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.


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: 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.


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:


A penguin, a lobster & 3 sea stars take Manhattan

An African penguin, a blue lobster & 3 sea stars drove up to NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center this week for an appearance on the Today Show. Well, humans came too.

We climbed into the AAQ van and started the journey up the NJ Turnpike – with some coffee fuel and snacks in hand (for the humans, no animals were caffeinated!).

As part of 4th hour of the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda, Adventure Aquarium partnered with NBC’s animal expert, Corbin Maxey, for the show’s popular trivia segment.  African penguin, Cornelia aka “Corn Dog” made the trip, along with Elvis the 1 in 2 million blue lobster and 1 leather star, 1 bat star and 1 ochre star.

At last, we arrived the the NBC Today Show studio!


Cornelia checked out the set.

Our team got to work, setting up the tanks for Elvis and the sea stars – rehearsal and the live segment would happen in just moments!

At last, it was time for the stars (and lobster, penguin + Kathie Lee) to go on!


The segment went swimmingly (see what we did there?)…

AND radio personality Elvis Duran even stopped by to take a quick photo with Elvis the blue lobster! Perfection.


All in all, it was a great trip to NYC. But back home to Adventure Aquarium we went – tired after a long and exciting day!

(Please note: Biologist, Jennifer Duffy refused to be part of the car photo shoot but she was there too!)

Until next time…Happy #AAQTravels!


#NameMeMaybe? Penguin Edition


A major decision will be made in 2016 and every vote counts. The ballot is set – with some unique options…

Beaker. Bernard. Pickles. Scout. Squirt. Thumper. What now?

Well, Adventure Aquarium visitors will choose our African penguin chicks’ names!  Beginning Friday, June 3, an official Voting Station, located in the Aquarium’s main entrance lobby, will display six name options for the African penguin chicks.  Using spare change, guests visiting Adventure Aquarium will be able to vote for their favorite name choices all summer long.

Aquarium Members and social media fans were asked to suggest names for the African penguin chicks in a contest held on the Aquarium’s website.  Over 1,100 names were submitted during the two week nomination period.  The nominations were then narrowed down to the six finalist names by the biologists who care for the birds.

The winning names will be announced following the 8th annual African Penguin Awareness Weekend, being held Labor Day weekend (September 3-5). 100% of donations collected will support endangered African penguins in the wild and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).   Adventure Aquarium plans to do a dollar-for-dollar match for all funds raised during the voting period and African Penguin Awareness Weekend.penguinhatchlings2_1

So which names will win? Scout and Pickles? Bernard and Thumper?  Beaker and Squirt? YOU decide!! Only time will tell!



Double the Fun: African Penguin Clutch Mates Hatch

Is that the pitter-patter of baby penguin feet?!

The answer is YES! AAQ is proud to welcome our 21st and 22nd African penguin chicks!


Adventure Aquarium officially announced the birth of two African penguin chicks earlier today. The clutch mates were born just days apart on Wednesday, April 6 and Sunday, April 10, respectively.

The baby penguins are doing well and growing fast. When the chicks first hatched approximately five weeks ago they each weighed less than two ounces, the approximate weight and size of a golf ball, but have each grown to weigh just under three pounds.

“We’re thrilled to welcome two new, healthy African penguin chicks to Adventure Aquarium,” said Michele Pagel, Curator, Birds & Mammals, who has overseen the African penguin population since 1998.  “They are very active, growing strong and have hearty appetites.”

The chicks’ genders are unknown, and a DNA test is scheduled in the coming months. The new chicks have also not been named.  “A special announcement regarding how guests will help name our newest additions will be revealed in the very near future,” said Pagel. “Stay tuned for details!”

The Aquarium participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of African penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program. Since it began working with the program in 1998, the Aquarium has successfully bred and raised 22 African penguin chicks.

Much like human newborn babies, when penguin chicks are first hatched, they are very dependent on their parents. Their eyes are closed, and their bodies are developing muscles that will eventually allow them to hold their head up and walk (or waddle). A major difference between penguin and human babies is that penguin growth happens very quickly. In fact, in a year, the siblings will be the size of fully grown African penguins.

