Posts Tagged 'coral reefs'



Animal Update – September 20

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!

Meet one of Blacktip Reef’s most colorful residents – the harlequin tuskfish! 

Harlequin Tusk Fish

The harlequin tuskfish, a species of wrasse, can be found throughout the reef habitats of the Indo-Pacific (from the Red Sea to Australia).

Typically, the tuskfish will make its home in the sandy, shallow areas of coastal reefs. Their diet mostly consists of hard-shelled invertebrates, including small crabs and shrimp.

Harlequin tusk fish

Did you know? The harlequin tuskfish gets its common name from its bright coloration and sharp blue teeth!

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

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

Blog-Header---Blacktip

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! 

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.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

Blacktip Reef Featured on “The List!”

The animals for our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef, were featured on yesterday’s edition of national news program, The ListClick below to watch the clip: 

National Aquarium on The List

The hundreds of animals that will call Blacktip Reef  home have been living at our Animal Care Center for the past year. Since their arrival in Baltimore, staff members like Senior Aquarist Ashleigh Clews have been working with these animals to acclimate them to a variety of new experiences like interacting with divers!

From the new and fascinating blacktip reef sharks to Aquarium favorites like 500+ pound green sea turtle, Calypso, the inhabitants of this vibrant Indo-Pacific reef (opening July 10th) are sure to delight our guests. 

For more behind-the-scenes Blacktip Reef updates, click here

Animal Updates – June 14

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!

Panther grouper in our Hiding exhibit! 

Our panther group is making our Hiding exhibit his new home (after being moved from another exhibit to accommodate his rapid growth in the last year).

panther grouper

Also known as the humpback grouper, this fish is native to the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific. Habitat degradation has seriously threatened the survival of this species in recent years. As a result, the panther grouper has been listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN.

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

Blacktip Reef Update: One Month Left To Go!

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, there are a lot of updates as we get closer to this summer. As we continue to build the future home of Blacktip Reef, get the latest on what’s new right here on our WATERblog!

It has been a very busy couple of months for our biological programs and exhibit teams as we continue to bring together all of the elements of our Blacktip Reef exhibit! Since our last video update, all of the coral pieces have been hand-installed into the exhibit. These coral pieces have each been carefully crafted to represent coral found in Indo-Pacific reefs. For more on how we created these pieces, check out “Aquarium Sculptors Create Coral For Conservation Awareness” – a piece that recently-aired on NPR’s All Things Considered.

blacktip reef coral installation

The design of our reef is truly unique in that it incorporates many micro-habitat areas that can be commonly found in wild reef ecosystems. These micro-habitats will be important homes for our smaller species of fish, which will naturally be looking for protection from larger fish and our blacktip reef sharks.

This wider shot depicts a greater portion of the reef, before water was added to the exhibit.

The deep dive portion of Blacktip Reef, before water was added to the exhibit.

In the last few weeks, salt water has been added to the exhibit space and the lid that was previously covering the construction area has been removed. Guests visiting the Aquarium can now get a sneak peek of Blacktip Reef and see our crews at work!

blacktip reef national aquarium

An aerial view of Blacktip Reef after the removal of the construction lid.

Divers are currently taking their first dips into the exhibit, familiarizing themselves with the space as well as checking our life-support and other critical systems for proper function. At the end of this month, our biological programs staff will begin introducing our animals into their new home, starting with the one and only Calypso (our 500+ pound green sea turtle)!

Calypso is enjoying plenty of brussel sprouts behind-the-scenes, but can't wait to explore her new home!

Calypso is enjoying plenty of brussel sprouts behind-the-scenes, but can’t wait to explore her new home!

Stay tuned for more updates on animal introductions and don’t forget to check out Blacktip Reef when it opens July 10th! 

Blacktip Reef Update: Habitat Creation

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, there are a lot of updates as we get closer to this summer. As we continue to build the future home of Blacktip Reef, get the latest on what’s new right here on our WATERblog!

While our construction crew is busy renovating the 200,000-gallon exhibit space for Blacktip Reef, designers and contractors are hard at work creating exact replicas of corals found in the Indo-Pacific. Their primary goal is to ensure that everything from habitat fabrication to assembly and installation is held to the highest standard of authenticity. Watch this video to see the team in action:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OlzqnatA8s]

The process of designing and building an expansive reef habitat for our animals is both a science and an art! Exhibitors spent months researching the species of coral found in Indo-Pacific reefs, then creating molds and hand-sculpting each piece of rock coral. Our team has to create corals that look real and are also completely safe for our animals.

Why not use real corals for our new exhibit?

Live corals require constant and intense amounts of light and take years to grow. Artificial corals are easier to maintain and repair over the years. Additionally, by crafting each piece of coral that will go into our new exhibit, designers have complete control over the look and shape of Blacktip Reef.

The end product will be a colorful and rich marine habitat perfect for both our animals and our guests to explore and enjoy!

Stay tuned for more Blacktip Reef updates! 


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