’s future is grim.

Ocean acidification has caused coral bleaching on parts of the reef. Photo via CS Monitor

Ocean acidification has caused coral bleaching on parts of the reef. Photo via CS Monitor

Here’s what you can do to help save our coral reefs worldwide: 

  • Use less water. The less water you use, the less runoff and waste will pollute our oceans.
  • Walk, bike or ride the bus. Fossil fuel emissions from cars and industry raise lead to ocean warming which causes mass-bleaching of corals and can lead to widespread destruction of reefs.
  • Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling. Do not touch the reef or anchor your boat on the reef. Contact with the coral will damage the delicate coral animals, and anchoring on the reef can kill it, so look for sandy bottom or use moorings if available.
  • Learn more about National Aquarium’s conservation initiatives to save coral reefs.

Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes: Congratulations to our Fourth Winner!

Australia winner

After weeks of excitement and thousands of entries, we’re happy to announce the winners of our Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes!

All week we’ve been announcing the winners for each of our amazing prizes right here on our WATERblog, on our Facebook page and through our email, Aquamail.

Today’s winner is Kelly S. from Alexandria, Virginia! CONGRATULATIONS KELLY! You have won our Behind-the-Scenes Australia experience! On this personal guided tour with our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes curator, you and three guests will get the full behind-the-scenes look of this incredible exhibit and an up close encounters with some of our most popular animals! You’ll also get to participate in feedings and see areas of Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes not usually seen by guests!

Australia waterfall

Congratulations again, Kelly, we’re incredibly thankful for your support!

Didn’t win today? There is still ONE AMAZING PRIZE TO WIN…Enter today!

sweepstakes

December 21: Go Behind-the-Scenes with the Dolphins – To get any closer, you would actually have to be an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin! The lucky winner of this amazing experience will go on a private meet and greet with the Aquarium’s dolphins, tour the dolphin area, see how National Aquarium staff prepare their food, check out the dolphin’s extensive toy collection, and learn behind the scenes secrets from the trainers. The winner will get to work with the trainer during a training session, learn how to communicate with the dolphins, and participate in enrichment and play activities!

Still haven’t entered for your chance to win? Well, not to worry. We will still be accepting entries until midnight tonight, December 20th.

ENTER NOW!

How To Enter:
Five Great Ways to be Automatically Entered to Win:

Stay tuned tomorrow to see if YOU are selected as our last lucky winner!!!

Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes: Congratulations to our Third Winner!

loggerhead turtle

After weeks of excitement and thousands of entries, we’re happy to announce the winners of our Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes!

All week we’re announcing the winners of each of our amazing prizes right here on our WATERblog, on our Facebook page and through our email, Aquamail.

Today’s winner is Darren B. from Williamsburg, Virginia! CONGRATULATIONS Darren! You have won the chance to name our baby loggerhead sea turtle along with a behind-the-scenes meet and greet! This baby loggerhead sea turtle is part of National Aquarium, Washington, DC’s Loggerhead Head Start Program! Through this program, sea turtle hatchlings spend time in aquariums where they can safely grow before being released back to the ocean. As the winner of this amazing experience, Darren will give our newest turtle, which arrived this month, a head start towards success with a name to carry him (or her) into the future! Darren and up to three guests will get to have a private meet and greet with the turtle and, once on display, the turtle tank will feature a sign with the turtle’s name and the winner’s name!

loggerhead hatchling

Our new loggerhead hatching arrived earlier this month and is waiting for a name!

Congratulations again, Darren, we’re incredibly thankful for your support!

Didn’t win today? No worries! There are still two AMAZING prizes to win…

sweepstakes

December 20: Go to the Extremes in Australia – On this personal guided tour with the Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes curator, the winner and three guests will get the full behind-the-scenes tour of this incredible exhibit, up close encounters with National Aquarium’s most popular animals, participate in feedings, and see areas of Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes not usually seen by guests.

December 21: Go Behind-the-Scenes with the Dolphins – To get any closer, you would actually have to be an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin! The lucky winner of this amazing experience will go on a private meet and greet with the Aquarium’s dolphins, tour the dolphin area, see how National Aquarium staff prepare their food, check out the dolphin’s extensive toy collection, and learn behind the scenes secrets from the trainers. The winner will get to work with the trainer during a training session, learn how to communicate with the dolphins, and participate in enrichment and play activities!

Still haven’t entered for your chance to win? Well, not to worry. We will still be accepting entries until midnight on December 20th.

ENTER NOW!

How To Enter:
Five Great Ways to be Automatically Entered to Win:

Stay tuned this week to see if YOU are selected as one of our lucky winners!!!


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