5/20/16

Even Camouflaging Cuttlefish Need to Eat

We just added 16 common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) to the cuttlefish exhibit. Yes, 16!

Common cuttlefish
But sometimes you might have to exercise your powers of observation to see these little guys. The juveniles often settle into different nooks and burrowed into the sand throughout the exhibit. We've pointed out just a few of them in this handy GIFs.


These little guys have had quite the journey, starting their life at the Ripley's Aquarium in Tennessee (Fun fact: this species has black eggs. When the females lay the eggs, she places a small amount of ink into each egg!) and coming to us via Monterey Bay Aquarium. When they arrived back in January, they were just 2 cm long. They've grown to be 4 – 5 cm long!

While they love to hide out, even timid juvenile common cuttlefish have to eat. They are fed a mixture of krill and small pieces of shrimp, and each one is slowly getting used to eating from a stick. Check out this short video to watch one of the wee cuttlefish creep past a hiding cuttlefish and grabbing a shrimp snack from the gravely bottom of the exhibit.



We slowed down a portion of the video so you could get a better view of those tentacles. If you want a real treat, check out this super-slow motion video of a cuttlefish grabbing a meal.

More amazing cuttlefish facts are on the blogs. Dive on in, the information is fascinating! Click on a link below for more pictures and video to learn more.

5/17/16

Right Place, Right Time, and a Shark Egg Case

Recently, a staffer had his camera phone recording as a brown banded bamboo shark laid an egg in The Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank one evening. It was a special moment that not everyone gets to see, so we're happy to share it here! This short informative video shows where the adult sharks live, what the eggs look like as the tiny sharks are growing inside, and where juvenile sharks mature.

 


Learn even more about shark egg cases in the shark and ray touch tank! Check out these blog posts:

5/4/16

Of tentacles and turf: At home with the octopus

Our newest exhibit is beautiful to behold. Visitors have been wonderstruck by the diversity of species, the colors, and the artistic elements, like the rock formations inside and the sculptural rails along the outside. You might be interested to know that as much care went into designing the exhibit behind the scenes — especially the giant Pacific octopus habitat. 

Exploring the new digs!
You see, octopuses are strong, have flexible bodies and can learn and problem solve. Oh…and they have LOTS of suction cups. The giant Pacific octopus, like the ones in our new Olympic Coast Sanctuary exhibit, has over 2,000 of these sticky appendages! The octopus can taste and smell with the suckers and use them as a mode of transportation. If an octopus can grab hold and stick to a surface, the animal is strong enough to pull itself along, including in a vertical direction. This makes it possible for an octopus to climb over an exhibit wall.

A sticky situation!
Close-up of the suction cups
Since we want the best home possible for the animals in our care, staff took every precaution to make our newest exhibit a healthy, safe place for the octopus. The first line of defense? We give our animals enrichment activities, like puzzles and playtime, in addition to their regular stimuli and feedings to ensure the octopuses are physically and mentally challenged.

Wilson (the human) playing with Sy (the octopus)
In addition to the puzzles and enrichment, aquarists simply make sure the exhibit is designed in a way that doesn’t give the octopus any way to climb out anyway! Our past public exhibit had a large, heavy lid, one that the octopus couldn’t lift and thus prevented walkabouts. But with the new exhibit, aquarists were interested in keeping the top of the exhibit open for easier access. So what to do?

The old exhibit—a heavy lid prevented wandering octopuses
The first step to preventing a wandering octopus is to create enough distance between the water line and the top of the exhibit. Behind the scenes, there’s a tall wall enclosing the octopus tank. At close to 2.5 feet, that distance would be difficult for the octopus to move without water. Doors opening to the top of the exhibit are held closed by heavy latches. However, we took extra precautions and covered the tall wall and doors with a prickly material. What is this miracle octopus deterrent? Surprise…it’s AstroTurf!

Strong latches keep the doors closed
A tall wall and door at the top of the exhibit

AstroTurf has been uses for the past several decades to prevent giant Pacific octopuses from getting out of their exhibits. It’s easy to use, aquarium safe and has enough air space to prevent an octopus from sticking to it. If you’ve ever tried to stick a suction cup to a window or your GPS to the windshield of your car, you know that you need a good seal. A little gap lets air underneath and the strong hold is broken. The same idea works for the octopus and AstroTurf: the grassy blades of the turf prevent the suction cups from getting a tight seal. No seal, no sticking, and no sticking means no climbing, which means no escaping octopus resulting in happy aquarists!