The chicks eat small whole fish just like the adult birds including silversides, smelt, anchovies, trout and capelin. Young penguins usually eat more than some of the adults at about 15-20 fish per day. The chicks’ care was transferred from their parents to AAQ keepers on Monday, May 9 at which point they were able to eat small but whole fish and are more physically developed and mobile.

“In order for the penguin chicks to learn how to acclimate with the colony here at the Aquarium, our staff must take over caring for them,” said Pagel. “The birds need to learn how to eat from human hands, associate fish with the feed bucket and learn to be social with the keepers, which are all important steps to becoming part of the group.”

Adventure Aquarium visitors will be able to see the adorable siblings this month following the African penguin feeds.  Once they have grown large enough to assimilate with the other residents of the Aquarium’s Penguin Island exhibit, the chicks will join the rest of the colony on exhibit.

Guests are encouraged to follow AAQ on Facebook and Twitter for updates on this adorable new addition to the Adventure Aquarium family and stay up-to-date on the latest Aquarium happenings.

Did you miss us?

We missed you too! It’s been a little while hasn’t it? Well, we were busy getting some great stories together for our AAQ Insiders!

First up is a tale about a Tank. Get ready to have your mind blown by SCIENCE!!! (Seriously, this stuff is super cool).


Oh, hello there.

Adventure Aquarium is home to an inquisitive southern three-banded armadillo, warmly named Tank.  Isn’t this 3-year-old boy just awesome??

Now you may be asking, why does an aquarium have an armadillo?  Well, AAQ manages a diverse collection of animals not on display, including this armadillo, which have special jobs as “Animal Ambassadors.”  These animals are able to be easily handled and trained for up close experiences with our guests.  Through our up closes, held at Discovery Deck in Zone A as well as other locations throughout the aquarium, we can help educate and promote conservation of their species and other animals.


Here’s Tank posing with a soccer ball – say CHEESE!

We like to say that our animals have the best healthcare thanks to our on staff veterinarian, Dr. Mike Hyatt, and his team.  As part of a preventative health program, Tank receives routine annual examinations just like your dog or cat by Dr. Hyatt.

For animal comfort and safety, Tank is anesthetized for the exam, blood collection and x-rays.  Tank’s exam and blood work indicated a healthy armadillo, but because of the armor that surrounds and protects him, x-rays can be difficult to evaluate.  As such, there were suspicious changes in Tank’s lungs on x-ray that could not be confidently evaluated.


Here’s another one because, well, we can’t get enough of this guy!

To make sure what Dr. Hyatt and his team were seeing on the x-rays was nothing more than normal anatomic variation, which means normal flexibility in the topography and morphology of the armadillo’s body structure, we contacted our friends at NorthStar VETS, a referral specialty and emergency veterinary hospital in Robbinsville, NJ, for a computed tomographic (CT) examination, also known as a CAT scan.

Tank was so brave during the CAT scan!

This type of advanced diagnostic imaging provides cross-sectional x-ray imaging through thin slices along the whole body.  This imaging allows better visualization of internal organs that a standard x-ray would not be able to detect.

Get ready for the cool part! The computer program is also able to take these images and create a 3D reconstruction of the animal’s skeleton, and in this case, Tank’s armor.

video 2

video 1

We were relieved to learn that Tank’s CT was completely normal! (Hooray!!)

Armadillo Tank CT Lungs

This visit also gave the veterinarians and veterinary radiologist at NorthStar VETS an opportunity to work with an animal species not normally brought to their hospital.  It was a great learning opportunity for both veterinary teams.

So, there you have it. Science and technology amaze us again!

Update: Sea Turtle Hatchling Koopa is still adorable


No, not Nintendo Koopa Troopa…

Koopa 4.4.16

OUR Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling, Koopa, can be found doin’ his (or her) thing on the daily. And, yes, Koopa is getting bigger and so is the cuteness factor.

Here are some updates on lil’ Koops (thanks to F&I biologist Rachel for providing the awesome info!):

Koopa is up to 440g (aka almost 15.5 ounces) in weight, which is over 8 times his weight when he first arrived at #AAQ!

