Every year on March 25th the Old Line State celebrates the rich history of all things Maryland. Did you know? It was on this day in 1634 that colonists ventured up the Chesapeake Bay and arrived on Maryland soil!
Here at the National Aquarium we take pride in our Maryland roots. 70,000 Maryland schoolchildren, teaches and chaperones visit the Aquarium every year. Hundreds of National Aquarium staff and volunteers work tirelessly to restore the Chesapeake Bay. And the seals, sea turtles, and whales that get stranded off of Ocean City and other Maryland beaches? National Aquarium resumes, rehabilitates and releases them back into the wild.
But the Aquarium’s Maryland pride does not stop there – we also have a strong representation of Maryland animals throughout our exhibits, both species native to our coast and ones that rely on the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay to survive.
Everyone is quick to recognize Maryland favorites like blue crabs and terrapins, but here are some not-so-obvious animals that can be seen in Maryland waters:
This pale yellow seahorse has dark lines across its head and body that help it camouflage into Bay grasses.
This species of seahorse can be found year-round in the middle and lower regions of the Chesapeake Bay, extending north to regions such as Calvert County and Kent Island. While usually found amidst the grasses in the Bay’s shallow waters, they can also be seen clinging to ropes and crab pots.
Usually found along the North American Atlantic coast, these stocky brownish sharks can be seen in the shallows of the middle and lower regions of the Bay in Summer and Fall.
These Chesapeake Bay visitors are usually large schools of juveniles, usually ranging only about 2-3-feet in size, however, spotting an adult 7-foot sandbar shark in the Bay would not be unheard of. The Bay has become one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas on the East Coast and young sharks often feed on native blue crabs. The sharks prefer the protected waters and stay near the smooth sandy bottoms of the Bay before heading back into the southern waters when the weather gets cooler.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Adult loggerheads are common in the lower Bay from May to November, but can also be seen as far north as Kent Island during summer months.
They come to feed on blue crabs and horse crabs and to hatch their young. The lower Bay is an important growth area for young loggerheads before they are large and strong enough to make it back into the open ocean.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose dolphins visit the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay in the summers, usually to Cape Charles and the James and Elizabeth Rivers.
They can go into fresh water for short periods and feed on a variety of the Bay’s fish, crabs, and other shellfish. You can find them traveling in pods ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 dolphins, staying in the Bay and rivers for a summer vacation before heading back to the open water when the weather gets cooler.
With a wingspan of up to 3 feet, cownose rays can also be found traveling in schools in the shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay during summer months.
The schools traverse the lower and middle parts of the Bay, sometimes going as far north as Kent Island, from May to October, before heading back to southern coastal waters when autumn comes. They come to the Bay to search of oysters and clams and a safe place to mate in the late summer from June to July. The schools can be large and visible as they move through the Bay.
How are you celebrating Maryland Day? Tell us in the comments section!