Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Tell Jelly Who's Playing the River Market

Jelly, a Virginia opossum, is one of the most popular creatures that visitors get to meet during Animal Encounter programs at the Tennessee Aquarium. Our educators bring critters out into the public spaces every hour of every day in both Aquarium buildings for these impromptu "meet and greets." These added programs are a big hit with visitors and they walk away knowing a little more about the animals they've just met. In Jelly's case, an animal that could literally live in their backyards, but they might not otherwise come across. There are a lot of myths and misinformation about opossums and our Animal Encounter Specialists help everyone gain a better understanding of these animals and their roles in the environment. Many people are surprised by Jelly's mild manners and soft fur.

It's with tongue in cheek that we say, "Don't tell Jelly who's playing at the Chattanooga River Market tomorrow."

The Possum Hunters Bluegrass Band will perform on the Aquarium Plaza from Noon until 2:30 pm this Saturday, August 28th. This Chattanooga act is a crowd favorite. Check out a few samples on their website here:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Have You Herd? Cowfish, cownose rays and cows at the Tennessee Aquarium

We had a lot of fun recently when two of the Chick-fil-A cows visited the Tennessee Aquarium. They were on hand to meet, nose to nose, a scrawled cowfish before it was introduced to the Secret Reef exhibit in the Ocean Journey building. This curious fish seemed pretty interested in the friendly bovines looking in at it.

Several Aquarium guests came up to pose for pictures with the Chick-fil-A cows and get some close-ups of the cowfish. This little guy is one of more than 250 reef fish being added to the Secret Reef. Our husbandry staff has been caring for these fish at the Aquarium's Animal Care Facility while they were completing the quarantine process. Chick-fil-A is now the official sponsor of the Aquarium's Lunch & Learn Programs. “The Chattanooga Area Chick-fil-A restaurants are honored to help support the Tennessee Aquarium’s Lunch and Learn programs,” said Mitch Collins, Operator of the Chick-fil-A restaurant at Gunbarrel Pointe. “We fully encourage quality, interactive and fun activities for families, and are proud to support the Aquarium as it provides programs, events and unforgettable experiences for the families in our community,"

Last year, more than 77,000 students visited the Aquarium to see cownose stingrays, cowfish and thousands of other creatures. Lunch & Learn Programs give teachers added value to each outing. “Thanks to ongoing community support, we are able to offer educational programs free of charge to visiting school groups,” said Tim Baker, the Aquarium’s director of education. “Lunch and Learn helps teachers make the most of their time here. We offer four different, grade-specific programs students can receive while they are having lunch. The kids enjoy them as much as our educators enjoy delivering them.”

Classroom Programs, Lunch & Learn and Auditorium Programs are FREE for school groups visiting the Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX 3D Theater or River Gorge Explorer. These free programs are limited to one per school group but additional programs may be scheduled for $3 per student.
If you know a teacher, pass this link along to them: and ask them if they've "herd" about the Aquarium's exciting, FREE education programs.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Award-Winning Bluegrass at the Chattanooga River Market

If you haven't been to the new Chattanooga River Market yet, this weekend might be a great time to check it out. The weekly Saturday public market, open from 10am-5pm, brings a variety of sights and sounds, including live music from local and touring artists to the Aquarium Plaza.
Like the popular Sunday Chattanooga Market, the River Market is producer-only and features only artists, craftsmen and local entrepreneurs who are directly involved in the creation of their products, creating a “uniquely Chattanoogan” experience for residents & tourists alike.

This Saturday, from 11:00 am until 1:30 pm, Nora Jane Struthers will perform on the Aquarium Plaza. She recently won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and was recently featured on BMP, Bluegrass Music Profiles:

Here's a taste of her music:

We hope to see you at the Tennessee Aquarium this weekend!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Freshwater Jellies: They Didn't Escape From The Tennessee Aquarium

Tennessee Aquarium visitors are mesmerized by the gorgeous jellyfish species on display in the Ocean Journey building. Jellies: Living Art is a joint exhibition with the Hunter Museum of American Art. Six species of jellies are showcased alongside the stunning works of four artists whose studio glass was inspired by nature. These pulsing animals are saltwater creatures. But did you know there are some FRESHWATER jellies right here in Chattanooga?

Senior aquarist Sharyl Crossley takes care of the jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium. She had a fun adventure recently, snorkeling just north of Chattanooga in search of freshwater jellies.
Her pictures of these delicate beauties remind us that there is a surprisingly diverse community of life in our lakes and streams.

Here's what our resident jellyfish expert has to say about these little-known native creatures.
Crossley: "The scientific name for this species is Craspedacusta sowerbyi. The family that these jellies belong to is Oliniidae. Commonly they are usually referred to just as freshwater jellyfish, but an alternate name that I have also seen is peach blossom jellyfish. They are in the Cnidarian phylum (Class Hydrozoan – like the Aquarium's umbrella jellies.)
"Should people be afraid of being stung by these local jellies?"
Crossley: "They do possess stinging cells, however their stingers are quite small and typically do not bother humans. They feed on small freshwater plankton (i.e. daphnia and copepods).

