Posts Tagged 'halloween'

Happy Halloween from the National Aquarium!

At the National Aquarium, you can come face to face with thousands of different species of animals. Some of these animals are cute and furry, like Xeno the sloth. Some animals, such as the clown triggerfish, are vibrantly colored. Some are awe-inspiring, like the diverse species found in our Jellies Invasion exhibit. And some are downright spooky!

Check out this collection of photos and fun facts of some of the spookiest creatures at the National Aquarium:

California sheephead

California sheephead
The California sheephead, a wrasse native to the eastern Pacific Ocean, begins life as a female with pink coloration. When it grows to a length of about 18 inches, it transforms into a male. Their protruding canine teeth, which give them their menacing appearance, are adapted for prying hard-shelled animals from rocks. The California sheephead uses its powerful jaws and sharp teeth to crush the prey, and modified throat bones to grind the shells into small pieces. See this fish in the Kelp Forest exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore.

Albino American alligator

Albino American alligator

Albino American alligator
Just in time for Halloween! The National Aquarium’s Washington, DC, venue unveiled an extremely rare albino American alligator this month in a temporary exhibit, Secrets of the Swamp. This 4-foot-long snow-white beauty is one of fewer than 100 albino alligators in the entire world, and she’s only here through February. Don’t miss your chance to catch a glimpse of this ghost of the swamp!

Generally, alligators with albinism cannot survive in the wild; their inability to blend in with their surroundings not only makes them unable to ambush prey, but also draws the unwanted attention of predators. Albinism is a genetic condition in which an animal lacks melanin, or coloration pigment, in the eyes and skin, resulting in this alligator’s unusual translucent scales and pink eyes.

Grey-headed flying fox

Grey-headed flying fox
The aptly-named flying fox looks very much like the canine creature for which it is named. The grey-headed flying fox, otherwise known as a fruit bat, makes its home in the tall trees of the tropical rain forests in northeastern Australia and the Southeast Asian islands.The grey-headed flying fox is the largest of the flying foxes, growing to up to one kilogram in weight, with a wingspan of up to one meter. They live in large colonies which can contain up to a million individuals, and the colony sizes keep increasing as the flying foxes’ habitat is destroyed, limiting roosting sites. The next time you visit the Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, be sure to look up to the ceiling for a glimpse at a small colony of these amazing winged creatures.

Black ghost knifefish

Black ghost knifefish
This mysterious-looking tropical fish is known as the black ghost knifefish. It is a weakly electric fish that uses an electric organ and receptors distributed over the length of its body to locate insect larvae.


Grass shrimp

Grass shrimp
This unworldly-looking creature is a grass shrimp, common in estuarine waters along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Their bodies are nearly transparent, except for orange or yellow pigment in the eyestalks. Grass shrimp also have a well-developed rostrum (horn) with teeth along the edges, four spines on the telson (the pointed structure in the middle of the tail fan), and heads that are longer than the rest of the body.
Phyllobates terribilis, the Golden Poison Frog

Phyllobates terribilis, the golden poison frog

Phyllobates terribilis, the golden poison frog
Even though you won’t see one of these at the National Aquarium, how could we not include an animal with a name like Phyllobates terribilison this list? This tiny frog is found in the Amazonian rain forest along the Pacific coast of Colombia, and it certainly lives up to its name! Considered to be one of the most toxic animals on Earth, golden poison dart frogs have enough venom to kill 10 grown humans. Their bright yellow skin is saturated in an alkaloid poison that contains batrachotoxins, which prevent nerves from transmitting nerve impulses and ultimately result in muscle paralysis.

The bright-yellow frog on view in the Hidden Life exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore is a Panamanian golden frog—which is actually a toad! This beautifully colored toad may not be lethal like P. terribilis, but seeing one is certainly a rare opportunity. This species is critically endangered. The Panamanian golden frog is under pressure from habitat destruction, illegal poaching (collection), and the Chytrid fungus. The Chytrid fungus is probably the leading cause of amphibian decline in the world.

The National Aquarium, Baltimore, is one of several organizations participating in Project Golden Frog, a conservation project involving scientific, educational and zoological institutions in the Republic of Panama and the United States that aims to understand this species through husbandry (breeding), research and education programs.


Something ghostly is lurking beneath DC…

Just in time for Halloween! The National Aquarium’s Washington, DC venue unveiled an extremely rare albino American alligator this month in a temporary exhibit, Secrets of the Swamp.

This 4-foot-long snow-white beauty is one of fewer than 100 albino alligators in the entire world. Generally, alligators with albinism cannot survive in the wild; their inability to blend in with their surroundings not only makes them unable to ambush prey, but also draws the unwanted attention of predators.

Albinism is a genetic condition in which an animal lacks melanin, or coloration pigment, in the eyes and skin, resulting in this alligator’s unusual translucent scales and pink eyes.

Pink eye and translucent scales

Animals with albinism are also very sensitive to sunlight, another factor contributing to their low survival rate—their skin burns easily and light impairs their eyesight. The Secrets of the Swamp exhibit is equipped with special low-UV lighting.

This gator is originally from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida and will be on display for an up-close and personal experience through February.

Join us in DC on Fridays at 2 p.m. for an alligator feeding and talk to learn more about this special creature. And if you come to the DC venue this Friday, October 28, or Saturday, October 29, dressed in your Halloween costume finest, you’ll receive $2 off the admission price!


