I Believe in Scuba Santa. Do you?

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The magic of the holiday season is approaching. Soon there will be a chill in the air, snow will fall and as each Christmas tree is lit we will be one step closer to the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas!

Our 8th annual Christmas Celebration begins on Saturday, December 3rd and with it brings the return of everyone’s favorite man in the red wetsuit – SCUBA SANTA!

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If you’re like us, you CANNOT WAIT to see this guy again.  He’s jolly, he loves scuba diving in Ocean Realm to meet and greet with kids and animals alike and he’s Santa aka awesome.

You can catch him throughout the month of December as he swims alongside magnificent sharks, incredible sea turtles and graceful stingrays in the Aquarium’s 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm exhibit. He’ll also swim by the panoramic window for some extra special up close time with kiddos. Get your cameras ready!

All Christmas Celebration activities are included with Aquarium admission and Membership.  (Hint: The Gift of Adventure makes holiday giving super easy!)

Curious as to what Scuba Santa has planned for Christmas Celebration? Here’s a sampling:

“I Believe in Scuba Santa” Live Show – Scuba Santa’s #1 Helper shares the story of Christmas Celebration and puts the final touches on the decorations in Ocean Realm Theater with the help of Scuba Santa himself.

Christmas Storytime – Listen to an elf share the story of Scuba Santa.  At the end of the story, watch as SNOW falls inside the Aquarium.  You can’t miss this!!

Mail your letters to Scuba Santa – Make your list, check it twice and mail your personalized letter in a special mailbox in Ocean Realm.  Families who provide an email address will even receive a special message response from Scuba Santa!  Please note: Make sure you mail your letters by Thursday, December 22nd to receive a response from Scuba Santa.

Did we mention that you’ll also be able to see 8,500 aquatic animals in addition to all this cool Christmas programming?  Makes for a pretty great time!

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Say Hello to Our Mermaids!

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We are thrilled to bring back the Mermaid Experience to Adventure Aquarium in just DAYS!

That’s right! Beginning on Saturday, November 5th, Adventure Aquarium will be home to Mermaids for a limited time.  They will swim into the hearts of guests every day through Sunday, November 13th.  These lovely merfolk can’t wait to make the dreams of each and every one of our visitors come true!

So…want to meet them?  Here is a special sneak peek at the Mermaids coming to Adventure Aquarium!

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Now that you’ve gotten to know our mermaids a little better, how excited are you to see them in-person (or in-Mermaid)?

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Believe in the possibility…of Mermaids?

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Are Mermaids real?

Don’t be so quick to answer.  How much do we really know about the ocean?  Earth is covered primarily by water and over 95% of the ocean remains unexplored. In fact, scientists know more about the surface of the moon than the ocean’s deep coral reefs. With so much of the underwater world still a mystery, why couldn’t Mermaids exist?

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This November, we invite you to believe in the possibility… Mermaids are a magical part of our imagination. Their story has been passed down in literature and mythology, by sailors and pirates, and even in Hollywood.

Just take a look at all the stories and sightings recorded throughout history:

  • 1000 BC – Assyrian Mythology tells of Atargatis, the goddess who turns into a mermaid
  • 800 BC – Homer’s The Odyssey describes lovely Sirens, a version of mermaids
  • 1493 – Christopher Columbus notates mermaid sightings in daily log during 1st voyage to find a western trade route to Asia, before arriving in America
  • 1847 – Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid first published
  • 1984 – Ron Howard’s Splash premieres in movie theaters
  • 1989 – Disney Animation’s The Little Mermaid released in theaters
  • 2009 – Sightings on a beach in Kiryat Yam, Israel lead to $1 million dollar reward posted by Israeli government for evidence
  • 2012 – Animal Planet airs the docu-fiction Mermaids: The Body Found
  • 2014 – Mermaids swim at Adventure Aquarium for the first time – witnessed by over 24,000 people!
  • 2015 – Mermaids dive into Ocean Realm to record-breaking crowds once more.
  • 2016 – Mermaids return to Adventure Aquarium to see YOU!

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Back by popular demand, you can experience the magical world of Mermaids every day from Saturday, November 5 through Sunday, November 13 when they return for a limited time engagement at Adventure Aquarium. Prepare to be mesmerized as you witness a real-life Mermaid swimming among sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and colorful fish in our 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm exhibit. Visit with a Mermaid on dry land during daily meet and greets, enjoy character appearances and more!

The Mermaid Experience is included with Aquarium admission.

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Are you curious about what the Mermaids have planned?  Here’s a sampling of programming:

NEW! Mermaid Autographs – Have the opportunity to meet a Mermaid up close and on dry land in Shark Realm. Mermaid autographs are available daily during Mermaids.

Swimming Mermaid – At Ocean Realm “Panoramic” window, experience the underwater Mermaid as she swims among rare shark species, massive sea turtles, stingrays and more.

