Posts Tagged 'Australia'

Animal Update – April 11

national aquarium animal update

Mary River Turtle in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes

A Mary river turtle is now on exhibit in our Animal Planet Australia exhibit!

Mary River Turtle

Australia’s largest species of freshwater turtle can only be found in the southeastern region of Queensland’s Mary River – the derivative of its common name. Due to its isolated range and a high pet trade demand for the species in the ’60s and ’70s, the Mary river turtle is currently one of the top 25 most endangered turtle species in the world.

Did you know? The tail of a Mary river turtle is lined with gill-like structures, which they use to extract oxygen from the water and remain submerged for long periods of time!

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

Take a (Virtual) Trip Down Under and Celebrate Australia Week With Us!

national aquarium australia day

Every year on January 26, Aussies around the world celebrate Australia Day! This national holiday marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British ships to Sydney Cove. 

In addition to our annual event in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes this Sunday, we’ll be celebrating Australia Day with special posts on WATERblog all week long.

Day One: Australia’s Majesty

Situated between the Indian and Pacific oceans, the continent of Australia is roughly 3 million square miles in size. Its six different climatic zones give Australia a wide variety of habitats.

From the Great Barrier Reef to the Outback, Australia is home to more than 5,700 different animal species…a staggering number when you consider how much of the island continent remains unexplored.

Here are just a few of the Aussie species you can see at the Aquarium: 

Did you know? Seventeen of the world’s 26 most venomous snake species live in Australia. Check out this list of the country’s 30 deadliest animals.

national aquarium death adder

Death adders inject, on average, 40–100 mg of highly toxic venom in each bite.

Australia is also home to the world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef, which is 1,500 miles in length. Comprised of over 3,000 individual reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef hosts thousands of species of fish, mollusks, sharks, marine mammals and sea turtles.

national aquarium clownfish

It is the world’s largest marine sanctuary and just one of the countless biodiverse natural wonders Australia has to offer.

Stay tuned for more Australia Week posts and join the conversation online using #AussieWeek!

Three New Species Discovered in Australia’s “Lost World”

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The first-ever biological expedition of Australia’s “lost world” – the small patch of rain forest in Cape York – has resulted in the discovery of three new species!

Cape York is a large peninsula located on at the tip of Australia’s state of Queensland. This secluded piece of the continent is largely regarded as one of the largest, unspoiled wilderness areas on Earth.

cape melville australia

Cape Melville. Photo via National Geographic.

This past March, an expert team of scientists and filmmakers ventured to the small range of mountain plateaus on Cape Melville (located on the northeastern part of the peninsula). During their four-day expedition, the group discovered and identified three new species of animals: a leaf-tail gecko, a blotched-boulder frog and a shade skink.

These species are especially exciting and interesting for our community as they’re representative of the unique ways animals adapt to the harsh environment of Australia. For example, the blotched-boulder frog has evolved to minimize the need for water in its reproduction – an adaption to suit its dry rocky environment!

It’s thought that primitive versions of the leaf-tail gecko once flourished in the Australian rain forest. Now we know that they have survived over the years by using their flat, uniquely-shaped body to camouflage itself into the rocky terrain, avoiding predators and waiting patiently for prey!

leaf-tail gecko

Leaf-tail gecko perfectly camouflaged. Photo via National Geographic.

It’s exciting to see these discoveries make headlines because many outside of the continent are unaware that a lot of Australia, a country almost the size of the continental United States, has yet to be discovered. Unlike the South American rain forest, which has been well-traveled and documented by scientists for decades, Australia’s land is rough and oftentimes difficult to navigate. It’s climate range can also make extended trips a challenge.

To learn more about these recent discoveries, click here. I’ll be sure to share more information as the team continues their expedition!

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Animal Health Update: Bat Procedure Going Spook-tacularly Well!

national aquarium animal expert update

Common images evoked during this spooky time of year include pumpkins, black cats, and – of course – bats!

national aquarium flying fox

The species of bats native to North America are small, quick flying, highly maneuverable and typically eat insects. These are the types of bats the use echolocation to hunt their food and are the ones generally portrayed in these spooky images.