Covered in the green stuff
AstroTurf covering the door
So while Inky is world-famous for his escape back into the ocean, we’d rather have our octopuses "stick" closer to home. And while you can’t see the behind the scenes walls of the exhibit, know that it’s covered in green artificial grass. Perhaps the “Astro” should stand for “Anti-Sticking-To-Repel-Octopus” turf. With this octopus deterrent in place, the Aquarium ensures that our octopuses will stay put and not repeat Inky’s miraculous escape. Make sure to come visit the giant Pacific octopus soon—you know they will be there!

4/8/16

Baby Seahorses: Seven-Month Check In

It takes about 9 months for baby lined seahorses to grow to full size. So as you can see, these seahorses born this past September are already well on their way to adulthood. Several weeks ago they graduated to adult food — mysid shrimp — and a few are large enough to go into the larger tank!

Finally, a few of the largest seahorses made it into the large exhibit
across from the electric eel on Level 3!

Let's take a walk down memory lane to see how these amazing creatures have grown over the past few months! Here's a collection of pictures of the baby seahorses, starting with newborn pictures from last September.

September (squeee!): Newborn seahorses float around their small exhibit around the corner from their parents 
October: Still free floating but getting bigger
December: Their tails are stronger and grabbing onto the habitat added to their exhibit
Early January: Coloration getting much darker
Late January: Starting to look like tiny adults!

March: The seahorses started eating frozen mysid shrimp and grew by leaps and bounds.
They were just weeks away from joining the adults!

April: A few of the babies were added to the large exhibit finally! You can tell the young ones from the adults
in the exhibit because the youngsters are smaller, obviously, and they are much lighter in color.

Watching the babies grow has been an absolute treat this winter. Be sure to come visit to see these youngsters before they're all grown up!

For comparison, here's an adult lined seahorse. 

If you liked this post, here a couple more posts you might enjoy:

3/17/16

Hoppin' Happenings: Poison Dart Frogs!

Animals have different ways of protecting themselves in the wild. Some are masters of camouflage, blending in with their surroundings until they are practically invisible. There are some animals, however, that advertise their presence with bright patterns or colors…just like our poison dart frogs!

I see you!
Located on the third floor of the Aquarium, our Poison Dart Frog exhibit has four different species of brightly-colored amphibians. Seen hopping around or sticking to the glass, the species showcased are found throughout the rain forests and humid lowlands of South America, including places like Brazil, French Guiana, Venezuela, and Colombia. To make it seem like home, the exhibit has live plants, “rains” and has a constantly running water feature to keep it nice and humid.

Home Sweet Exhibit
Among the green vegetation of the exhibit, it’s easy to pick out the vibrant yellow, cobalt blue, lime green and deep black patterns that these species wear so well. But why the bright colors? Animals that stand out from their environment are often warning other animals that messing with them will end in bad news! These brightly colored or patterned animals may be venomous (like lionfish), have a foul odor (like skunks) or be poisonous to eat. As you might guess by their common name, poison dart frogs have a toxin on their skin that makes them non-palatable to other animals.

How many frogs do you see?
So where does that toxin come from? The frogs don’t create their own toxin but rather gather it from the food that they eat. In the wild, the frogs would eat various insects that have the toxin. The more insects they eat, the more toxin the frogs bioaccumulate and transfer to their skin. And while the Aquarium’s frogs continue to have the same bright colors as their wild counterparts, the frogs here aren’t actually poisonous!


Instead of insects they would eat in the wild, we grow fruit fries for the frogs to eat. Yup, the same fruit flies that bother the overripe bananas you left on the kitchen counter. The flies have none of the toxin so thus the frogs can’t accumulate it. And thank goodness! Different species have different toxins of varying levels of potency, with many of the toxins causing such symptoms as general pain, cramping, partial paralysis, heart complications or even death!

Fruit flies for lunch
These toxins and symptoms may seem extreme, but important research is being done to see how they work! Scientists have made synthetic versions that show promise as painkillers, muscle relaxants and heart stimulants. So there are lots to learn from these species! It’s important to keep their environment healthy and preserve these animals for future generations. In the meantime, spread the word about these amazing amphibians. March 20th is World Frog Day according to some calendars, so it's the perfect time to hop over to the Aquarium to see these petite purveyors of potent pigments

Beautiful blues