Posts Tagged 'Sharks'

Happy Maryland Day!

government affairs and policy update

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: 

Lined Seahorse

This pale yellow seahorse has dark lines across its head and body that help it camouflage into Bay grasses.

lined seahorse

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.

Sandbar Shark

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.

Sandbar shark

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.

Loggerhead turtle

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.

dolphin count

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.

Cownose Ray

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.

national aquarium cownose ray

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! 

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Blacktip Reef Update: Exhibit Thrives in Its First Six Months!

As our teams mark the six-month anniversary of Blacktip Reef, we’re happy to report that our newest exhibit continues to thrive and evolve!

This Indo-Pacific reef habitat is now home to 779 animals representing 70 species including blacktip reef sharks, clown triggerfish, tasseled wobbegongs, a humphead wrasse, stingrays, a green sea turtle and more!

Here’s a re-cap of some of the exciting things that have happened in Blacktip Reef over the last six months: 

  • The Aquarium has welcomed over 381,000 visitors in the six months since Blacktip Reef opened on August 8th!
  • More than 46,000 students have experienced the new exhibit.
  • As part of our ongoing partnership with Discovery Channel, our live Shark Cam has reached over 2.6 million viewers!
  • Our education and biological programs teams have shared more than 1,400 interactive presentations, shark feedings, diver talks and education carts with the public.
  • According to data collected by IMPACTS Research & Development, the opening of Blacktip Reef has further enhanced the National Aquarium’s reputation as one of the “top three” aquariums in the United States!

We’re proud to have created not only a beautiful exhibit, but one that has inspired our guests to care about Indo-Pacific coral reefs and their inhabitants, and to feel they have a stake in our mission to preserve and protect them!

For more information on how Blacktip Reef is doing after its first six months, check out our full press release.

Have you had the opportunity to visit Blacktip Reef? Share your experience with us in the comments section! 

2013 Re-cap: The Making of Blacktip Reef

This year, many of us here at the Aquarium had one thing on the brain - Blacktip Reef

From demolition to animal acquisitions, construction to animal introductions, countless hours of work from all of our departments went into the creation of this $12.5 million dollar exhibit!

As 2013 comes to a close, we’d like to take a moment to look back at how Blacktip Reef was made: 

Animal Transports

Before construction could begin on our new exhibit, the animals in our old Wings in the Water exhibit had to be safely removed!

Many of the animals that called Wings in the Water home, like our zebra sharks (Zeke and Zoe) and green sea turtle (Calypso) were moved behind-the-scenes, where they could patiently await the creation of their new home. Others were moved to other exhibits at the Aquarium or to other accredited institutions.

Want to see how we transport animals like our 500+ pound sea turtle? Check out our video:

Construction

After all the animals had been safely removed from the exhibit space and the necessary demolition was finished, the construction phase could begin!

Blacktip Reef‘s construction process included the installation of a 28 foot acrylic window and the individual placement of over 3,000 coral pieces, creating the perfect re-creation of an Indo-Pacific reef habitat.

Want to see how all of that coral was crafted by hand? Check out our video: 

Animal Introductions

The process of introducing animals into the exhibit began in early July, with the transport of Calypso!

Calypso

After Calypso and a few hundred fish had acclimated well to their new home, all 20 of our blacktip reef sharks were added to the exhibit.

In October, our last animals were introduced into the exhibit! Over the period of two weeks, we added three wobbegong sharks and a huge Napoleon wrasse!

national aquarium humphead wrasse

It has been an incredibly busy and rewarding year. From all of us here at the Aquarium, we’d like to sincerely thank everyone for their continued support!

Here’s how YOU can support the continued growth and evolution of our newest exhibit!

An Update on Our Sandbark Shark Pup, Chloe!

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I’m happy to report that our sandbark shark pup Chloe is thriving in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit – where she has been since the end of June

national aquarium sandbar shark

Photo via Jeff Mauritzen.

In the last few months, Chloe has been enjoying a steady diet of mackerel, squid, shrimp, herring and capelin! The diet of each Aquarium resident is measured out (based on their weight) and fed carefully, to ensure that everyone is getting the right amount of nutrition. At the moment, Chloe is eating about .2 lbs of food at each meal!

Since her birth back in May, Chloe has grown to be about 10 lbs in weight and about 2.5 feet in length!

Do you have a question about Chloe, her species or just sharks in general? Ask me in the comments section! 

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Happy Birthday, Zeke!

Our zebra shark, Zeke, is turning four-years-old today (and on the 4th of November, no less)!

Zeke and our second zebra shark, Zoe, have a very close relationship. They can often be seen hanging out together in the sandy, flat areas of Blacktip Reef!

national aquarium zebra sharks zeke and zoe

Hint: Zeke is the much smaller one!

As juveniles, zebra sharks have dark bodies with yellowish stripes. As they mature, their patterning changes to small dark spots. Zeke is starting to lose his stripes – soon, he’ll be covered in spots, like Zoe!

In addition to their distinctive spots, our zebra sharks can be easily recognized by their impressively long tails!

Couldn’t make it down to wish Zeke a Happy Birthday in person today? Catch him on our Shark Cam


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