"Where can freshwater jellyfish be found?"
Crossley:"These jellies are pretty common, but because of their small size (an adult is about the diameter of a dime), clear bodies, and short life span – you usually have to be in the right place at the right time and be observant to spot them. Their normal habitats include calm streams/rivers, lakes, ponds, and flooded rock quarries. They have a global distribution and been found in almost every state in the U.S., as well as across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Canada, and Central America. They are believed to have originated in China.
"When can peach blossom jellyfish be seen here?"
Crossley:"They seem to prefer warm water and are therefore only found during the summer months here in Tennessee. I usually start getting phone calls from local fisherman that spot them in mid July until September. The medusa seem to be short lived (2-4weeks maybe) so I would guess freshwater jellies in our area produce more than one bloom of medusa each summer. In tropical areas, where the weather stays warm year round, these jellies can probably be found intermittently through out the year.”

"Will we be able to see peach blossom jellies at the Aquarium?"
Crossley: "I have collected some in the past to try to start a culture, but without much success. I would like to try again, but haven’t had time to create a suitable holding system for them. According to literature on this species, the biggest hurdle to culturing freshwater jellies may be that the majority of freshwater jelly populations found in the United States are either all male or all female - making sexual reproduction (typical method used to start jellyfish cultures in captivity) almost impossible. A culture could be started using asexual methods, but that would require finding the polyps in the wild. The polyps are typically solitary and quite small, so looking for them is like looking for a needle in a haystack…in a field of haystacks.”
Well, at least we got to see these pictures. (Taken by senior aquarist Matt Hamilton on the same snorkeling trip.) Thanks Sharyl and Matt for sharing them and giving us some great information on these interesting animals.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rare Turtles Hatch at the Tennessee Aquarium

Tennessee Aquarium herpetologists have been quite busy recently. Six red-necked pond turtles (Mauremys nigricans), seen above, hatched recently from eggs that were laid in the Asian River exhibit about two months ago. The adults are currently on display in that display. The Tennessee Aquarium is currently the only U.S. zoo working with this species, which is considered endangered in the wild in its native China.

Three yellow-blotched map turtles (Graptemys flavimaculata), above two images, also hatched recently. This species is classified as Threatened by the Endangered Species Act. Some of the babies from last year are on display in the nursery tanks in Turtle World gallery. Some older animals can be seen in the Pascagoula exhibit in Discovery Hall which is located inside the Aquarium's River Journey building.

Newly hatched turtle babies like these still have their egg tooth which they use to break out of the eggshell. It's the white, pointed object in the close-up images below the turtle's nostrils.
Visit the Tennessee Aquarium to see one of the world's largest living collections of turtle species. You'll be amazed by the beauty of these creatures.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Legends of Flight 3D Takes off at IMAX Tomorrow

Above image: A Stearman model 75 biplane seen in Legends of Flight 3D. Copyright 2009, Jetliner Films Inc. / The Stephen Low Company

This is my second day back in the office after a nice trip. I'm always amazed at how many people are travelling by air on any given day and how, for the most part, all of those flights manage to arrive on time. I enjoyed two comfortable flights aboard 737s, small planes compared to the A380 and 787 which are featured in Legends of Flight 3D.

According to Boeing, "The new, super-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is the
culmination of years of international corporate cross-pollination, drawing on the expertise
of Boeing’s domestic and international production capabilities as well as the
individualized expertise of many noteworthy global suppliers. This impressive
amalgamation has resulted in a leading-edge airplane that brings flight ranges of up to
8,500 nautical miles to mid-size airplanes featuring significant passenger loads." (Up to 330 people.)

But there's an even larger passenger airliner out there. The Airbus 380 can carry almost 500 more passengers than the 787! According to the Legends of Flight 3D film information: "The A380 can accommodate up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration.
Since its first commercial flight in October 2007, between Singapore and Sydney,
the A380 has garnered both attention and awe. The plane’s eight-story high profile,
docked to jetways in major airports worldwide, has drawn stares of amazement from
onlookers. It has also been the subject of considerable acclaim for the engineering which
allows it to cruise for about 8,200 miles at nearly 560 miles per hour."

Legends of Flight 3D opens at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater tomorrow with special showings through Monday, August 16th. Other featured aircraft are: a Stearman bi-plane, Lockheed Constellation, Harrier Jump Jet, and the Schleicher Glider.

Here's a sneak peek at what you'll see on the giant screen at IMAX:

Check showtimes and purchase tickets online at:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Baby Penguin Growing Rapidly at the Tennessee Aquarium

Wow! It's amazing how fast the Tennessee Aquarium's baby penguin is growing. The little gentoo chick isn't so little anymore. We still don't know whether this bird is a boy or a girl. It is 33 days old today. And while it is still adorable, it looks a little awkward right now. Look how big its feet look in relation to the body.
It now eats larger pieces of regurgitated fish from mom, but it is not yet ready to eat whole fish. The chick can keep himself/herself warm in the air now, though most of the time his/her head is buried under mom’s flipper. There has been more movement in the nest by the chick, and occasionally he/she comes up to the acrylic and tries to bite at nosy macaroni and gentoo onlookers!

In the above photo, aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich examines the chick before placing it in the brooder while the nest gets a cleaning. The plush animals help keep the chick comfortable while in the brooder for short periods of time.

Another chick on the way???
Poncho and Peep have two eggs on their nest, and the hatch range for them is August 1-5. On Friday, July 30, Dr. Keller and a few other staff members candled the eggs. This is done in a dark room, using a light that shines through the egg and shows if anything is developing inside. While results are not 100% conclusive, it appears that one of the eggs may have a developed chick inside. If nothing has hatched by August 12th, one week after they are due, then we’ll know that they were infertile.