There are over 20,000 fish species inhabiting every possible aquatic habitat, so there are some very strange fishes out there. Even in this area, there are many unusual fishes that are relatively abundant, but the average person does not often see. Some of the fishes like the northern stargazer (pictured below) are ambush predators and bury in the sand, so they are deliberately hidden from view.
northern searobin and the striped searobin (pictured below).
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Jellies are standard display animals at public aquaria due to their beauty and downright strangeness. But they are difficult to culture and even more difficult to procure from another institution via trade. So as a short-cut we have been collecting them and displaying what is seasonally available. Right now the resident jelly - and therefore the one currently on display - is the sea nettle Chrysaora quinquecirrha. They are notorious around the Mid-Atlantic for ruining beach outings with their irritating stings, but they are beautiful and plentiful at this time of year. Hopefully, later in the year we will be able to collect and display my local favorite the cannonball jelly Stomolophus meleagris. They are much more difficult to collect as they are very fast swimmers and have excellent senses that allow them to avoid capture; so much so they seem to see you coming and head the other way, quickly!
A sea nettle on display at the VLM
Today marks the first official casualty due to lemon shark aggression. After I performed the routine check-in for the upper level of the building, which includes cleaning the acrylic on the Chesapeake Bay Aquarium, and all seemed well, I was called to the tank by a staff member. A spadefish lay mortally wounded with four large softball-sized chunks removed from it. Apparently, the lemon sharks got hungry and decided to feed themselves. This is problematic on a few levels. Now the sharks have had success devouring a tank mate. There have been bite marks on others but until now all had survived. Also, I value all the animals here including the spadefish and never want to expose animals to uneccessary injury or death. I have raised or collected all of the spadefish (and most of the other species as well) at the VLM and feel responsible for the well-being of each. And lastly, I dive with the sharks, alone for now, and must have a renewed awareness of their activity during dives. While I certainly am not afraid of them at this point, I also do not want to experience the loss of any softball-sized chunk out of me. And as they grow the issues will only escalate.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Virginia has many ponds and all of them contain a surprising amount of life. Ponds are generally defined as water bodies that are shallow enough for sunlight to reach the bottom. Therefore, they are often covered with and full of aquatic vegetation and plankton, making them great places for small fishes, amphibians, and insects to live and reproduce. Duckweed, waterlilies, parrot feather, pickerel weed, cattails are all common pond plants and hide many of the pond's life from our view, but also provide complex underwater habitats.
Duckweed and parrot feather cover a pond's surface
|A male bluespotted sunfish|
Saturday, June 4, 2011
We recently had two long-time employees, Jessi Shupe and Heidi Pankratz, move on from the VLM to new opportunities. While it is hard to lose good employees and even harder to replace their knowledge immediately, we are happy for them. The two positions have recently been filled and we look forward to working with them. There were many, many strong candidates but the two chosen were ultimately picked because of a combination of character, personality traits, and experience. The amount of responsibility that will be bestowed upon them is significant and I follow a personal philosophy of hiring people that will grow into the position and that have already proven a significant amount of dedication to doing this type of work.
So...if you think you want to do this type of work, try it. If you like it, stick with it. Patience and hard work still matter; raising animals requires it.
|One of the two Lemon sharks brought down from Connecticut.|
|Christi, on her way to Dallas Texas to her new home.|
|Striped bass that will be moved into the CBA tank|