Archive for the 'National Aquarium' Category



Happy 13th Birthday, Maya!

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Recently, the Dolphin Discovery staff has been very busy celebrating and continuing to commemorate a few birthdays among our dolphin family!

The first of our birthdays was celebrated by Spirit, who turned 13-years-old on April 13th. Spirit’s eyes are larger and darker in color. You can also recognize her by her crooked teeth in the lower right side of rostrum.

Spirit loves to learn new things and is very vocal and chatty. She is often seen sliding up on the decks in a game that she invented along with a few of the others!

spirit - national aquarium dolphin

Today, exactly one month later, Spirit’s half-sister Maya is celebrating her 13th birthday!

maya

Maya is playful, energetic and loves to learn new things. She is lighter in color, with a light-tipped rostrum and a very pink belly!

Maya tends to be a cheerleader of sorts for our other dolphins and she always vocalizes excitedly when the others exhibit new behaviors!

Can’t celebrate Maya’s birthday in person today? Leave her a message on our Facebook page

Blog-Header-AllisonGinsburg

Animal Update – May 9

national aquarium animal update

Stoplight Parrotfish in Atlantic Coral Reef

Two stoplight parrotfish have been added to our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

stoplight parrotfish national aquarium

Photo via Flickr user Carl Haupt.

Stoplight parrotfish can be found throughout the tropical waters of the western Atlantic!

Did you know? Parrotfish are herbivores that depend on algae from the reef for sustenance. Their fused teeth help the fish crush coral, which passes through their digestive system and is deposited back on the reef as sand! A parrotfish can produce up to one ton of coral sand a year!

Fairy Basslets in Atlantic Coral Reef

Fairy basslets are small, vibrantly colored fish. With purple fronts and yellow tails, their bodies are split into two colors with a black spot on their dorsal fins.

national aquarium fairy basslet

These fish are known to swim upside-down under ledges and along cave ceilings. They live in colonies and defend their territory from other species (and even other fairy basslets). Male fairy basslets are responsible for guarding and caring for the eggs and the nest!

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

Thoughtful Thursday: The Next Frontier

You would think that by time we had the technology to send people to the moon, we’d be experts on our own planet; but the truth is, more than 95 percent of our underwater world remains unexplored, leaving us nearly clueless as to what lies far below the water’s surface.

In space travel’s short history, we’ve sent 536 humans into the cosmos. Yet only three explorers have braved the depths of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. Its lowest point rests 36,070 feet (nearly 7 miles) below the water’s surface. To give you some context: If you dropped Mount Everest into the Mariana Trench, its peak would still be more than a mile underwater.

Exploration Above and Below

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made the first descent to the bottom of the trench, called the Challenger Deep, in 1960. Two descents were later made by unmanned vehicles, and most recently in 2012, an expedition was made by James Cameron—yes, that James Cameron, as in the filmmaker behind movies like “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

With only four descents made to this day to that part of the ocean, it’s no surprise the ocean remains a mystery to us. We do know that some basic life forms somehow exist down there, despite the freezing temperatures and intense pressure (8 tons per square inch, the equivalent of being crushed by 50 jumbo jets). Mud samples and observations by the explorers have discovered more than 200 different microorganisms, plus everything from giant crustaceans and sea cucumbers to enormous amoebas (4-inch, single-celled organisms) and jellyfish.

Some truly bizarre-looking creatures are also able to thrive in the midnight zone, the deepest, darkest ocean light zone (in which the Mariana Trench resides). Among them is the anglerfish, a bony fish that appears to have a built-in fishing rod attached to its head that pulses with glowing bacteria. This serves as a lure to attract prey and mates.

Joining this curious creature in the midnight zone is the vampire squid, which also uses bioluminescence to survive in this dark abyss. When threatened, it flails around frantically and ejects bioluminescent mucus containing orbs of blue light to confuse its predators. Check out our infographic on bioluminescence to learn more about this fascinating phenomenon.

The possibilities of what else exists at these depths are endless, but until we dedicate more resources to exploring our deep seas, we’ll never know the secrets hidden within our own planet.

Conservation Re-cap: NWF Annual Meeting

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Conservation partners from the 49 state affiliates of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) met in Baltimore last week to hear and learn from each other’s efforts to protect and improve our blue planet.  This year’s conference theme was WATER: It Connects Us All.

As the host affiliate for the state of Maryland, the National Aquarium not only helped steer some of the conversation, we also had a chance to display some of our aquatic conservation initiatives to a national audience.

