Adventure Aquarium’s three-banded Armadillo gets into World Cup fever – and for good reason!

By: Brandon Deane – Biologist, Birds & Mammals

GGGGGOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!! You’ll be hearing this a lot during the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup being played in Brazil. The World Cup is played every 4years in different locations around the world and for the last 48years they have had a mascot representing not only the World Cup but also the Country in which the games are played. Well, say hello to Fuleco the Brazilian mascot.

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Fuleco is a fusion name for Futbol and Ecologia which means soccer and ecology, two things that are of great importance to not only Brazil but the world. Now what makes Fuleco so cool to us here at Adventure Aquarium is that he is a three-banded armadillo…just like our very own Tank.

Tank2The three-banded armadillo, unfortunately, is a species on the decline because of deforestation and hunting by humans so having Tank…I mean Fuleco as the FIFA World Cup mascot will be great for education and awareness for this species. Not to mention he is just so stinkin cute. Brazil kicks off the World Cup on June 12 against Croatia and Fuleco will be there rooting for his country. Root all you want Fuleco, we have a Tank that says team U.S.A. is going to make some noise.

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U.S.A. plays June 16th vs. Ghana @ 6pm, June 22nd vs. Portugal @ 6pm, and June 26th vs. Germany @ Noon.

So lets Kick It!!!! The soccer ball of course, not Tank.

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How our biologists use everyday items to strengthen the bonds of our penguin pairs

By: Jenn Hutchins, Biologist – Birds & Mammals

Hi everyone this is Cliff, one of our 24 resident African black-footed penguins.  Cliff is 26 years old and he lives at Adventure Aquarium with his mate Mouse.

Clif Penguin Enrichment

Throughout the week the keepers like giving the penguin colony different types of enrichment.  One of the main things we like to give the penguins are items of different shapes and sizes to bring back to their nests and to help show off for their mates.

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Here at the aquarium we give the penguins a variety of items to carry around such as whiffle balls, plastic chains, small children toys, and small dog toys.  In this picture Cliff has one of his favorite “toys” -a yellow plastic chain that he takes back to his nest and shows off for Mouse.

Clif Penguin Enrichment4

When a penguin brings an item back to the nest both mates get really excited and put on a visual and vocal display.  They can also be seen sitting on different toys as if it is an egg.  Giving these items to the penguins is very important to stimulate breeding behavior and create a stronger bond between mates.

Clif Penguin Enrichment2

Watch Adventure Aquarium’s armadillo Tank try peanut butter for the first time!

By: Amy Haddock, Biologist – Birds & MammalsTank

Tank is a southern three-banded armadillo from South America.  He is a year and half old and weighs two pounds.  His diet at Adventure Aquarium consists of bugs, vegetables, fruit, and pellets.  In the wild armadillos eat mostly insects.  Tank has a long sticky tongue to help him catch his bugs.

We use all-natural peanut butter to make giving medicine easier or as a special treat for a lot of our animals.  Too much peanut butter is not a good thing so our animals do not get it that very and in small amounts, this keeps it new and exciting.  This was the first time Tank has ever experienced peanut butter.  His trainers figured lots of other animals like it so why not try Tank.  And it turns out he loved it!  That long tongue turned out to be more useful than just catching bugs.

Adventure Aquarium Biologist Leads Local Horseshoe Crab Conservation Efforts

By: Matt Ferroni, Senior Biologist

Hello my name is Matt Ferroni, and I’m a Senior Biologist here at Adventure Aquarium. While my main responsibilities include overseeing our 550,000 gallon Shark Realm exhibit and several holding systems, I am also in charge of our Horseshoe Crab Head-Start Program, which began in July of 2011.

Over the past few decades Horseshoe Crabs have been harvested for use as eel and conch bait, as well as by the biomedical industry for the production of LAL (limulus amoebocyte lysate), which is produced from Horseshoe Crab blood. LAL is used to screen surgical implants, intravenous drugs, and vaccines for bacteria that could otherwise make you very ill. For that reason alone, Horseshoe Crabs are incredibly important to humans.

Horseshoe Crabs also serve a very important ecological role. Every spring and summer, females crawl onto the beaches of the Delaware Bay and lay eggs, sometimes up to 80,000 in one season. It is said that of these 80,000 eggs only ten might reach adulthood. So what happens to the rest of them? Unfortunately the majority of the eggs and hatchlings are eaten by fish, crabs, and even shorebirds. In fact, these eggs are the only food source for the threatened Red Knot, a migratory shorebird that stops in the Delaware Bay during its 10,000 mile flight from southern Chile to the Canadian Arctic.

