Commemorating World Sea Turtle Day with loggerhead sea turtle Seamore

This #TurtleTuesday is extra special because it’s also World Sea Turtle Day, a day to throw the spotlight on worldwide sea turtle science and conservation. We can’t think of a better ambassador for this day than our very own 9-month old rehab and release loggerhead sea turtle Seamore, rescued off the coast of North Carolina in 2014.


Last October Seamore was brought to Adventure Aquarium for 12-18 months of head-start preparations as our biologists provide nrichment and exercises meant to prepare Seamore for life in the “big blue” once he’s returned to the Atlantic Oceans in a little over a year.

Seamore as a tiny hatchling, getting ready for his journey to Adventure Aquarium

Seamore as a tiny hatchling, getting ready for his journey to Adventure Aquarium

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), of the 7 species of sea turtles, 6 are found in U.S. waters. All sea turtles occurring in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 10 populations are endangered and 6 populations are threatened.

Rescued off the coast of North Carolina, Seamore is prepped to his transfer to Adventure Aquarium in October 2014.

From Seamore’s archives! Prepped for his transfer in October 2014.

As a result, many conservation strategies are currently being implemented in an effort to help save sea turtles from extinction. In November 2012, Adventure Aquarium began participating in a sea turtle conservation and tracking project ran by North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. This conservation program allows sea turtle hatchlings to get a head start at aquariums where they are closely monitored and grow in a safe environment for eventual release into the ocean.

Aquarium Insider fans may recall last month’s update where we shared some of the outside-the-box enrichment biologists are providing to Seamore to keep him stimulated and ready for his eventual release. Biologist Dave Lestino is happy to report that Seamore is continuing to do well with his enrichment; slowly getting used his back scratcher and continuing to show interest in his wiffleball and grazer. And of course, he’s not just expanding his mind, he’s also maintaining a steady, healthy weight gain on his diet of 40 grams a day (food favorite: mastigias jellyfish treats) He’s now up to 1090 grams – nearly 2.5 pounds!

Check out Seamore in action on exhibit!

Curious what you can do to help sea turtles like Seamore? U.S. Fish & Wildlife offers these tips:

  • Minimize beachfront lighting during the sea turtle nesting season by turning off, shielding, or redirecting lights away from the beach.
  • Close blinds and draperies in oceanfront rooms at night to keep indoor lighting from reaching the beach.
  • Remove recreational equipment, such as lounge chairs, cabanas, umbrellas, and boats, from the beach at night. These items can deter nesting attempts and prevent hatchlings from reaching the ocean.
  • Do not to construct beach campfires during nesting season. Sea turtle hatchlings are attracted to the light and may crawl into fires and die.
  • Use your natural vision and moonlight when walking on the beach at night.
  • If you encounter a turtle on the beach at night, remain quiet, still and at a distance. Flash photography and human disturbance may prevent her from nesting successfully.
  • Leave the tracks left by turtles undisturbed. Researchers use the tracks to identify the species of turtle that nested and to find and mark the nests for protection.
  • If you encounter a sea turtle nest or hatchlings, leave the eggs and baby turtles alone.
  • Properly dispose of your garbage. Turtles may mistake plastic bags, styrofoam, and trash floating in the water as food and die when this trash blocks their intestines.
  • Celebrate events without the use of helium balloon releases. Like plastic trash, balloons end up in the ocean, especially when released near the coast. Sea turtles mistakenly eat the balloons and die.
  • Avoid trampling beach vegetation. Use boardwalks when available instead of walking over dunes. Natural vegetation stabilizes sand and reduces beach erosion.
  • When boating, stay alert and avoid sea turtles. Propeller and collision impacts from boats and ships can result in injury and death of sea turtles. Also, stay in channels and avoid running in seagrass beds to protect this important habitat from prop scarring and damage.
  • Avoid anchoring boats in seagrass beds and coral reefs which serve as important feeding and resting habitats for sea turtles.