However, in many other parts of the world, bat species are large, slow-flying frugivores (fruit-eaters). These bats do not use echolocation to find food. And these are the types of bats we have here at the Aquarium. We have grey-headed flying foxes (so called because of their triangular, fox-like faces). This is the largest bat species in Australia. They can weigh up to 2 pounds and have wing spans that are as wide as 3 feet.

We are currently treating one of the bats for a small abscess on his face. Right now keepers are “hot-packing” it daily and it’s definitely improving.

national aquarium bat procedure

To positively reinforce him for staying still while they apply the hot-pack, my team provides him juice or a bit of baby food. This type of reinforcement training is integral to our care of the animals.

Did you know that you can train your pets to voluntarily participate in their care (such as nail trimming, vaccines, blood draws) and even look forward to it? I’d love to have you share your stories about what husbandry behaviors you and your pets are doing.

Blog-Header-LeighClayton

Animal Update – October 25

national aquarium animal update

Frilled Lizards in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes! 

Our herpetology staff is currently caring for four juvenile frilled lizards behind-the-scenes in our Australia exhibit! These juveniles will spend a few more weeks behind-the-scenes for observation and acclimation before going on exhibit.

Also known as “frillnecks,” this species is found in the humid woodlands of northern Australia and parts of southern New Guinea. They spend most of their time perched up in the trees, perfectly camouflaged, only venturing down to the floor in search of food.

Frilled lizards get their name from the large ruff of skin around their necks. When the animal is threatened, it gapes its mouth open to display its “frill” and, hopefully, discourage any predators from further pursuit.

national aquarium frilled lizard

This species is also known for their ability to run at high speeds on their hind legs – which allows them to reach the safety of a nearby tree quickly, if threatened. It’s quite the sight to see! Check out this awesome video of a frilled lizard in action: 

[youtube http://youtu.be/XAo09yYOpCU]

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

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Crista Melchiorre

In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet Crista Melchiorre, an Aviculturist in our Australia exhibit!

crista melchiorre

How long have you been at the Aquarium?
2 years

What interested you to pursue your current career path?
I have always loved animals. Growing up we always had a variety of pets and I enjoyed finding animals in the woods and my yard. I was that kid who would be brought the sick or orphaned animals in the neighborhood, but usually would have to have my mom take me to a wildlife rehabber to save it.

Briefly describe for us your day-to-day
My day starts with a lot of cleaning and diets and ends with a lot of cleaning and diets. But there is a lot of animal interaction in between, whether its medicating one of the bats, training one of our parrots or getting a brief hello from a green winged dove.

Favorite Aquarium memory?
When we moved our two grey headed flying foxes, Darwin and Victor together. Darwin had very little social interaction with other bats due to a medical condition and he was moved with Victor to give him the opportunity to socialize. We were all nervous about what was going to happen but Darwin is happier than he ever has been!

Next big project you’re working on?
I’ll be focusing on getting our Crested Pigeons to breed.

Favorite animal?
That’s a hard question! I love all the animals I work with obviously but I think there is a tie between Darwin, one of our grey headed flying foxes, he just pulls at everyone’s heart strings. And Hobart, one of our Sulfur Crested Cockatoos, he has a very big personality and loves our attention.

Thanks for celebration Zookeeper Appreciation Week with us! Got a question for our staff? Ask them in the comments section!

Animal Health Update: Diagnostic MRI and CT Scans for Snake-Necked Turtle

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Recently, the National Aquarium’s Animal Health team worked with Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake to perform a diagnostic MRI on our 17-year-old female snake-necked turtle.

Our snake-necked turtle undergoing a CT scan. Photo courtesy of Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake.

Our snake-necked turtle undergoing a CT scan. Photo courtesy of Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake.

The Animal Health team was initially alerted after exhibit staff observed the turtle basking more frequently. Increased basking, also known as environmental hyperthermia, is a potential indicator of either illness or egg laying. After radiographs confirmed that the turtle had no eggs, we decided to do a CT and MRI to diagnose what was causing the turtle to exhibit this abnormal behavior.

turtle x-ray

X-rays taken of the snake-necked turtle, courtesy of Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake.

Partnerships with organizations like Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake grant our team much-need access to the kinds of medical scanners that the Aquarium doesn’t have on-site.

We’re happy to report that both scans came back normal and the turtle did later develop eggs. She was moved behind-the-scenes for close observation, has laid two eggs so far and continues to do very well.

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