Archive for the 'Reptiles' Category

Celebrating Moms of ALL Species!

In celebration of Mother’s Day weekend, we’d like you to meet some spectacular animal moms!

Dolphin moms & calves immediately form a strong bond. They’ll synchronize their breathing and swim patterns for the baby’s first few weeks of life – to keep as close as possible. These dedicated moms will nurse their young for up to 10 years!

dolphin mom and calf

Veteran dolphin moms will also mentor less-experienced females in their colony by allowing them to babysit their young and practice for when they have their own babies.

Giant Pacific Octopuses
Female giant Pacific octopuses have one primary goal: to have one successful brood of eggs in her lifetime.

giant pacific octopus

Females will lay about 200,000 eggs in their lair and defend them at any cost. During the seven months of caring for her eggs, the female octopus is often almost starved to death – she’d ingest a limb before leaving her post for food.

Strawberry Poison Arrow Frogs
After laying her eggs and watching them hatch, strawberry poison arrow frog moms will carry their tadpoles (one by one) from the rain forest floor up trees as high as 100 feet!

strawberry poison frog

Then, she’ll find individual pools of water in the tree leaves for each of her tadpoles to grow, keeping them safe from predators.

Alligator moms will go to great lengths to protect their young, including carrying alligator babies in their jaws for protection!

baby alligators

Juvenile American alligators at National Aquarium, Washington, DC

Alligator babies will typically stay close to mom for their first year of life.

Celebrating Ivy’s first Mother’s Day!
This past year, our Linne’s two-toed sloth, Ivy, became a first-time mom to baby, Camden! Making this Mother’s Day a special one for our Aquarium family!

baby sloth

Ivy with her baby Camden!

Animal Updates – April 19

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!

Amazon Tree Boa on exhibit! 

Our juvenile Amazon tree boa has been very active on exhibit lately!

amazon tree boa

Adult Amazon tree boas can reach up to 6.5 feet in length. Found throughout South America, this species of tree boa is a nocturnal predator. Currently in its juvenile “yellow phase,” these snakes change color once they reach adulthood.

animal update

Silver-beaked Tanagers on exhibit! 

Six silver-beaked tanagers are now on exhibit in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest! These tanagers are well-known for their deep crimson hue and striking beak.

silver beaked tanager

The silver-beaked tanager ranges from Colombia to Bolivia and along the east coast including Brazil, Paraguay and as far south as Argentina. Although this species is not currently listed as threatened, the destruction of their habitat for industrial/agricultural gain could put them at risk in the near future.

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

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 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.


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 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 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!

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