9 reasons we ❤️‍ penguins

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re throwing the spotlight on Adventure Aquarium’s African penguin colony during our Mother’s Day Penguin Weekend, May 9 & 10. African penguins have much in common with us human counterparts; they mate for life and make great parents – each sharing mutual roles in the incubation of their offspring. While there’s much to love about these endangered sea birds, here are 9 of our most favorite reasons:

9 Reasons we ❤️‍ Penguins

Creative enrichment for rehab & release loggerhead sea turtle hatchling Seamore

This is part of a series of ongoing updates related to loggerhead sea turtle hatchling Seamore, rescued off North Carolina in 2014. A rehab and release animal, Seamore will be returned back to the Atlantic Ocean in 12-18 months after getting a head-start at Adventure Aquarium.

By: Dave Lestino


Since we last checked on him, little loggerhead sea turtle hatchling Seamore has been adjusting well to life inside his new temporary home in our Caribbean Currents exhibit!

He now weighs over 610 grams (a little under a pound and a half). Compare that to his original weigh in of 76 grams when he arrived at Adventure Aquarium in November. That’s a growth of over 800% – 8x as large! He’s been growing about 40-50 grams a week, helped along by our Fish & Invertebrates team that feed him 4% of his body weight – a typical amount for a growing sea turtle.

In order to prepare Seamore for his eventual re-release into the ocean, our team provides him various forms of enrichment. Environmental enrichment is used in sea turtle rehabilitation to stimulate hunting and foraging as well to stimulate curiosity.  Combined, the purpose is to reduce resting and patterned swimming behaviors and increase focused behavior and activity.


Most recently, we’ve been using food in a floating whiffle ball, lettuce or broccoli in a sinking PVC grazer, a PVC mesh feed mat with lettuce, ice blocks with frozen food, water bottles with holes that allow them to sink to the bottom, and of course – mastigias jellyfish treats.


Of these Seamore’s favorites are the ice blocks and PVC grazer.  He has not shown much interest in the whiffle ball, and is usually aggressive towards it as opposed to trying to remove the food from the ball!

Watch Seamore in action here:

Stay tuned for more updates, including some one-of-a-kind creative enrichment techniques to keep Seamore stimulated. In the meantime, plan a visit to meet him in person inside our Caribbean Currents exhibit near Ocean Realm in Zone A.


Biologist Spotlight: Breeding Red-Eyed Tree Frogs at Adventure Aquarium

We couldn’t end April without calling out everyone’s favorite colorful species: FROGS! Go behind-the-scenes with Biologist Lauren Hauber for insight into the breeding of red-eyed tree frogs, on exhibit in Zone C.

Content Provided by: Lauren Hauber, Biologist – Fish & Invertebrates

April is significant, and not just because it’s National Frog Month. It also marks the start of breeding season for these tiny amphibians. At Adventure Aquarium, Biologist Lauren Hauber of our Fish and Invertebrates Department is responsible for overseeing the collection and their breeding process. Lauren was caring for the frogs when a pair of red-eyed tree frogs paired up and produced eggs in June 2014.

Red-eyed tree frogs_1200

Frog ParentsIn the wild, males will start calling after a heavy rainstorm to attract females. When an interested female comes along, the male will climb on top of her until she finds a suitable place to deposit her eggs. Typically, the female looks for a smooth surface that hangs over a permanent water source, normally a leaf. But here at Adventure Aquarium the window was chosen as the best place. Our pair of red-eyed tree frogs laid about 100 eggs on the window overnight. The eggs being on the window even allowed guests to watch the embryos develop and see the tadpoles move around inside the eggs!

Egg casesAfter the female lays her eggs, the male fertilizes them. And believe it or not, this is as far as parenting goes for them; the babies are now on their own. IMG_1272

The change from embryo to tadpole normally takes 5 to 9 days. So a day or two before the eggs were supposed to hatch, Lauren put a small floating basket in the water below the eggs to catch the tadpoles. She then moved the tadpoles to their own enclosure behind the scenes to complete their development once all the tadpoles were hatched.


