Archive for the 'Turtles' Category



Australia Staff Caring for Eight Snapping Turtle Hatchlings!

We’re excited to share that our staff in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes is now caring for eight snapping turtle hatchlings!

snapping turtle hatchlings

After announcing our first hatchling in late February, Aquarium staff have been very excited to see so many additional hatchlings emerge! The National Aquarium is the only Aquarium in the United States to house this turtle species. This occasion marks the first time any facility has successfully bred northern Australian snapping turtles!

All of our hatchlings are doing great – staff have observed them exhibiting lots of healthy behavior like swimming and basking in the open. The team will continue to monitor and care for these babies behind-the-scenes until they’re are grown enough to transition into the exhibit habitats.

Stay tuned for more updates as these hatchlings continue to grow! 

Turtle Tuesday: Baby Northern Australian Snapping Turtle!

We’re excited to share some baby news out of our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit! On the morning of February 14th, one of our herpetologists discovered a northern Australian snapping turtle hatchling!

national aquarium northern australia snapping turtle hatchling

The eggs, laid by our female Australian snapping turtle on September 4, 2013, were immediately placed in an incubator behind-the-scenes for close observation. This is the first hatchling to emerge from the group!

The National Aquarium is the only Aquarium in the United States to house this turtle species. Further more, this occasion marks the first time any facility has successfully bred northern Australian snapping turtles!

Our baby currently ways about 24 grams. Adults of this species can reach up to five kilograms in size!

national aquarium northern australia snapping turtle hatchling

Our new hatchling will remain behind-the-scenes until it is large enough to safely transition onto exhibit.

Stay tuned for more updates as our team continues to monitor the remainder of our eggs! 

Illustrating the Effects of Cold-Stunning on Sea Turtles

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

I’m proud to announce that an illustration depicting the physiological effects of cold-stunning in sea turtles, was recently awarded an honorable mention in the 2013 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge! The illustration, which was the result of a collaborative relationship between the National Aquarium and the Johns Hopkins Department of Art as Applied to Medicine, was drafted by student Katelyn McDonald.

The illustration depicts the physical and physiological (affecting the function of organs, tissues, and cells) effects of a cold stunning on sea turtles.

cold-stun illustration

 Sea turtles are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature relies on the temperature of their environment. Cold-stunning is essentially hypothermia (low body temperature) for sea turtles. Cold-stunning events in the northeast region cause chronic illnesses for turtles, which must undergo months of rehabilitation. While the turtles may not appear sick externally, the illustration demonstrates the multitude of internal illnesses and complications that result from chronic low body temperature.

cold-stun illustration

A closer look at Katelyn’s illustration of the effects cold-stunning have on sea turtles.

Founded in 1911, the Johns Hopkins Department of Art as Applied to Medicine was the first of its kind in the world. This intense two-year graduate program has trained medical illustrators to advance medical and scientific knowledge using illustration.

For more than 20 years, students from this program have worked with our Vice President of Biological Programs, Dr. Brent Whitaker, and staff as part of their training. The illustrations produced from this collaborative relationship have been published in books, journal articles, pamphlets, and training manuals and have been used for a variety of other purposes.

We’re excited that Science Magazine and the National Science Foundation have chosen the cold-stun piece as an Honorable Mention for the 2013 Visualization Challenge. Congratulations to Katelyn on this tremendous accomplishment!

Animal Rescue Expert

An Update on our Sea Turtle Patients!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The cold-stun turtle season has died down, and 19 turtles are now being cared for by our Animal Rescue team. Fifteen of our turtle patients came from Cape Cod; three traveled South from New Jersey; and one came to our facility from Ocean City, Maryland. Thus far, all 19 turtle patients have taken their rehabilitation in stride! Currently, our team has 8 stable patients, 8 less critical and 3 critical patients.

national aquarium animal rescue

Our hospital pool is teeming with patients!

Cold-stunned sea turtles are typically admitted with abrasions and lesions from the rocky and rough winter seashores. Many also have secondary infections, including pneumonia, upper respiratory infections and joint swelling.

