Saturday, November 3, 2012

Panaeid (the kind people eat) shrimp, take two finally!

We had created a new shrimp exhibit just prior to the flash flood that destroyed the lower level of the museum. This exhibit was one of the nine exhibits that suffered extensive damage; in fact this exhibit had to be completely replaced. So after nearly two full months it is finally back up and running.

Shrimp are largely thought of in regards to how they are cooked. Most people are familiar with the types of shrimp on a menu: fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, steamed and spiced shrimp, etc. but few people are familiar with the actual animal. In fact, the common edible “shrimp” is a catch-all term for several different species. On the East Coast, native edible shrimp species are closely related members of the Penaeus Family: pink, brown, or white shrimp named for their shell color. The habitats of these three species overlap and they can be difficult to distinguish. 
   A live version of the ever-popular shrimp Penaeus sp.

Shrimp are from an order of crustaceans called decapods - meaning literally “ten feet”- which also includes crabs, lobsters, and crayfish. Most decapods are opportunistic benthic omnivores, meaning they use their nimble legs and claws to crawl along the bottom and devour virtually anything edible. But shrimp, crayfish, and lobsters also possess extremely powerful, muscular tails which they can contract to propel themselves backwards swiftly when threatened. It is these muscular tails that entice so many; aside from humans, shrimp are the favorite prey of many animals including sea trout, drum, flounder, actually just about anything.

                                         A blue crayfish or "crawdad" in our quarantine room

The Bay populations of pink, white, or brown shrimp are not abundant enough to sustain a commercial fishery as they are most common in large numbers from North Carolina southward, but there are several species of non-edible shrimps in the Bay. Grass shrimp Palaemonetes sp. are too small for humans to eat (> 2”) but are by far the most abundant shrimp; present in massive numbers throughout the shallow water of the Bay, far up into rivers, even into freshwater.
 A grass shrimp Palaemonetes sp. eats a piece of gel

Other local shrimp species include: sand shrimp, rock shrimp, mud shrimp, snapping shrimp, mantis shrimp, et al., none of which are of any direct commercial importance and thus go largely unnoticed by humans.

            A crangon shrimp or "sand shrimp" is one of the lesser known shrimp in the Bay

And just for fun, we will throw in some non-shrimp crustaceans to keep it interesting, such as: spider crabs, calico box crabs, urchins, and even a couple of live scallops. Below is a video of our calico box crab molting be patient - it's worth it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rehab Update

Meet our newest rehab animals: two baby Eastern grey squirrels. The first was found by aquarium staff Sarah Peake while walking her dog. She brought it back to the VLM for me to take care of. At the time he was only 4-5 weeks old with eyes still sealed shut. He opened his eyes for the first time on October 20th.
The second one was brought to the VLM by a visitor a week later, and was clearly larger and older than the first. His eyes were already open, his fur was much fuller, and he took to formula feeding almost immediately. Already there is a noticeable personality difference between the two. The older one, named Rusty for his rust-colored hind legs and face, was at first very shy yet adventurous. Jack, the younger of the two, was

Baby squirrels are tough to take care of. They require a lot of sleep, and regular feeding (starting at around every two hours). They usually rely on mothers milk, which can be replaced by a dog or cat powdered formula via syringe. Later on they can take soft fruits like banana or apple, and then progress into gnawing on pecans, acorns, almonds, etc. At around five weeks of age there eyes begin to open, triggering their upper incisors to break through the gums.

So far so good! They have quickly taken to gnawing on harder foods as their teeth further emerge, and enjoy climbing up their new cage. After the winter they will be released and fully able to forage for their own food and shelter.
Feeding formula from a 1cc syringe
Jack (above) enjoys having his cheeks rubbed.

 - Patrycja Lawryniuk, aquarium staff