Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New loggerhead sea turtle "Abe" is on exhibit - Video

The juvenile loggerhead we acquired in October from NC Aquariums is now on exhibit in our Chesapeake Bay Aquarium. The time between his acquisition and his exhibit debut on December 26th was well spent getting him (there actually is no way to tell the gender for many years) acclimated to his feeding schedule through target training. Because Abe now comes to the surface regularly to be fed and has grown accustomed to tank mates, he has graduated from the 1000 holding system to the 30,000 gallon exhibit. He not only has much more space to roam, but also has a much more stimulating environment.

As seen in the first video, Abe - like all our other sea turtles before him - loves to hang out and sleep in the "cave". Though the cave is natural rock we collected nearby, its base structure is an eight foot long acrylic aquarium with plenty of holes cut into is for many entry and exit passages. Abe shares the cave with our resident gag grouper, who has been at the museum for over twelve years.
Our gag grouper Mycteroperca microlepis in front of the cave
So far Abe has settled in nicely to his new home and exhibits no fear of his new tank mates. He has shown to be both calm and inquisitive; good signs for long term success. The videos were taken on a dive his first day on exhibit.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mergansers eating live shiners in the swamp - underwater video!

One of the more interesting aspects of our Cypress Swamp habitarium is the variety of species; from the American alligator and several turtle species to over a dozen fish species. But that's just in the water.

The two-story glassed-in replica of a Virginia swamp also allows enough sunlight for live cypress and magnolia trees to thrive in which live birds make their homes. Brown thrashers, a red headed woodpecker and bobwhite quail can all be seen amongst the branches and boles. In the space between the land and water are our three mergansers. Comically awkward on land, these sleek waterfowl are master swimmers. Their bodies are squat with very rearward legs, making them waddle on land but virtually fly underwater - almost like a penguin bent forward. In the wild, mergansers chase down crayfish, frogs, salamanders and any species of fish small enough to swallow.

Three mergansers easily chase down golden shiners in our Cypress Swamp

Thankfully, most of our fishes are so large, the mergansers pose no threat. In fact, some of the fish species we feature - including the gator - are large enough to turn the tables on an unsuspecting bird or duckling given the opportunity. Both largemouth bass and channel catfish grow large enough and are capable of inhaling large prey items. These adult mergansers however are in no danger, not only are they too large for the fishes, but are too fast and armed with a beak that can discourage even the most aggressive bass.