The first tadpoles started morphing into little tiny ¼ inch frogs just after about two months. Once the froglets had all four legs, Lauren moved them to a new enclosure where they could continue to grow. At this point, they still have their tail when they leave the water, and it takes a good few days for them to absorb it. When the froglets are finally ready to hunt, they eat teeny tiny insects. At Adventure Aquarium, they are fed a diet of flightless fruit flies and pinhead crickets.


The froglets will continue to grow very slowly, and are now about 1 inch long. Visitors will be able to soon see them on exhibit, but in the meantime, see adult red-eyed tree frogs in the Ribbit Room in KidZone.

Sea turtle Ozzy makes another successful swim in Ocean Realm

An update on the efforts biologists are taking to prepare this very special turtle for his new life inside Adventure Aquarium’s Ocean Realm exhibit. 

By: Sarah Stafford

Rescue loggerhead sea turtle Ozzy had another successful test dive in our Ocean Realm exhibit! This go-around there were notably more turtle interactions than his previous swims as Ozzy spent some time getting to know his future exhibit mates; particularly the “elder states-turtle” of Ocean Realm, Bob. During one instance, a curious Ozzy swam up to Bob head-on, and even when the biologists intervened a bit, Ozzy kept heading back to check on Bob!

Ozzy Swim 4.9_4

Ozzy Swim 4.9_2 Ozzy Swim 4.9_3 Ozzy Swim 4.9_1 Ozzy Swim 4.9_5

Green sea turtle Stitches came over to say hi, and Ozzy – for the second time – spent considerable time hanging around Old Green, even going so far as to continue resting his head on her shell. For her part, patient Old Green didn’t seem to be bothered by him at all. Our Fish & Invertebrates team was also excited to see Ozzy spent time at the surface of the water a lot more than the other dives. He’s making great progress!

Loggerhead sea turtle Ozzy makes his first swims inside Ocean Realm!

Biologist Sarah Stafford updates us on the efforts biologists are taking to prepare this very special turtle for his new life inside Adventure Aquarium’s Ocean Realm exhibit. 

By: Sarah Stafford, Biologist – Fish & Invertebrates

My name is Sarah and I am a biologist at Adventure Aquarium. I’m also the primary care giver for loggerhead sea turtle Ozzy, who has been at Adventure Aquarium since November 9, 2012. Ozzy was deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife because he has limited control of his rear flippers and he has had multiple lung infections which has resulted in a decreased lung capacity that has caused him to be slightly negatively buoyant. We received Ozzy from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, which has a rescue and rehab sea turtle program at their aquarium.

Ozzy in 2012

Ozzy, when he first arrived at Adventure Aquarium

When he first arrived at Adventure Aquarium, he weighed in at 5 pounds and was only 10 inches long. Presently, he weighs 55 pounds and is 60 inches long!  And while we don’t know Ozzy’s gender yet, as his name suggests, we refer to him as a male turtle. Ozzy was on exhibit while he was small, but for the last few months he has been living behind-the scenes in one of our large holding systems.  While behind-the-scenes, Ozzy was receiving medical treatments and learning how to swim in deeper water environments.

Ozzy, up close! A bigger, stronger turtle today.

Ozzy, up close! A bigger, stronger turtle today.

Today, Ozzy is currently living in our Ocean Realm acclimation area connected to the larger exhibit that guests see during a visit. He’s healthy enough to go on some excursions out into the 760,000 gallon exhibit and on March 12 we was his very first try. Ozzy did great!  He’s still a little guy compared to our other loggerhead, Bob, so our Fish & Invertebrates team dived with Ozzy just in case Bob got a little too curious.

Ozzy with our other, larger loggerhead sea turtle Bob

Ozzy with our other, larger loggerhead sea turtle Bob

Like I mentioned, he is a lot smaller than the other sea turtles so he can’t be out by himself just yet. The other concern with Ozzy was if he would be strong enough to make it to the surface for a breath of air since Ocean Realm is our deepest exhibit at 25 ft. Ozzy’s buoyancy issues were a concern for the team and we needed to make sure he would not have any trouble getting up in the water column.

