Posts Tagged 'baltimore aquarium'



Thoughtful Thursdays: Chesapeake Bay Lined Seahorses

Many people don’t realize that there is a species of seahorse that calls the Chesapeake Bay its home.  The lined seahorse, hippocampus erectus, lives in shallow eel grass beds during the summer and moves to deeper submerged aquatic vegetation during the winter.  It can typically be found in the lower to middle Chesapeake Bay and, in particularly dry years when the water is saltier, as far north as Kent Island and the Bay Bridge.

Lined Seahorse

Lined Seahorse at National Aquarium, Baltimore
Photo courtesy of Michael Bentley

The lined seahorse varies drastically in both coloration and ornamentation.  Individuals can range from a yellowish color all the way down the spectrum to a nearly black color.  Some may have intricate ornamentation on their backs and their heads.  Additionally, they can change color slightly to match their surroundings.  As with all seahorses, males carry a pouch which they use to hold their young after breeding.  Breeding itself is complicated, it includes a drawn-out ritual of dancing and clicking between the male and female.  At the end of the courtship, females deposit their eggs into the male’s pouch where they are fertilized and held until ready to be released (about 2 weeks).

Lined Seahorse

Lined seahorses vary in color, pattern and ornamentation

Seahorses as a whole are ineffective swimmers.  They only use three of their fins (two pectoral fins and one dorsal fin) to swim.  They beat these fins rapidly to provide propulsion, but it is not enough to keep them stationary in even the most gentle of currents.  It is because of this that they require something to hold on to.  For our local lined seahorses in the Chesapeake, that something is often eel grass, as well as other submerged aquatic vegetation.  These grasses are vital to the seahorses’ ability to hunt, breed and just plain survive.  Seahorses are ambush predators and so they need something to anchor themselves to while hunting.  As they hide, prehensile tails attached to the eel grass, they wait for prey to float by their snouts.

lined seahorse

Lined seahorses have very small fins, making it hard for them to swim.

Unfortunately, eel grass is in trouble in the Chesapeake Bay.  Nutrient pollution from farms, sewage and other human activities often leads to large algal blooms, which grow near the surface of the water and block light that the grasses need to grow. Additionally, destructive fishing techniques like bottom trawling can rip up huge swaths of submerged aquatic vegetation, causing wide-spread loss of habitat.  Because they are so specialized in their habitat needs, lined seahorses have little hope of successfully hunting and breeding without the grasses.  These pressures are threatening seahorses worldwide. As a result of these and other conservation pressures, it is estimated that the world’s lined seahorse population has declined by at least 30 percent in the past 10 years. We must begin to take steps to preserve the local habitat, or we risk losing this very interesting and important Chesapeake Bay species.

What you can do to help:  Reduce waste runoff, which pollutes waters like the Chesapeake Bay.  

  • Control insects using natural controls instead of pesticides. Americans directly apply 70 million pounds of pesticides to home lawns and gardens each year and, in so doing, kill birds and other wildlife and pollute our precious water resources.
  • Dispose of motor oil and anti-freeze through a local service station or recycling center. A one-quart container of oil disposed of at the local landfill can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of drinking water and the water home of our seahorse friends.
  • Don’t pour anything down storm drains because they lead to the bay, which connects to the ocean. Most sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants do not remove poisonous cleaners, and yard and car-wash chemicals make their way into local waterways, and, eventually, into our ocean, harming animals along the way. You wouldn’t want to swim in those chemicals, and neither do animals!
  • Learn more!
    To find out more about the lined seahorse and the troubles threatening them in our area, listen to this special seahorse edition of WYPR’s Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton

Animal Update – October 26

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!

animal update

Juvenile Nautilus 

Several new small chambered nautilus have been added to the nautilus tank in our Sensing gallery. The larger, older nautilus was removed and placed in backup while the new ones undergo a quarantine period.

chambered nautilus

Chambered nautilus

Did you know the nautilus is considered to be a “living fossil”? This species has undergone little change in more than 400 million years! The nautilus dominated the ancient seas before the rise of fishes, and appeared about 265 million years before the first dinosaurs. In prehistoric times, there were about 10,000 different species of the nautilus, but only a few species survived to the present.

Moon Jellies!

Ten beautiful new moon jellies have been added to our Jellies gallery at National Aquarium, Washington DC.

moon jellies

These jellies were actually born at our Baltimore location! The moon jellies are our most prolific species, meaning they produce the most offspring. We are able to control culturing life-cycle stages through manual temperature manipulation at our jellies lab. Petri dishes covered in polyps (sedentary stage) of this species spend three weeks in a refrigerator.

juvenile jelly

Juvenile moon jelly

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

Watch Our Divers Carve Pumpkins Under Water!

We are really getting in the spirit of Halloween at the Aquarium!

