Thursday, May 27, 2010

Camera Shy New Baby Turtles at the Tennessee Aquarium

We have some new baby turtles at the Tennessee Aquarium, but they are a bit camera shy for now. According to senior herpetologist Bill Hughes, the two babies are four-eyed turtles (Sacalai quadriocellata) that hatched this week from eggs laid by an off-exhibit pair on 9 March. The incubation time was 77-78 days at 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The hatchlings weigh about 15 grams and will be maintained off-exhibit. This is the third time that this species has reproduced at the Aquarium. The adults that bred this time have not reproduced previously and are unrelated to the other babies that have hatched. Congratulations to the Aquarium staff members who care for our extensive turtle collection. They must feel like proud parents once again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Gibson" Visits Chattanooga

We were all heartbroken by the devastating floods that struck Nashville earlier this month. For two days at the beginning of May, while we sat high and dry in Chattanooga, torrents of rainfall seemed to be stuck in place over western and middle Tennessee. So when the call for assistance came in from the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant at the Opry Mills Mall, the Tennessee Aquarium husbandry department and curators from the Nashville Zoo were more than willing to lend a helping hand.
One of the most beloved animals of the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant is "Gibson," the giant guitarfish. (That's actually the common name for the species, but it's also fitting for this HUGE animal.) A team of divers were able to rescue "Gibson" and transport him safely to the Tennessee Aquarium's Animal Care Facility in Chattanooga. A special tip of the hat to volunteer divers Kevin Raney and Les Blackford who assisted Landry's curator Kevin Rowe with Gibson’s rescue.
According to Rob Mottice, Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist, "We couldn't have asked for a better acclimation and adjustment period. Gibson is doing great in his temporary surroundings. All of his swimming and feeding behaviors are absolutely normal." Mottice was part of the team that went to Nashville to rescue Gibson. All other fish and reptiles that survived the flood were relocated to the Nashville Zoo.

Mottice says that Gibson swims up to the side of the tank, stops and looks at any Aquarium staff members who come to visit. Mottice says he may be looking to get some more food. And it's no wonder! Gibson has been served rather tasty gourmet meals since arriving in Chattanooga. He has been feasting upon whole squid stuffed with one whole shrimp and two whole lake smelt. Gibson happily gobbles down four of these seafood-stuffed squid at each feeding. Tennessee Aquarium chefs prepare this haute cuisine five days a week. (All Aquarium animals dine on restaurant quality seafood.)

This diet closely mirrors the diet he was receiving at home in Nashville prior to the relocation.

Gibson's temporary home is a 23,000 gallon, circular tank that is 23 feet in diameter and five feet deep. The top rim of the tank has been fitted with a two foot jump barrier to ensure Gibson's safety.

Gibson shares his temporary home with several brown-banded bamboo sharks, a blue tang and a squirrelfish.
"We appreciate the tremendous support from the community during this unfortunate time,” said James Prappas, Director of Biology Nashville Aquarium Restaurant. “We know Gibson and the other fish and reptiles are in good care and we look forward to their return home at the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant.”
Mottice said, "We're glad we could help out and we're hopeful that Gibson's stay with us is a relatively short one. I'm sure all of his fans in Nashville are ready to see him back home."
We'll keep you posted on when you can see Gibson back home at the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Information

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has a number of resources available for anyone concerned about the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Forecast maps, like the one shown above, are available along with a large number of links related to response measures. Those resources are available here:
If you are considering assisting as a volunteer, a number of agencies have posted information about ways you can get involved:
Facebook Gulf Coast Oil Spill Volunteers:

“Volunteers are NOT yet needed, but we are collecting the contact info of people who want to assist in any clean-up efforts. We will be in touch with interested volunteers when we have a better idea of what kinds of volunteer assistance will be needed.”
· Mobile Bay National Estuary Program 251-431-6409
· Alabama Coastal Foundation 251-990-6002
· Mobile Baykeeper ( 251-433-4229 or e-mail with your name, address, phone number, e-mail, and available resources (boat, etc.)

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana is "acting as a volunteer clearinghouse." Anyone interested in helping can fill out the volunteer form accessible at
Louisiana Emergency Page with hotlines for reporting on oil rig damage and claims + volunteer information -
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has Oil Spill Response: News and Resources on their opening page at

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources 228-374-5000
Institute for Marine Mammals (IMMS): Facebook Post 4.30.2010
o If you would like to assist IMMS with oil spill response you can sign up to become an IMMS emergency volunteer. To sign up, send an email with the following information to . You must be at least 18 years old to volunteer.
o Please include the following: name, address, cell phone number, ability to receive text messages, proximity to Gulfport, relevant education or skills (Examples: SCUBA diver, veterinarian or vet assistant, biologist, medical professional, mechanic, operate heavy/special equipment, boat captain), times and days you are available to volunteer, physical limitations such as medical conditions or inability to lift heavy objects.