Highlights of the conference included:

  • Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, addressed the audience during the Opening Session and spoke about government transparency and the critical importance of public participation in the federal regulation and rule-making processes
  • Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, spoke about the explicit need for individuals and communities to create a groundswell of positive change to both hold the public sector accountable and support and reinforce good work
  • Conservation organizations from across the country shared innovative ideas on improving both water quality and water quantity in local and regional jurisdictions, and managing invasive species in our ecosystems
  • Conservation policy resolutions were passed that would help provide the future framework for NWF work.  These included initiatives focused on alternative energy, deforestation, invasive species, fisheries management and climate change
  • George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water spoke about “making our cities work” and improving urban infrastructure to help relieve development pressure put on rural landscapes

As the local sponsor, National Aquarium had a chance to highlight healthy aquatic communities around the world by inviting meeting participants into our Baltimore venue for an evening.  We were also able to show our partners our successful education and stewardship work at both Fort McHenry and Masonville Cove through off-site field trips.

Aquarium staff also shared our expertise in climate change communication and social media strategies to build the capacity of other organizations in those areas!

At the end of the meeting, participants had an opportunity to hear from Collin O’Mara, NWF’s newly appointed President and CEO.  He left us with the following charge: “Confronting the pressing conservation challenges of this generation will require that Americans from every corner of our nation and every walk of life work together community by community and state by state to drive change at the national and international level.”  We couldn’t agree more.

Laura Bankey

Celebrating (Even More!) Amazing Animal Moms

In celebration of Mother’s Day on May 11, we’d like to continue last year’s tradition and introduce you to some more amazing animal moms! 

Scarlet Ibis

After establishing mating pairs, scarlet ibises work together to build a nest in the mangrove canopies, where the female will sit patiently on her eggs for approximately 20 days.

scarlet ibis

Once her eggs have hatched, the female and her male counterpart will work together to co-parent their young. For the most part, scarlet ibises live in social colonies of thirty or more. In these groups, protection of young and search for food become communal responsibilities!

Harp Seals

Female harp seals gather in groups to give birth to their young.

harp seal

Image via Wiki Commons.

After birth, mother harp seals typically spend 12 days nursing their babies. During that time, the mom doesn’t eat, losing up to 5-10 pounds per day!

Manatees

Manatee moms are also extremely dedicated to their young.

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The pair spend the first two years of the calf’s life close together, during which time the mother can nurse, protect and guide her baby.

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

Spring Cleaning: It Even Happens in the Ocean!

It’s official – Spring has sprung! For many, this is a time to reset, refresh and reorganize. For our oceanic counterparts, it’s just another Tuesday…

Many pairs of sea creatures enjoy “spring cleaning” all year long through a great interaction known as symbiosis in which different species  take advantage of each other to achieve a specific goal. Most of these types of cleaning relationships are examples of mutualism, meaning both parties benefit from the relationship. One animal gets nutrition via a guaranteed food source, while the other is left cleaner and healthier.

In celebration of the Spring season, meet some of the ocean’s most popular cleaners: 

Cleaner shrimp are some of the tidiest animals around. They use their claws to remove parasites, algae and dead tissue from a variety of fish species.

Banded Coral Shrimp

Forming groups of about 25, the shrimp will perform “rocking dances” or swish their antennae back and forth to attract clients and let them know they are ready to clean. Some species will even crawl inside the mouths of larger fish to remove any parasites hiding inside.

Yellow tangs and sea turtles make fantastic partners. Yellow tangs group together to eagerly await the arrival of a sea turtle, and with it, their dinner.

yellow tangs

The tang eats algae and parasites from turtle’s skin, a safe and convenient spot to feed. The turtle’s shell is cleaned, making it healthier and smoother. As a result, the turtle can swim more easily throughout the ocean.

Cleaner wrasses are  hygiene-conscious fish that form cleaning units, beckoning clients by swimming up and down. Their role as ocean disinfectants contributes to their survival.

cleaner wrasse

Larger fish refrain from eating the wrasses, as they know their ability to remove parasites and keep them clean is more valuable than becoming a momentary food source.

Mola mola, also known as sunfish, look out of this world. They can grow to be thousands pounds, and can carry up to 40 different kinds of parasites!

mola mola

When the sunfish feels the urgent need to remove any parasitic problems, they head to the nearest kelp bed where both gobies AND seagulls are around and ready to provide relief.

 

Animal Update – May 2

national aquarium animal update

Red-bellied Piranha’s in Amazon River Forest

Ten red-bellied piranhas have been added to our Amazon River Forest exhibit!

national aquarium red-bellied piranha

Red-bellied piranhas can be found throughout the Amazon River basin. They are omnivorous scavengers, feeding mostly on a mix of insects, worms, crustaceans and smaller fish.

Although they’ve gained a ferocious reputation over the years, piranhas do not pose any attack risks to humans.

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


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