Posts Tagged 'blacktip reef'

Blacktip Reef Update: Things Are Getting Pretty Out-RAY-geous!


In the last week, our Biological Programs team has introduced two new species of ray to Blacktip Reef! 

Reticulate Whipray

honeycomb rays

Also known as a leopard or honeycomb ray, this species inhabits the coastal and brackish waters throughout the Indo-Pacific. Like most rays, these guys prefer the flat, sandy areas within reef ecosystems.

The largest recorded length of this species (tail, also known as it’s “sting,” included) is 14.8 feet!

Did you know? In addition to stunning prey, the reticulate whipray’s sting is used to help balance and steer.

Black-Blotched Ray

black-blotched ray

This large ray gets its name from the spotted black and white coloration on its topside. Also an inhabitant of the Indo-Pacific, this species usually sticks to the sandy bottom of the reef.

Black-blotched rays can reach up to 10 feet in disc width!

Have you spotted these new residents on exhibit? Be sure to share your photos with us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram using #BlacktipReef! 

Happy Birthday to Us! We Celebrated Our 32nd Anniversary in a Big Way!

On this very day 32 years ago, the National Aquarium opened its doors to the public for the very first time. Since then, we’ve been honored to share the majestic beauty of our aquatic world with over 40 million visitors!

Today we celebrated another incredible milestone in the Aquarium’s history, the grand opening of our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef! Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli for an aquatic ribbon cutting in the center of our Indo-Pacific reef!

It has been a long journey to opening day – filled with animal transports, exhibit demolition, habitat fabrication and new construction! We’ve documented the whole process, from start to finish, for our online community right here on the blog. If you haven’t yet, be sure to take a look!

Like everything here at the Aquarium, this new exhibit will continue to evolve and grow in the coming days, weeks, months and years! Stay tuned to the blog for updates and be sure to share any new memories made in the exhibit with us!

Thanks for 32 great years! Here’s to many, many more! 

Thoughtful Thursdays: The Role Sharks Play in Maintaining Healthy Ocean Ecosystems


Sharks, like almost no other animal on this planet, capture our thoughts and imagination – deservedly so. These animals have been around for hundreds of millions of years and have evolved into almost every shape and size. They can be the size of a bus or the size of your smart phone. They can bear live young or lay eggs in open water. They can feed on the smallest plankton or on whale carcasses. They can spend most of their lives on a relatively small section of the sea floor or migrate more than a thousand miles.

Despite their incredible diversity, most species of sharks have several things in common. They generally take a long time to reach reproductive age and have few offspring and although some species can tolerate fresh water, most live in salt water their entire lives. Most are also apex predators and their numbers are declining in ecologically significant ways. A coral reef ecosystem and the incredibly diverse plant and animal community it supports, is directly impacted by the health and abundance of sharks as apex predators – and vice versa.

blacktip reef sharks

Our new exhibit, Blacktip Reef, represents an entire coral reef ecosystem!

When we talk about the real and urgent threats sharks are facing – overfishing, shark finning, bycatch and habitat destruction, we are inclined to focus on the issues that are less diffuse, and quite frankly, issues where the blame lies with others. All we have to do is fix the bad habits of others and we can save the world.

While bycatch, overfishing and finning are vitally important to address (70-100 million sharks are killed annually due to these problems alone), we can’t forget that we also need to protect the places – like coral reefs – they depend upon to survive. If we want to ensure the health of our marine species, we’ll need to reverse the widespread destruction of vital coral reef, mangrove, grass bed and wetland habitats. These are nursery or feeding grounds for sharks and other species. Protection of habitat is tightly linked to the well-being of the animals we care so much about.

We are losing these habitats at alarming rates and for a variety of reasons. Climate change and ocean acidification are threatening our coral reefs, coastal development and sea level rise are jeopardizing our important mangrove and wetland areas, and sedimentation and destructive fishing practices are killing our underwater grass beds. If we are going to protect sharks and other ocean species, we’ll need to also focus on these issues. But this time, when we look for the person to blame, we need to accept some personal responsibility. We, as individuals and as a society, are responsible for – and have the power to mitigate for climate change, to make sure development happens in responsible ways, to decrease our collective carbon footprints. We need to hold ourselves responsible for our own individual contributions to this problem and we need to hold each other accountable.

The good news is, as we make strides to restore and protect healthy habitats, the lasting effects cascade throughout the ecosystem – creating supportive environments for healthy plant and animal communities. The better news is we can do something today to make a difference! Volunteer with the National Aquarium or other local conservation organization to restore vital aquatic habitats, choose seafood that has been caught in ways that doesn’t harm sharks, or take a step to reduce your carbon footprint. Sharks deserve our help. Join us!


Blacktip Reef Shark Cam: Watch Our New Exhibit In Action!

Twenty sleek, fast-moving blacktip reef sharks are now happily exploring their new home in Blacktip Reef!

Just as they are a vital element to coral reef ecosystems in nature, these sharks are one of the final and most important pieces of our new exhibit, the most comprehensive re-creation of an Indo-Pacific coral reef in the country.

