Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer flounder - Bottom-Dwelling Houdinis

 Above: "Now you see them...." Five summer flounder rest in a transport container before being introduced into the Tennessee Aquarium's Stingray Bay touch tank.
Below: "Now you don't!" Summer flounder have the ability to change skin tones to match their surroundings. As a result, they seem to disappear in their new home. Photos by: Carol Haley / Tennessee Aquarium

Summer flounder now on display at the Tennessee Aquarium by guest blogger Carol Haley, assistant curator of fishes.

Five Summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus were added to Stingray Bay.  These were donated to us by the Maritime Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut.

This is one of the highlighted species in the Aquarium's Serve & Protect sustainable seafood program.

Summer flounder are left-eye flounder, which means as larval fish, their right eye migrates up next to their left eye and they spend all their time lying the right side of their body.  They are found along the east coast of the United States and in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and can grow to nearly 3 feet in length.

Summer flounder are closely related to Southern flounder, but have 5 distinctive eye-spots that help them camouflage on the muddy and sandy bottoms where they live.

Summer flounder are apparently very tasty and can be steamed, fried, boiled, micro-waved, smoked, baked, barbequed, broiled and even prepared as sashimi.  Although you can taste them at the Alton Brown event on September 13th  , Aquarium visitors may only touch the ones on display. Check out a savory summer flounder recipe, along with other recipes by the Aquarium's Serve & Protect partner restaurants in the August issue of CHATTER Magazine. Or, try one of these sustainable seafood recipes developed by Alton Brown.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Salute to the Tennessee Aquarium's 20-Year Volunteers

The Tennessee Aquarium has been privileged to have so many people give their time and share their talents since opening to the public on May 1st, 1992. We'd like to thank all of our volunteers who work tirelessly assisting staff behind-the-scenes as well as interacting with our visitors. Their effort to go the extra mile is one of the many reasons the Tennessee Aquarium is rated the highest Aquarium in the nation for overall visitor satisfaction.

A special thanks goes out to those who have been part of the volunteer corps since the beginning. These individuals are active throughout the community in many ways. Non-profit institutions like the Aquarium simply couldn't function without dedicated volunteers who choose to contribute both service and financial gifts. 

(In no particular order.)
 Beverly Kriewald - Horticulture
 Wanda Wilmoth - Docent
 Shelby Kaplan - Horticulture
 Kathy Whiddon - Docent
 Bill Godsey - SCUBA Diver
 Sandra Standefer - Horticulture
 Gwen Harris - Husbandry Special & Docent
 Dennis Harris - Husbandry Special
 Mary Holland - Horticulture & Membership
 Sylvia Saloshin - Docent
 Clara Shepherd - Docent
 Mary Lillian Smith - SCUBA Diver
 Everett Kerr - Horticulture
Susan Carson - Horticulture

Not Pictured: Pat Carson, Betsi Pryor and Peggy Moore.

 If you'd like to join our enthusiastic team of volunteer docents - now is the time. Apply to become an adult  volunteer docent by Friday, September 14th.

We'll begin training the fall docent class on Tuesday, September 25th. You'll learn all the insider information to answer visitor questions about playful penguins, feisty otters, giant freshwater fish and toothy sharks. You'll enjoy interacting with people from around the world and benefits such as a FREE Aquarium Family Membership.

Macaroni Penguin Chick #2 Starts Swimming

Above: Guest blogger Tennessee Aquarium aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich with macaroni chick #2.
The second macaroni chick of the year had his/her first swim this week! This chick, the offspring of Paulie (dad) and Chaos (mom), was raised in the backup penguin area away from the rest of the colony. Paulie sustained an injury to his beak near the beginning of breeding season. So the pair was pulled off exhibit to allow for some recovery time. While in backup, Chaos laid her egg in the backup! We decided to allowed them to remain off-exhibit to raise their chick since they were already comfortably nesting there. 
The chick now has his adult feathers, although a few stubborn downy ones remain on his head and back. Recently it was decided that he was ready to meet the colony. This is easier said than done. While he literally tries to beat down the door in backup, he is meeting a brand new group of penguins and new "world" for the first time.
While he never had to worry with aggression when he was small, he did not have the advantage the other chick did of seeing the other birds each day. 

This makes him stand out. Although most birds have only been curious, he is very alert and sometimes a little afraid of them. When he goes out to swim, it takes a while for him to gain confidence, but eventually he jumps in and has no fear. He quickly found three of the four exits from the pool, and he appears much more graceful underwater than the other macaroni chick. 

However, unlike the first macaroni chick, this one prefers the land to the water. A quick swim is enough for him! If he continues to acclimate well, he will be left unsupervised next week!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gorgeous Sunset in Chattanooga

WOW! The old adage holds true for this image, "A picture is worth a thousand words." 

Last night's sunset in Chattanooga was simply amazing. Passengers aboard the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer got to experience the view from the river. “We were treated to a fiery sunset last night,” said Captain Pete Hosemann. “The sky was ablaze with color. This image doesn’t do the scene justice. It was simply spectacular.” 

Sunsets aren't always this colorful, but we are fortunate to have a lot of beautiful twilight views on the Seven Bridges Cruises. Check out the schedule online and book your seats today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tracking a Travelling Octopus

The Tennessee Aquarium has a new giant Pacific octopus living in the quarantine room. This young lady has had quite an adventure getting to Chattanooga. She was supposed to be shipped from the Pacific Northwest to our keepers, but a clerical error along the way caused her to be re-routed to the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC. Fortunately their keepers had an octopus-proof exhibit available and they were willing to provide temporary housing for this wayward cephalopod. The shot above shows her on exhibit at Riverbanks. According to Jennifer Rawlings, aquarium manager at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, this little octo was quite a handful. "She's feisty and incredibly strong," said Rawlings. "She's much stronger than many of the larger octopuses we've had here in the past!"
She spent nearly a week in Columbia before coming to Chattanooga. According to Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Sharyl Crossley, the delay didn't cause her to lose her appetite. This six pound octopus stays healthy as a horse by eating a lot. "In the wild, giant Pacific octopus will feed mostly on crabs and shrimp," said Crossley. "Here we feed our octopus shrimp, crabs, squid, clams and fish. We try to offer them as much variety as we can, but they usually aren't picky eaters."
They are highly intelligent animals and Aquarium guests will learn more about this particular octopus if they choose to take the River Journey Backstage Pass tour offered daily at 11 am. In fact, she'll likely be watching the guests carefully. "She seems to be very curious," said Crossley. "Every morning she is active and watches me walk around when I'm working. I'd say she is both really strong and very inquisitive."
In the wild, these creatures use their intelligence, strength and ability to squeeze into tiny spaces to capture prey. Keepers provide creative puzzles to test the wits of the octos on exhibit. "We usually put their food in toys so they have to work to figure out how to get their food," said Crossley. "In the wild they would have to work to get a crab out of a crack in the rocks. They are really good problem solvers, so we try to keep their minds stimulated through enrichment items."  
 The giant Pacific octopus is native to the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Alaska and down to California. Some of these creatures have an enormous reach, measuring nearly 30 feet when their arms are fully outstretched.

We hope you have a chance to meet the Aquarium's travelling octopus soon.