Without these eggs as a food source, the Red Knot cannot finish the flight to its breeding grounds and many have perished as a result. Horseshoe Crabs are also an important prey item for sea turtles, and their numbers could directly influence the health of turtle populations.

For the reasons mentioned above, we felt it was important to get involved in helping to increase the Horseshoe Crab population. In July of 2011 I traveled to Kimbles Beach in Cape May Court House, NJ with Dr. Dan Hernandez of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Dan helped me locate and excavate several clutches of eggs that were buried below the surface.

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Excavating Horseshoe Crab Eggs

The eggs were brought back to Adventure Aquarium where they hatched and have been growing ever since. This process has been repeated every year and each year we are even more successful. Come this summer Adventure Aquarium will be releasing hundreds of crabs from both the 2011 and 2012 collections. These Horseshoe Crabs grow faster than those in the wild due to the conditions we raise them in as well as the food that they receive.

Each morning I come into work eager to see how many new molts there are, I then separate the crabs according to size, and offer them different food items based on those sizes.

It has been truly incredible watching these animals grow from just a few millimeters to the size of my hand in what is actually a very short period of time. I am excited to release these animals back into their environment and look forward to collecting some more eggs this summer.

Horseshoe Crab developing in the egg

Horseshoe Crab developing in the egg

Trilobite Larvae

Trilobite Larvae

Trilobite Larvae 0.3 cm 1 day old

Trilobite Larvae 0.3 cm 1 day old

2nd Instar.  One week old (now has a tail)

2nd Instar. One week old (now has a tail)

6th Instar 2 months old

6th Instar 2 months old

 

11th Instar 1 year old

11th Instar 1 year old

14th Instar 2 yrs 9 months

14th Instar 2 yrs 9 months

Adventure Aquarium’s Fish & Invertebrates department spotlights our newest arrivals – just in time for spring!

By: Nikki Grandinetti, Curator of Fish & Invertebrates

Single spotted lagoon jelly polyp. Photo captured by Biologist Nicole Gioia.

Single spotted lagoon jelly polyp. Photo captured by Biologist Nicole Gioia.

At Adventure Aquarium, we’re very excited that spring has finally arrived. Not only does it means that we get to see flowers blooming and the return of green grass outside, but it also signals the arrival of some very special animals.  In Adventure Aquarium’s Fish and Invertebrates Department, we have had good success with the rearing and propagation of several different species.

Everyone might not think about fish and invertebrates with the same cute and cuddly regard they give penguins or mammals, but the diversity and challenges of rearing these unique creatures is very rewarding to the team.

Adult medusa spotted lagoon jelly.

Adult medusa spotted lagoon jelly.

The team has been rearing a new species of jellyfish – the spotted lagoon jelly (Mastigias papua). Jellyfish have three main different life stages: the polyp, ephyrae, and medusa. A polyp resembles a very tiny flower with a stalk and tentacles on top. The key to propagation is getting these tiny polyps (2 to 3mm) to produce ephyra, which are very small pulsing jellyfish, that bud off the top of the polyp.

This past month the team has also been hard at work raising tomato clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus) from eggs. The clownfish go thru multiple different larval stages, and the fry need to be feed a special diet of algae, rotifers, and copepods. This year, the team spent time setting up a special larval fish rearing system and learning how to collect eggs from different species throughout the aquarium. Breeding and raising larval fish promotes sustainability within the aquarium industry and is also an important way to collect data and understand how different species reproduce.

A microscope helps give us a glimpse into the incredible life cycle of a tomato clownfish, from eggs (top, left) to a newly hatched larva – only 1 mm! (top, center), growing to 2 mm at 10 days post-hatch (top, right) to getting adult coloration at 25 days post-hatch (bottom, left) and finally – total adult coloration at 30 days post-hatch (bottom, right).  Photos courtesy of biologist Cara Johnson.

A microscope helps give us a glimpse into the incredible life cycle of a tomato clownfish, from eggs (top, left) to a newly hatched larva – only 1 mm! (top, center), growing to 2 mm at 10 days post-hatch (top, right) to getting adult coloration at 25 days post-hatch (bottom, left) and finally – total adult coloration at 30 days post-hatch (bottom, right). Photos courtesy of biologist Cara Johnson.