As you can imagine, keeping 19 turtles on track with medical treatments, feedings and enrichment can become quite a handful, but the Animal Rescue staff and volunteers have come together, and the success stories continue to mount! To date, we have three turtles that are completely off medications (which means we are hopeful for release options in the near future) as well as a few turtles that have really turned a positive corner in their treatment and diet plans.

A Kemp’s Ridley turtle named Charlie had a particularly rough start to his rehabilitation process. Charlie was not eating consistently and our veterinary and husbandry staff were having a tough time pinpointing what could be causing the changes in his behavior and health. After a CT scan at John’s Hopkins, several medications and daily ultrasounds, we found a mass near his heart that may have been causing some discomfort and/or health troubles.

national aquarium turtle charlie

Charlie

Over the last few days, Charlie has taken a great leap forward in his rehabilitation! He is not only eating the same amount as the healthy sea turtles, but the mass near his heart is getting smaller and smaller with each ultrasound that our veterinary staff complete!

Another Kemp’s Ridley patient, Blade, underwent surgery with our vet staff last week to repair a shell fracture. We’re happy to report that Blade is recovering well after the procedure and his fracture is officially on-the-mend!

national aquarium sea turtle blade

Blade pre-surgery on January 21, 2014.

As for our other patients, we are continuing to follow treatment plans and behavioral observations so that we can add more of them to our “stable” column. In the meantime, these 19 sea turtles are chowing down on three pounds of food per day — consisting of squid, shrimp, capelin ( a lean fish) and the occasional soft shell blue crab. With a diet like that, and the fantastic care from our staff many releases are sure to come for these beautiful sea turtles!

national aquarium animal rescue expert jennifer dittmar

How Satellite Tagging Is Teaching Us About Sea Turtle Migration

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The National Aquarium and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center recently partnered to release four juvenile loggerhead sea turtles named Findlay, Rooney, Portsmouth, and Grenada at Sandbridge, Virginia on October 20, 2013. The animals were all treated for a range of injuries and illnesses and were in rehabilitation for varying amounts of time. While all four animals have unique rescue and rehabilitation stories, three of the four now have one significant factor in common – they are all taking part in a significant piece of research!

The U.S. Navy is supporting the conduction of research that will provide valuable insights into sea turtle habitat use of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia waters. The project funds the deployment of acoustic transmitters and satellite tracking tags on rehabilitated and released sea turtles with the goal of learning more about residency times, migration intervals, and foraging areas within the Bay and its surrounding waters.

Acoustic transmitter tags work by emitting a sound signal or ‘ping’ that can be detected by networks of underwater receivers, commonly referred to as arrays. These acoustic monitoring arrays are installed in many coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and have been valuable for understanding migration patterns and habitat use for many fish species, including endangered species of sturgeon!

Each tag transmits a specific coded signal that is used to identify the individual as it moves from one location to another. As the turtle moves around areas where receiving arrays are present, the arrays detect the pings from the tag and record the information, which is later downloaded by researchers for analysis.

Findlay, Rooney, and Portsmouth were also equipped with data logging satellite telemetry tags produced by Wildlife Computers and the Sea Mammal Research Unit.  These tags can record the behaviors such as dive depth and duration and transmit that data back to researchers via satellites.  In addition to the recorded data, each transmission also includes the GPS coordinates of the individual so that their movements can be tracked over long ranges.

national aquarium animal rescue, portsmouth release

As seen here, both tags were secured onto Portsmouth’s carapace before his release!

The goal of this project is to leverage the Navy’s existing underwater passive acoustic receiver array initially established to track sturgeon and the expertise of Virginia Aquarium researchers to tag sea turtles to gain insights into how sea turtles forage and migrate. From the underwater acoustic tags, we hope to learn about residency time and migration intervals by being able to tag more turtles at less cost. Analysis of data will be performed jointly between both the Navy and Virginia Aquarium.

Check out Rooney and Portsmouth’s rehabilitation pages on our website for more information and to track their progress!

Funding for the tagging work is provided by U.S. Fleet Forces Command and technical project management and collaboration on data analysis is being provided by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic.

Here’s how YOU can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our sea turtle rehabilitation efforts!

national aquarium animal rescue expert


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