Meet a Mermaid! – Come up close on dry land for daily Mermaid meet and greets in Zone B. Have your picture taken with a Mermaid and take home a lasting memory of the magic you and your family experience.

Pirate Captain Appearance – Pirate greetings to all when entering the aquarium. Meet, greet and get your picture taken with one of our pirates all during Mermaids.

Mermaid and Pirate Face Painting and Glitter Tattoos – Channel your inner mermaid or pirate during your visit. Stacey’s Face Painting will offer themed face painting designs daily during Mermaids.

Mermaid Craft Table – Can’t get enough of Mermaids? Join us for Mermaid and Pirate arts and crafts! Create your very own Mermaid or Pirate theme crown – only on weekends.

Mermaid Shop – Mermaid merchandise will be available all week. From Mermaid apparel to Mermaid blankets to Pirate themed toys, there sure is something for all to enjoy (while supplies last).

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During the Mermaid Experience at Adventure Aquarium, you will journey to a place where Mermaids are real. Their home is well-hidden from humans and you are about to discover it.

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Are you ready for your Mermaid Adventure?

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Get Ready to Say “Sea Ya Later, Koopa”

It is truly bittersweet but, after spending a year in Adventure Aquarium’s care, we are preparing to say goodbye to Koopa, our juvenile loggerhead during our upcoming Sea Turtle Awareness Weekend (10/8-10/10).

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Koopa when he first arrived last November, 2015 – he’s grown so much!

Last November, AAQ welcomed the young hatchling as part of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Sea Turtle Program.  Over the course of the year, biologists taught the hatchling enrichment activities to help prepare it for life in the wild.

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Every year, Adventure Aquarium brings a hatchling from the rehab and release program for one year. After a year, the hatchling is released into the wild off the coast of North Carolina along with other yearlings from aquariums all over the country.  Koopa will officially depart from Camden and make the trip with AAQ biologists to North Carolina on the week of October 17th.

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Koopa has tripled in size since arriving last November!

By caring for Koopa, the Aquarium gave the little loggerhead the time he (or she since we don’t know its gender) needed to gain strength and grow before taking on life in the ocean. In his time here, Koopa has grown 3 times in size since his arrival.

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Loggerhead turtles like Koopa can weigh less than an ounce and measure less than 2 inches when they hatch in sandy nests along temperate coastlines around the globe. They are vulnerable to a variety of predators, as they make their way to the sea and begin their lives in the water. If they survive their first year, loggerheads can grow to be the largest of all hard shelled turtles, averaging 3 feet in length and weighing about 250 pounds.

Join the celebration as we say “sea ya later, Koopa” all weekend-long!

5 Reasons Horseshoe Crabs are Cool Creatures

Horseshoe crabs can be found on many beaches along the Jersey shore.  Their coolness factor? Don’t be so quick to judge.

Honestly, they get a bad wrap.  Where are their eyes?  Wait, how many eyes do they have?  That hard shell and tail don’t attract people to think of them as cute, cool or helpful creatures from the sea.  Helpful?  We’ll explain.

1. Horseshoe crabs aren’t really crabs.

They’re not crabs at all but more closely-related to spiders.

2. Here’s “looking” at you kid…

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Rachel Oh via Wikimedia Commons

Each horseshoe crab has an array of sight organs.  Large compound eyes rest on the sides of their shells. Come mating season, these bean-shaped units help crabs locate a partner. Behind each one, there’s a small, primitive photoreceptor called a lateral eye. Towards the front of the shell are two tiny median eyes and a single endoparietal eye. On its underside, a horseshoe has two “ventral eyes,” which presumably help it navigate while swimming.

2. They’re kind of dinosaurs.

And you thought Jurassic Park was the only way to see dinosaurs in 2016?  Nope.  Aside from the potential for raptors and T-Rex returning, horseshoe crabs can claim “dino-status” in the here and now. They are actually considered dinosaurs – yes, dinosaurs!  These “living fossils” have been around for 445 million years.  Discovered in 2008, the 25 millimeter-wide Lunataspis aurora crawled over Manitoba nearly half a billion years ago, about 100 million years older than any previously known forms.  This makes it the world’s oldest-known horseshoe crab. Four species are with us today, all of which closely resemble their long-extinct ancestors.

 

3. Hundreds of THOUSANDS Gather in the Delaware Bay for a Massive Breeding Frenzy.

Every year in May and June, the Delaware bay becomes the largest Atlantic horseshoe crab spawning zone on EARTH. During the night, a female will climb ashore with a male (or several) in hot pursuit. After she digs a hole and deposits her eggs, the males fertilize them. Migratory shore birds descend upon the bay in huge numbers to feed on the nutrient-rich eggs. Scores of red knots, which use the crab fest as a final stop during their yearly migration from the Arctic to South America making it a great spot for bird watching fans.

4. Adulting is super hard for a horseshoe crab.

Or making it into adulthood, anyway.  A mother can lay as many as 90,000 eggs per clutch. It’s estimated that only about 10 of those individual embryos will ever become adults. Before they get a chance to hatch, fish, sea turtles and birds consume the eggs making nesting horseshoe crabs vital to the ecology of Delaware Bay and countless other regions around the world.