Learning how to navigate inside Ocean Realm, with the help of Adventure Aquarium biologists

Learning how to navigate inside Ocean Realm, with the help of Adventure Aquarium biologists

During our first dive we had to nudge him a little to get him to swim up to the surface.  He made it to the top with only a little difficulty.  Then during his second dive, he made it three times to the surface by himself and even one from the abyss, the deepest part of Ocean Realm!  We are continuing his Ocean Realm swims weekly and monitoring what places we will need to adjust and make “Ozzy friendly.” Stay tuned for ongoing updates and to learn more about when you can see Ozzy during your next visit.

Watch the full video of Ozzy’s first swims inside Ocean Realm:

Spotlight on Adventure Aquarium’s Banggai cardinalfish research with Dr. Vagelli

By Alicia Longo, Biologist – Fish & Invertebrates

It was inevitable that I learned the story of the Banggai Cardinalfish, having Dr. Alejandro Vagelli as a professor for many of my graduate courses at Rutgers-Camden! As you may have read on our blog, or if you’ve been following Dr. Vagelli’s Indonesian adventure, these fish are found only in the Banggai Archipelago of Eastern Indonesia, inhabiting shallow seagrass beds and coral reefs of sheltered bays.

Wild Banggai cardinalfish in Indonesia

Dr. Vagelli, with wild Banggai cardinalfish in Indonesia

A Banggai cardinalfish at Adventure Aquarium

A Banggai cardinalfish at Adventure Aquarium

Geographic distribution is limited due to direct development; Banggais lack a larval pelagic stage that allows most marine fishes to disperse on a large scale. Instead, males incubate fertilized eggs within their mouth, and following hatching within the oral cavity, juveniles are released after developing and absorbing their nutrient-providing yolksac. Newly released juveniles seek immediate, nearby refuge within the predator-deterring structures of host organisms (e.g. urchin spines, branching corals, and anemone tentacles) to protect themselves against predation. The fish is unable to live without the protection offered by the host with no effect on the host species, a relationship known as obligated commensalism. As Banggai cardinalfish do not exhibit any defense mechanisms, utilizing protection provided by urchins, corals, and anemones is essential at all life stages.

Brooding male Banggai:

As a Fish & Invertebrates biologist at Adventure Aquarium and Rutgers-Camden Master’s student advised by Dr. Vagelli, I had a unique opportunity to work with both Dr. Vagelli and Adventure Aquarium to research the relationship of the Banggai cardinalfish and its host anemones. In its natural habitats, Banggai cardinalfish have been reported living in close association (often observed in contact with the tentacles) with various species of anemone and the anemone-like Heliofungia coral, without triggering a predatory response from the hosts, typically observed as closing and capturing. Similar to the well-known behavior of anemonefishes with host anemones (i.e. clownfishes), Banggais seem to possess protection against the stinging cells of anemones as well.

First juveniles bred at AAQ, seeking refuge in a Long Tentacle Anemone

First juveniles bred at AAQ, seeking refuge in a Long Tentacle Anemone

By breeding Banggai cardinalfish at Adventure Aquarium, I could observe newly released juveniles interacting with the stinging tentacles of anemones, as well as older juveniles and adults. Preliminary results were very encouraging, as newly released juveniles were recorded moving in and out of the anemones’ tentacles, and often seeking refuge within the tentacles, sometimes to the point where they were unable to be seen! It was clear that the juveniles were touching the anemones’ tentacles, and further research will be conducted to help understand the physiology of this relationship.

First Banggai cardinalfish bred at Adventure Aquarium:

This research is important in the conservation of the Banggai cardinalfish, by identifying important relationships between these species, and by contributing to the captive breeding of this fish, as it has been fished to unsustainable levels due to its popularity within the marine ornamental/aquarium trade.

We are now exhibiting our captive-bred Banggai cardinalfish juveniles with host urchins and anemones at Adventure Aquarium! See them on exhibit in Zone C.