To kick off our exciting weekend of Hallowmarine events at both our Baltimore and Washington, DC venues, the National Aquarium dive team carved pumpkins in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit. Not only is this a fun activity for our divers (they can get pretty competitive over who’s underwater carving is better), but the fish also really enjoy interacting with our divers while they carve!

Click here to watch today’s underwater pumpkin carving session! 

Not only is this a fun activity for our divers (they can get pretty competitive over who’s underwater carving is better), but the fish also really enjoy interacting with our divers while they carve!

This year, we gave our online community on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ the opportunity to watch a live stream of the underwater carving! If you missed it, you can watch the entire entire carving by clicking here!

Stay tuned this week for more exciting posts surrounding our second annual Hallowmarine! 

A Blue View: WIDECAST

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.

October 23, 2012: WIDECAST 

Listen to John discuss the important work that WIDECAST does to save leatherback sea turtles! 

The National Aquarium has had a long partnership with turtle conservation network WIDECAST, particularly in Costa Rica, where the leatherback sea turtle comes ashore to nest. This species has been listed as endangered since 1970. Very little is known about the turtles’ migratory behavior, population genetics or dynamics, inherent diseases, or mortality rates.

WIDECAST gathers research through rescue operations and satellite tracking to develop programs to help save this amazing species. As part of our partnership, Aquarium staff conducts training programs for local volunteers on veterinary care and stranded animal rehabilitation. We hope that through awareness and support from the international community, the WIDECAST network can continue to grow!

Animal Update – October 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!

Baby Froglets!

We’ve seen a few tricolor poison dart froglets hopping around in our Hidden Life Gallery.

poison dart frog

Can you spot the froglet?

The tricolor, or phantasmal, poison dart frog (Epipedobates tricolor) is a small red or brown poison dart frog with blue stripes that is found in the rain forests of the Andean slopes of Ecuador.

poison dart frog

Baby tricolor poison dart frog

We haven’t confirmed how many babies there are just yet but we’ll keep you updated! Stop by to see the young froglets in the Hidden Life exhibit, closest to the rotating door headed toward our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

Seastars and ratfish return to DC

One spotted ratfish and four leather sea stars were added back to our Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries exhibit this week.

spotted ratfish

Spotted Ratfish

This exhibits was upgraded over the summer and is now fitted with an acrylic window, there should be no more condensation during warm weather!

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

A Blue View: 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

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.

October 16: Clean Water Act 

Listen to John Racanelli discuss the importance of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.

In 1972, in the midst of a national concern about untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, destruction of wetlands, and contaminated runoff, this principal law was passed to protect the country’s waters. The act set a national goal, “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” with interim goals that all waters be fishable and swimmable where possible.

Arguably, no environmental legislation has had as much of an influence on our daily lives and health. Thanks to the Clean Water Act, huge strides have been made to protect our health and the health of the environment.

Want to help protect your local waterways and manage water supply? Here are some easy tips to help: 

Blacktip Reef Update: Construction

We cannot wait for our new exhibit, Blacktip Reef, to open in summer of 2013! This coral-filled exhibit, replicating an Indo-Pacific ocean habitat, will feature 15 exciting species including blacktip reef sharks, reticulated whiptail rays, and ornate wobbegong sharks. It will also be the new home for some of our most beloved animals, including our 400-pound green sea turtle Calypso, and zebra sharks Zeke and Zoe. Guests will be able to experience this lively reef from many vantage points, including a new floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing window that allows you to virtually step inside the exhibit.

It’s a long journey to opening day. Between animal transports, exhibit demolition, new construction, and habitat fabrication, as well as the acquisition of new animals, we’ll have a lot to update you on leading up to next summer. As we continue to build the future home of Blacktip Reef, stay tuned to learn about new changes here on our WATERblog!

The past few months have been extremely busy for teams all over the Aquarium! Now that Wings in the Water  has been drained, we have transitioned into full-force construction of our new exhibit space and necessary upgrades of our life-support unit.

The exhibit space has now been drained and prepped for construction!

To protect our guests and animals from noise, odors and dust associated with construction, we’ve built a lid and temporary walls to cover the entire construction area.

This lid separates our visitors and animals from the work happening down below.

Demolition of parts of the tank have been completed, including the uncovering of the deep dive area that will give guests the opportunity to see more of the new reef. This area mimics reefs in the wild that often have deep pockets, where animals can explore and make their new home!

We’ve removed all of our old acrylic windows from the exhibit space. The construction team is now focused on preparing that area to house our new floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing window that will give guests the opportunity to step inside the exhibit and come face-to-face with the animals!

An artistic rendering of the floor-to-ceiling pop-out window!

Watch this video to learn more about our recent changes: 

Stay tuned for more Blacktip Reef updates! 


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