Another species that has been recently reproducing at the aquarium are the white’s seahorses, (Hippocampus whitei). These are an indopacific species of seahorses that live in shallow seagrass beds. The most interesting fact about seahorses is that the males carry the fertilized eggs in a specialized pouch on their abdomen.

Check out the incredible video biologist Kari Milroy captured of one of the male white’s seahorses giving birth:

We can only hope that besides spring bringing us new fish and invertebrates at Adventure Aquarium, we’ll also soon be observing baby birds, bunnies and flowers!

Top 5 Ways to Interact with Sharks at Adventure Aquarium

While the nation is celebrating Shark Week, we like to think “Every Week is Shark Week at Adventure Aquarium.” Here’s a rundown of our top 5 favorite ways to interact with the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast:

1. Touch a Shark!
Sure, sharks are super cool to watch behind the glass, or even on TV from the comfort of your living room. But you know what? It’s time to turn it up a notch and reach in to actually TOUCH a shark at Adventure Aquarium! Rest assured, the species in our Touch-a-Shark exhibit – including Indo Pacific Brown-banded, White Spotted Bamboo and Mexican Horn Sharks – are small, docile and harmless to humans.  BUT…as fun as it is for us to hear kids (and kids at heart) shout “I touched a shark!”, it’s even more thrilling to actually roll up your sleeves and have a turn at it yourself! Touch-a-Shark, sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is open 365 days a year, 10 am – 5 pm and is included with General Admission to Adventure Aquarium.

2. Check out the only two Great Hammerheads on exhibit in the country
Adventure Aquarium has the distinction of being the only aquarium in the United States with Great Hammerheads on exhibit. Our Great Hammerheads are about 7 feet long and 3 1/2 feet long. We’re not sure how big they’ll grow up to be, but the biggest Great Hammerheads on record were 20 feet long and over 950 lbs. (Wowsa!) Our Great Hammerheads are superstars during Shark Fest this summer, but you can visit them anytime in our 750,000 gallon Ocean Realm exhibit, where you can come within inches of these rare and fascinating creatures.

3. Come nose to nose with the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast
Who would have thought that being surrounded by sharks could be so…AWESOME?! It’s one thing to be floating around off the Jersey Shore and spot a gray fin (you would likely be on the shore in what – .001 seconds?). But it’s entirely something else to experience the immediate “wow” moment you get when strolling through our clear, 40-foot suspended Shark Tunnel. It’s here where you’ll come face to face with 23 different sharks as they swim and coast (literally) over your head and all around you. It’s all the thrills, and none of the spine-tingling chills.

4. Become a Megalodon Aficionado
It takes a pretty impressive animal to make a Great White look like fish bait. Thing is, Megalodon – also known as THE LARGEST SHARK THAT EVER LIVED – is extinct…has been for 2 million years.  But Mega-fever is stronger than ever! And, you still have a few weeks to discover what all the buzz is about. It takes just one walk through the “belly” of our metal Megalodon sculpture to realize just how massive this predator was. Oh, and the part about Great White sharks? Well, they’ve got BIG teeth. But their teeth are miniscule (3”) when compared to one of Megalodon’s (7”). And did you know that Megalodon ate the equivalent of 6,667 tuna cans. IN A DAY!  There’s so much to learn. Enter with awe, and leave with respect. Megalodon, Largest Shark that Ever Lived, sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is on exhibit at Adventure Aquarium for a limited time only – now through September 3, and is included with General Admission to Adventure Aquarium.
5. Go behind the scenes with our sharks.
We all know them…they’re shark fanatics. They love everything about these amazing creatures, they can school us on the difference between Sand Tiger and Tiger Sharks and they live each week like its Shark Week.  If you know someone like this (or if this person is you…) – listen up!  Did you know that you could actually SWIM WITH sharks at Adventure Aquarium? Or help our biologists prepare their food and pole feed hungry sharks in Shark Realm? Our Adventure programs are one-of-a-kind, and experiences you’ll never forget. Well what did you expect? We like to provide a full range of fintastic fun here! Swimming with sharks? Pole-feeding sharks? No big deal (shrugging shoulders). Here’s your chance. Swim with the Sharks and Feeding Fury are additional experiences, and are not included with General Admission to Adventure Aquarium. For more information, including pricing options and how to schedule, visit AdventureAquarium.com.