He still uses some of the same enrichment items, like small wiffle balls and containers, but we have been putting more enrichment items on the floor of his exhibit. He loves searching for food throughout the rocks, which is what he will have to do out in the ocean!

We are continuing to encourage his foraging behavior by sinking enrichment items with hidden food. We are continuing to offer him live food as well. There are currently hermit crabs and grass shrimp in the exhibit with him, both of which he occasionally eats. We offered him appropriate-sized jellies as well, which he absolutely loves!

We previously added a live blue claw crab for him to eat, but the crab was a little too big and defensive for Koopa and actually scared him! We took the crab back out, but will try again when Koopa is bigger. (Seriously, how cute is that??)

Bonus! Here’s a clip of him eating some romaine – which happens to be attached to a clip.

Want to catch Koopa in action? On weekends, participants of our Sea Turtles Up Close Adventure get to offer Koopa his enrichment around 1:45 p.m., and on weekdays he is generally fed around 1:00 p.m.

Be sure to stop by and say hey to Koopa during your next visit! He’s growing up so fast – but we couldn’t be prouder!

Top 5 Reasons to Have an #AAQSpringBreak

School is OUT – well, for Spring Break anyway.  Want to take a little trip this year?  What a fantastic idea!  How about heading right over to Adventure Aquarium where you can visit animals from all over the world – all in one place!  Convenient and fun? Yes, please.

Here are the Top 5 reasons you and your fam should most certainly have an #AAQSpringBreak (Oh, and feel free to take this hashtag and run with it, folks):

#1. Little Blues


The CUTEST.PENGUINS.EVER. are waiting to see you! These adorable little birds, the smallest penguins in the world aka Fairy penguins aka #adorblues,  will make you smile from ear to ear as they play and swim in the water and waddle along the sandy beach.  Your kids can totally make friends with a penguin this spring break.  So much cooler than, well, anything really.



One of our lovely Nile hippos, Button, just celebrated her 19th birthday earlier this week and she wouldn’t be mad if you stopped by to wish her a happy belated bday and show some love. I mean, it’s still her birthday week/month right? #Aries

Also, say hi to Genny while you’re there.  Don’t want to leave her out!


#3. Annual Passholders = Exclusive Early AM Access

AP Turtle

Talk about #MemberPerks! We’re opening the aquarium early (at 9:30am each day) just for Annual Passholders now through Saturday, March 26th because, well, exclusive access is just something you get when you’re part of the Annual Pass family. #VIPStatus

Not a member? Let’s fix that, shall we?

#AAQInsideTip: TWEET,TWEET! Posting to social media? Use #AAQSpringBreak on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you could be featured on our accounts as our #PhotoOfTheWeek or #FanOfTheWeek! (P.S. Follow us while you’re at it…get awesome animal content, win prizes and more!)

#4. Sharks, sharks, sharks! 

Did we mention we have sharks at AAQ?  Where else can you touch a shark, walk under them through the Shark Tunnel, marvel at the only Great Hammerhead on exhibit in the US AND swim with them?? HERE, of course! No one does sharks better than AAQ. No one!

Ready to dive in? Check out our Swim with the Sharks Adventure (along with cool behind the scenes access to penguins and sea turtles too)!

#5. Touch Tanks!

Besides touching a shark…want to touch a stingray? Sea cucumber? Sea star? OK! Touch tanks are located throughout the Aquarium and are made for kids of all ages to learn and explore using their sense of touch. So, roll-up your sleeves and get in there!

Want to get more hands-on? Why not feed a stingray? 

#6. Topperrrrrrrrrr!


Yes, we said top 5 reasons but you get a bonus reason because, well, TOPPER! The newest African penguin chick to join the colony can be seen after African penguin feeds at Penguin Island following feeds (check your show guide for times). We won’t know if Topper is a boy or girl for a little bit longer but no matter what – this penguin is super cute!

These are just some of the many reasons you should head to Adventure Aquarium this Spring Break for some unique, unforgettable family-fun!  (I mean, we have 8,500 aquatic animals so it was tough to choose just 5 – well, 6…).  Anywho, hope to see you soon!