Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jellyfish Mystery Solved

Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Sharyl Crossley is a saltwater Sherlock Holmes. If there's an unusual creature that needs to be identified, especially if it's a jellyfish, Sharyl can usually name the animal and provide some great insight into where the animal lives, what it eats and other fascinating facts. So when this e-mail came in about a mysterious jellyfish, Sharyl was the one with the answer. She says the jelly-like critter is really a nudibranch. Read on:

Hello Folks,

Here be a strange Jelly we stopped for a few minutes. Hoping for identification, or a lead to someone who might be able to, I am sending it to you.

This little guy is about 7" in length, tubular with flattened oar-like appendages. It stopped undulating after a few minutes in a green bucket of chuck, which caused great affection enough to let it loose, but resumed before I let it go. Which left me later wishing I'd penned it for a bit until able to arrange for better photos. Alas, it is off into The Wild and good luck.

Here are a few poorly focused photos:

Flash photo shows natural coloration

The following photos taken with natural late-day lighting are enhanced to reveal inner variegations

Your comment will be much appreciated.


Tom Clarke - Captain
50 36 N
125 37 W
Alder Island - The Broughton Archipelago Marine Preserve
Gateway to The Great Bear Rain Forest
British Columbia, Canada

Sharyl's answer:

It appears to be a hooded nudibranch, such as Melibe leonina, family Tethyidae.
They typically attach to kelp or eel grass and catch plankton with their disk shaped “mouth”. They can be found “free swimming” in surface waters after storms etc. They range from Alaska to Gulf of CA, and can grow to 10-15cm in length.

In these pics you can’t really make out the head/tentacles too well, but it’s probably tucked in due to stress. The paired leaf-like appendages and the venations throughout the body are what lead me to believe this is a Melibe.

See awesome studio glass art and mysterious-looking jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grizzlies and Wildcats at the Tennessee Aquarium

We had a lot of fun at the Tennessee Aquarium last night. The NCAA and the Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee hosted a reception to welcome the student-athletes and coaches to Chattanooga. The University of Montana and Villanova University are the two FCS teams in the Division I Football Championship game this Friday night. Joining the student-athletes for this reception were children from the Bethel Bible Village and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chattanooga. The children received footballs and pens to collect autographs. They also got an official game coin. All of the kids seemed to really enjoy interacting with the players. And it was fun to hear them acting as unofficial tour guides, sharing their knowledge of their favorite animals like huge catfish and toothy sharks.
Volunteer divers Bill Hall and Mary Clor entertained the guests by donning team jerseys, passing an underwater "football" and tackling each other.
Best of luck to both teams!
Fans can save money on Aquarium admission this weekend: www.tnaqua.org
Tickets are still available for the Championship Game: www.tickettracks.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

Looking for a unique gift? Catch 'Orchid Fever' at the Tennessee Aquarium

Chilly days like today make me thankful for the opportunity to visit the Tennessee Aquarium's Tropical Cove and Butterfly Garden. It's nice to be surrounded by the warmth, hyacinth macaws, sharks, rays, butterflies, wood partridges and the new Palawan peacock-pheasant. This year visitors are in for a special treat, the Tropical Cove and Butterfly Garden are bursting with colorful and unusual orchids. It's amazing to see the dazzling hues and intricate shapes of the blooms. Guests will be surprised and delighted by this addition to the Aquarium's "Tropical Holiday Adventure." And if you know a plant lover, here's a chance to bring touch of the tropics into your home. The Aquarium has numerous varieties of orchids for sale right now.
Charlene Nash, Tennessee Aquarium horticulturist says orchids are great houseplants in spite of what you may have heard. Learn more by watching this video:

There are small plants in bloom starting at $8.99 and larger ones starting at 19.99 up to $40.00. There are also a few rare black orchids, in a very limited number, at $100.00. Remember, these are only available in the Ocean Journey Gift Shop!
Beth Cox and Geraldine Powell of The Orchid Gallery will be giving a free lecture and potting demonstration on December 19th and 20th. Their talk will be Orchids 101, providing some basic information on these spectacular plants. These talks are free with paid admission. The Tennessee Valley Orchid Society will have some of their members present to give talks in the Tropical Cove in Ocean Journey at various times during the next few weeks before Christmas.
Here's a video taste of what awaits you inside Ocean Journey:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Penguin Sleuth - DNA Answers Question

We have been waiting for the penguin physicals to get a blood sample from the macaroni chick to determine whether the Tennessee Aquarium's baby penguin is a boy or a girl. The DNA sample has been sent to a lab for analysis. Take a look:

Now that you've seen the video, we want to know what you think. Is it a boy or girl?
Let us know here: http://www.facebook.com/tennesseeaquarium

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Penguin Physicals

The penguins get physical exams two times a year and it's a very busy day for Aquarium staff and volunteers. The day begins bright and early with a gentoo and macaroni roundup. Most of the penguins tend to play follow the leader once the keeper door is opened into the penguin backup area. They simply follow their curiosity into the holding area, encouraged by some fishy treats. There are a couple of wise guys however. In the top picture you see "Blue", the lone gentoo who decided to hang out with his macaroni pal "Merlin" while the water was being drained from the exhibit.
Every roundup needs a sheriff, so Kevin Calhoon had to wade into the exhibit to nab the two holdouts.

As part of the examination, each bird is weighed and blood samples are taken. This is just like a human annual exam. In the picture above, Kevin Calhoon gently holds the baby macaroni penguin while Amy Graves steadies the chick's foot as Dr. Chris Keller obtains the blood sample.

Volunteer Fran Hiestand logs weight information and labels blood vials while assisting the team.

Meanwhile, another big job is underway. Here's Aquarium volunteer George McGinness displaying the tools of the trade - brushes of various sizes used to give the exhibit a deep cleaning while the penguins are off-exhibit.

Aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich begins the deep cleaning process with a pressure washer. The exhibit gets brushed and disinfected on a daily basis, but more vigorous cleaning still needs to be done from time to time.

Algae builds up on the bottom of the pool, but is easily blasted away by the power washer. Loribeth points out the dramatic difference the scrubbing makes.

Aquarium volunteer Sheri Schannuth would be underwater on any other day. But while the pool is empty, she can work on making sure the acrylic windows are spotless. Visitors enjoy the crystal clear views of our playful penguins.

Biscuit wraps up her physical by looking back at Kevin. Like any good patient, it appears as if she's saying, "I was good. Where's my treat?"