5. Horseshoe crabs have been helping humans for 60 years. 

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So sweet of them, huh?  Seriously, if you are under the age 0f 40 and have been vaccinated – thank the nearest horseshoe crab you can find.  Let us explain why.

A horseshoe crab’s blood is blue and contains hemocyanin, which contains copper, to transport oxygen throughout the body and turns bluish-green when it oxidizes.

(Our blood uses iron-based hemoglobin and turns red, as you most likely are aware, when exposed to oxygen.)

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Another interesting fact about these anthropods is they lack infection-fighting white blood cells.  When you live in the sea and a single gram of undersea sediment contains roughly 1 billion bacteria, what do you do to fight infection?  Special cells called amebocytes attack pathogens in the horseshoe crab’s body by sealing them inside a gooey physical barrier, thus halting the spread of infection.

In 1956, Johns Hopkins University physician Frederick Bang discovered this characteristic leading medical researchers to test the safety of a vaccine or injectable drug by introducing horseshoe crab amebocytes into a sample.  If the cells start releasing their goo, it’s because they’ve encountered bacteria and the product isn’t ready for humans.

In the 1970s, the FDA made this test mandatory for experimental drugs and surgical implants.  The magic elixir is extracted from over 600,000 “donors” every year, each of whom parts with 30 percent of its blood before being released within 48 hours. Sadly, about 10–15 percent of captured crabs die somewhere in the process, and survivors can exhibit lethargic behavior down the road. Scientists aren’t insensitive to this problem.  Researchers have been trying to develop synthetic amebocytes and regulations have been set for blood extraction to ease impact on the species.

So there you have it. Horseshoe crabs are pretty awesome – don’t you agree?

Awesome Ocean News: President Obama expands the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

Papahanaumokuakea…say that 3 times fast.

On this gorgeous Friday leading into African Penguin Awareness Weekend, we’re excited to share that last Friday, August 26, 2016, President Barack Obama more than quadrupled the size of Papahanaumokuakea, the Hawaiian marine monument, making it the largest ecologically protected area on Earth.  Hawaii is now home to an ocean reserve TWICE the size of Texas!

Papahanaumokuakea-marine-reserve-1200x737In 2006, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument was officially established by President George W. Bush.  His Presidential Proclamation protected 1,400 miles of the Pacific Northwestern region of the Hawaiian Islands. Thanks to his proclamation, many conservation efforts to produce the largest protected marine area of its kind at the time were brought together.

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President Obama added to President Bush’s initial proclamation to expand the protected area to now include 582,578 square miles of land and sea. The protected region is the world’s largest seabird gathering site, numbering 14 million birds from 22 species. It is home to Laysan albatrosses and the remaining endangered Hawaiian monk seals.  Did we mention it’s absolutely stunning and brimming with amazing wildlife??

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This region of Hawaii is a glimpse into what the Earth was like before the impact of human activity as the majority of the newly protected region is untouched by human influence. The preservation of the area, in its natural state, is a milestone and we’re thrilled to be able to share it with you as we all work together to conserve our planet for many generations to come.

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Learn more about this incredible act of conservation here!

Sharks + Stress = ?

This week’s Adventure Insider was written by Dr. Michael Hyatt, Adventure Aquarium’s veterinarian.  He’s passionate about providing the best animal care as well as conducting research in the field to better understand and learn about animals, such as sharks.

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I would like to share with you a cool new way to take part in the research process and promote some exciting research. Dr. Paul Anderson from Mystic Aquarium, and myself, Adventure Aquarium’s veterinarian, Dr. Michael Hyatt, are studying how changes in the environment impacts sharks’ response to capture and release fishing. Results will guide recommendations for fishing methods to reduce mortality of these important apex predators.

Field work and sample collection has been completed; we have developed a data set on 61 bull and 93 bonnethead sharks that were captured and handled for fisheries research in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (Naples, FL) over a 4 year period. Data analysis has not yet been completed.

To finish this experimental project and submit for publication, we need $5,000 in order to conduct statistical analyses and reporting to determine the effects of water quality parameters on the stress response due to capture and handling.

Recently, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Experiment to raise support for our research: https://experiment.com/sharkstress. Once we complete the statistical analyses, we’ll share every step of the scientific process from the field to the lab, on our project page. It’s a very unique experience and we are lucky to have a chance to share this with you! Once we’re ready to publish our results, we’ll thank all of our backers in the paper as well.

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We would so appreciate any support you can provide to make this dream a reality. If you please take a moment to share our project on social media or emailing the project to any friends, family or colleagues interested in science and the environment will help finish this amazing project.

If you have any additional questions about the research, or how this works, we’ll be happy to answer them. Thanks for supporting this science, it won’t be possible without you!

Learn more about our project at: https://experiment.com/sharkstress