Can’t make it to Baltimore to see Blacktip Reef in person? You can now virtually step into the exhibit and meet hundreds of aquatic animals by checking out our underwater Blacktip Reef Shark Cam!

shark week cam

Through a partnership with Discovery Channel and Shark Week, we’re excited to be able to share our exhibit virtually and hope to inspire conservation of these amazing animals AND their equally fragile habitats!

Meet the New Neighbors! Blacktip Reef Sharks Added to Exhibit!


Twelve blacktip reef sharks were introduced to their new home today!

The transportation and introduction process for these animals is carefully crafted by our Biological Programs team. Each shark is individually introduced by a team of divers into Blacktip Reef. After they feel that the newly introduced shark has begun acclimating to its new surroundings, the next shark is added. The process of introducing all 20 of our blacktip reef sharks will occur over two days.

Blacktips can grow to about 6 feet in length and bear distinctive black tips on their fins. Found in the shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific, these sharks are sleek, beautiful and fast-moving and hunt cooperatively in groups.

These sharks are joining our 500-pound green sea turtle, Calypso, and hundreds of tropical fish recently introduced into the exhibit. Over the next few weeks, many other fascinating species – including zebra sharks, wobbegong sharks, a blotched fantail ray, a reticulate whipray and a Napoleon wrasse – will be introduced to Blacktip Reef! Some of these amazing animals were recently featured in this CBS This Morning piece!

Stay tuned for more updates as Blacktip Reef continues to come to life! 

Animal Updates: July 26

blacktip reef update

Hundreds more tropical fish have been added to the exhibit! 

fish introduction BTR

This week, hundreds of medium and small-sized tropical fish were added to our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef! This colorful, Indo-Pacific reef will soon be home to over 700 animals, including many species of shark (blacktip reef, zebra and wobbegong), rays and our 500+ green sea turtle Calypso!

Meet two of the species of pufferfish added to the exhibit this week:

White-spotted Puffer 

whitespotted puffer

White-spotted puffers are nocturnal – only leaving their staked territory within the reef to feed! Their diet consists of a large variety of hard-shelled prey such as mollusks and crab.

Orbicular Burrfish

Orbicular burrfish

The orbicular burrfish is also a nocturnal feeder. While they may look sweet, these fish have a mean bite! They’re mouth structures are built for crushing hard-shelled invertebrates.

Did you know? Both species of puffer, can take in water to inflate their bodies when threatened!

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

A Blue View: Rainforests of the Sea

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.

July 24, 2013: Coral Reefs: Rainforests of the Sea

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss the importance of 
protection coral reefs.

Sometimes called the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs are colorful, intricate ecosystems—among the most incredible natural wonders in the world. Their brilliant hues and diverse inhabitants make them a favorite of scuba divers and ocean enthusiasts around the world. But, coral reefs are also in grave danger—and saving these ancient splendors is both a necessary and feasible goal.

blacktip reef

Our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef, is the re-creation of a vibrant Indo-Pacific reef!

According to a report by the World Resources Institute, 75 percent of the world’s reefs are considered threatened due to a combination of risks. Climate change has made bleaching, which is a massive die-off of coral polyps, and disease outbreaks more common. Increased carbon in our oceans results in ocean acidification, which, in turn, destroys the very structure of the reef. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices are disturbing the balance of these complex ecosystems. Coastal development, pollution, coral mining, and unsustainable tourism activities are adding additional stresses to an already challenged habitat. Some scientists fear that at this rate, living coral reefs could vanish from earth within a generation unless drastic action is taken.

Surprisingly, while coral reefs make up just two-tenths of a percent of the ocean floor, they support about 25 percent of all marine animals. They are critical spawning, nursery, breeding, and feeding grounds for thousands of species.

Many people don’t realize that corals are in fact animals, closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are both hard and soft corals, and all live together in colonies, creating a foundation for all the other inhabitants of the reef, from tiny darting fishes to large apex predators like sharks and everything in between.

There’s no question that these ecosystems are environmentally critical, but they are also important economic drivers, creating millions of jobs and providing a sustainable tourism resource when properly managed. Coral reefs also serve as natural barriers for islands and other communities, helping to prevent erosion and minimizing the impact of waves and storms. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, up to 90 percent of the energy from wind-generated waves is absorbed by reefs.

NOAA also estimates that ocean temperature will rise nearly two degrees within this century from the greenhouse gases already released, which will undoubtedly threaten these critical ecosystems even more. As marine scientists explore just how coral reefs will cope with increasing acidity in the world’s oceans, it is abundantly clear that we must act to save these oceanic treasures.

Scientists are now studying coral reefs along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where underwater springs naturally lower the pH of the surrounding seawater. There, researchers are learning how corals respond to higher acidity in a natural setting. On the other side of the world, a U.S. climate scientist is conducting an experiment on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to see whether antacid could boost coral growth by slowing seawater acidification.

These researchers are taking threats to our coral reefs seriously, and we need to do the same. The single biggest thing you can do to slow the deterioration of reefs is to reduce your own carbon footprint by driving less and conserving energy at home. We can also to make sustainable seafood a priority and vigorously support steps to enforce proper management of these resources. We do well to remember that our actions on land—our stormwater, trash, and yard runoff—all eventually work their way to the sea and impact coral reefs. We can all keep coral reefs in mind as we go about our daily lives—and remember that water connects us all.


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