Thursday, March 29, 2012

Seahorses and blue crab switch places

 The "new" seahorse exhibit ready to go

We recently upgraded the life support system for the exhibit previously known as "blue crab" to improve the filtration and flow to ultimately display seahorses in that exhibit. The blue crab will then be on display in the old "sea horse" exhibit. There were several reasons for the switch, but the main one is that the new seahorse exhibit is a considerably more attractive exhibit space and we will be able to display them now in a more natural context; specifically there is enough light and space for live marine plants, and the previous exhibit had interior rock work that was not representative of their natural habitat. Also, the new exhibit allows visitors to view these reclusive creatures from all sides, while still providing enough plant cover for them to feel secure.

Lined seahorse in our holding/breeding enclosure

Thursday, March 1, 2012

VLM Sea Turtle Physical

Yesterday, the Virginia Living Museum's loggerhead sea turtle was given a physical examination.  The sea turtle was taken out of the Chesapeake Bay exhibit in order to get both a visual inspection and an internal examination.  The procedure went smoothly and the turtle was under little stress as she was moved out of the aquarium. Our sea turtle was placed into a tub that was attached to a winch that lowered her down to ground level. Once she was dropped down, everyone jumped into action.  We placed the turtle on a scale and found out she weighs 60 lbs! She has grown nearly 50 lbs since we acquired her in October, 2010! We also measured her carapace as shell diameter (22 inches) and length (25.5 inches).  After her measurements were done, we placed the turtle on a table made specially for her. Some of us were ensuring that she was comfortable while the veterinarians performed a visual inspection. This included looking for any lesions, making sure the carapace was healthy, and checking her limbs and joints.  We also took measurements. Our vet Dr. Bob George said she looked good and healthy from the outside; so far so good!
Next, the sea turtle had her blood drawn.  This was exciting for the Aquarists here at VLM, because this may tell us whether or not she is actually a girl (we have been referring to our sea turtle as a female, but sea turtles are not sexually dimorphic). The blood was drawn from the top of the turtle's neck. At this point, we placed a wet towel over her head to ensure that she remained calm when the vet was around her face.  The blood was drawn and placed in a vile that will be shipped to a laboratory for analysis; a report will be sent to our vet tech Linda Addison that will indicate any potential nutritional deficiencies and hopefully the results of its hormone levels will reveal the sea turtle's sex.
Lastly, the vet wanted to perform an ultra sound on her. Since she was remaining so calm, we figured it would not be an issue to look further. He first rubbed jelly onto her neck and looked at all of her sinuses, which all looked clear and healthy. He then placed the probe underneath the back flipper, which helped him look at her intestines and other internal structures.
 The sea turtle being placed into the tub by Aquarium Curator, Chris Crippen.

The sea turtle being dropped down by winch, where Aquarist Jon Meade met her.

 Jon and Chris placing her on the scale to check her weight.

 Dr. George performing a visual inspection.

 She receiving an ultrasound from our vet tech, Linda Addison.

 Dr. George telling us everything looks great!

 Our sea turtle being calm while getting her check-up

 She was a good sea turtle!

Everything looked great and she is a healthy sea turtle! After the procedure was done, we lifted her back into the tub and used to winch to lift her back into the aquarium.  Once the tub was placed back in the water, she swam out and back into the exhibit. She was a good patient and exhibited little stress! Good job VLM sea turtle!   

By: Sarah Peake, Aquarist