This unique reptilian lady still needs a name! We took suggestions from our Facebook fans and Twitter followers and narrowed them down to five options. Vote for your favorite on Facebook, or by texting WHITE GATOR to 30644 from your mobile phone. Standard messaging and data rates may apply.

#FishFriday Halloween Contest

Who can create the best fish-o’-lantern?

This Halloween weekend, the National Aquarium is giving its followers a chance to win a family four-pack of general admission tickets to the Aquarium by participating in a special Halloween challenge!

Starting today, submit your aquatic-themed jack-o’-lantern through Twitter or Facebook. This can be a photo of an actual pumpkin you carved, or your own creative drawing of a marine-themed jack-o’-lantern! Our favorite entry will win the four-pack of tickets.Pumpkin

To get you started, you can download this fun stencil that could be the inspiration for your jack-o’-lantern. 


Here are the instructions:

1) Create an aquatic-themed jack-o’-lantern in any manner that you choose (be as creative as you wish, but our judges are hoping for real carved pumpkins!)

2) Take a picture or scan your jack-o’-lantern drawing and post it online.

3) Tweet us the link @NatlAquarium and include the tag #FishFriday OR upload the photo to our Facebook wall.

Contest closes at midnight on October 31. A winner will be announced on Monday, November 1.

So what are you waiting for? Dive in and start carving, and best fishes for a fin-tastic Halloween!

Hallowings and things…

In honor of Halloween, the animal encounters at the National Aquarium have been a bit spooky this week!  We have been introducing some of our slithery, slimy, creepy, crawly animals from the rainforest, and teaching visitors that these animals aren’t as scary as we may think..

One of the encounters includes tarantulas. Scared yet? Don’t be. Though these venomous crawlers are generally thought of as a danger to humans, they do not pose the slightest threat. Tarantulas have venom with the potency comparable to a bee, so their venom is generally not toxic to humans. 

What’s the slimiest creature you can think of? A snake? This preconceived notion about snakes is false! These reptiles are not slimy at all; in fact, they are covered with scales. Snakes have small scales on the top of their body and large scales on the bottom. The large scales, called scutes, help them move their legless bodies. The coloration of their scales helps snakes camouflage themselves in various surroundings. They can blend in with leaves, shadows and even rocks! 

What has six legs and teeth in their stomachs? Give up? Cockroaches! These fascinating creatures have existed for about 300 million years and were found even before dinosaurs! Even though we see them as pests, cockroaches actually do a lot for the earth. In the rainforest at the Aquarium they help spread nutrients from trees to the soil.

cockroach for blog

snake for blog







You can find out more about these animals and others at the Hallowings and Things encounters everyday at 10:30 a.m. through November 6th! 

We are also running a special special halloween contest on facebook through Monday. Click here to enter the Hallo-Marine AquaFaces contest! Build your creepiest AquaFace for a chance to win tickets to the National Aquarium’s Baltimore venue.

Happy Halloween!

Ayers the bat recovers from surgery

Thanks to the help of the Aquarium’s veterinary staff and Dr. Anne Minihan, a surgical specialist from Chesapeake Veterinary Surgery Ayers the Bat - blogSpecialty, Ayers, a grey-headed flying fox, or fruit bat, is now recovering from a broken wing.

Ayers is a 7 year old flying fox that lives in the Aquarium’s Australia exhibit. In mid-August, he suffered a distal humerus fracture. Ayers’ skin was torn open allowing his humerus bone to protrude through. This type of injury is difficult to stabilize and put Ayers at risk for developing an infection. In bats, the humerus bone is surrounded by tissue that creates the flying surface of the wing, so a cast was not an option.

The best chance Ayers had to regain full function of his wing was to bring in Anne Minihan to complete a surgical fixation. Surgery was performed the day after the fracture occured, and it went very well but the recovery process is a slow one. There are several pins in place to stabilize the bone as it heals.  Ayers has been using his wing and thumb regularly now and is scheduled for another check by the orthopedic surgeon in the next few weeks. Even though Ayers is not fully recovered, the aviculturists in the Australia exhibits have said  he is acting like his batty self again!

Bats are commonly associated with Halloween and tend to frighten many people! Contrary to common believe, bats have no intention of bringing harm to humans. In fact, they do more for us than you may think. Insect-eating bats protect our crops, keeping costs down at the market. Fruit-eating bats help with pollination and seed dispersal, thus providing us with many commercial products and medicines.  Survival efforts are imperative worldwide because bats are such a vital part of our ecosystem. This halloween, celebrate bats!

The truth about bats

Bats are one of the most misunderstood of all creatures, having been long associated with tales of vampiresand other spooky Halloween stories. But did you know bats are actually very amazing and beneficial animals? We’d like you tell the true tale of these  creatures and dismiss any rumors of them being blood suckers, or creepy flying goblins of the night!

Bats are mammals and account for more than 25% of all mammalian species. They are the only mammals capable of true flight. But don’t worry; they aren’t flying around in search of human blood.  70% of all bat species eat insects and most of the remaining 30% eat fruit, pollen, and nectar.

So why are they important to us? Bats are very vital to the ecosystems in which they live. They are considered to be the forgotten pollinators.  The seed dispersal and pollination activities of fruit and nectar eating bats are vital to the survival of rain forests. And here in North America bats account for the removal of more than 5 tons of insects nightly.

Continue reading ‘The truth about bats’

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