Happy Thanksgiving!


Here's a glimpse into a day in the life of Thanksgiving at the Aquarium (we are closed today).

All quiet downtown and walking through the park to the Aquarium

Just signs and sculptures in the main lobby

Food prep like every other day in the 4th floor kitchen

Fish (and turtles) gotta eat

So do the divers - we had a potluck feast in the deserted cafe

The gang, watching a...
movie on the big screens at the top of the GOT! "Planes Trains and Automobiles"

Special thanks to these 5, who volunteered to come in today
Left to right: Glenn, Emily, Lindsay, Daire, Kat
I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving with your friends and families like we did :-)



Myrtle's Pre-Thanksgiving Feast

Like them or not, many families will sit down to a big bowl of Brussels sprouts at their Thanksgiving feast this week. That's a dish right up Myrtle's alley. Brussels sprouts are her favorite vegetable!
Since the Aquarium is closed to visitors this Thursday, we treated the 550-pound green sea turtle to a pre-Thanksgiving feast of a stalk of Brussels sprouts, along with another favorite—squid.


Myrtle normally isn't served sprouts on the stalk so this experience must have been interesting for her. Fortunately, I was in the water to help her when she seemed to have a bit of trouble with it. But even sprouts on a stalk weren't intriguing enough to keep her interest once the squid was introduced!

Myrtle has been celebrating Thanksgiving at the Aquarium since 1970. And like every year before, the divers will be at the empty Aquarium taking care of the animals and making sure they get their own Thanksgiving feasts, too. Hope you and your families enjoy a delicious and happy Thanksgiving!

— Chris


Curious Little Trunkfish

Following up on my last post, I wanted to introduce Toby, our smallest trunkfish, who is a very curious little fellow. Toby was very nervous during his first couple weeks in the big Giant Ocean Tank, but is settling in nicely and has gotten comfortable with the mammals in the tank: the divers!

— Chris


Meet the Boxfishes

Our annual census is right around the corner, so I thought some fish ID would be fun.  In this post I want to introduce our boxfishes (family Ostraciidae) which includes 4 species in the Giant Ocean Tank.  These guys are unique because of their bony box of armour - you may also see one of these species in the "armoured tank" in the Tropical Gallery on the 1st floor.

In our GOT, our boxfishes get their own special feeding station which helps them eat without competition from some of our more aggressive species.  More on that station in a later post.

The boxfishes are divided up into 2 groups: cowfishes, which have a spine over each eye; and trunkfishes, which lack these spines.

Lactophrys trigonus, (common) trunkfish

Lactophrys triqueter, smooth trunkfish

Acanthostracion polygonia, honeycomb cowfish

Acanthostracion quadricornis, scrawled cowfish
And here's a pic of some of them harassing a diver for some food!

Can you spot the boxfishes?


We posted about boxfish feedings a while back, and it's adorable. Here's a peek at the feeding, more video soon!


Making Connections: No Words Required

Diving in the Giant Ocean Tank with stingrays and sea turtles and eels is a thrill. But sometimes the most memorable moments don't involve animals at all. They involve the captivated individuals on the other side of the glass—so yes, the divers can see you! Sometimes those enchanting connections are felt on both sides of the glass. We were immediately bowled over by this touching moment shared via Facebook by visitor Lynne Mailhot.

Lynne Mailhot wrotes, "My 3-year old had an amazing time at the New England Aquarium today!"
Photo: Lynne Mailhot via Facebook

Lynne wrote, "My 3-year old had an amazing time at the New England Aquarium today! Special thanks to the diver who took the time to interact with her while we were watching the fish in the Giant Ocean Tank. Our daughter was in awe and it made her day! :)"

3 year-old Gabriella is in awe of a scuba diver seen through the GOT glass
Photo: Esther Horvath

The diver was professional photographer Esther Horvath, who is working on a long term documentary project called Baby Giants about the conservation efforts for endangered sea turtles. You can see some of her work on our Rescue Blog. She was in the tank to photograph our loggerhead sea turtles, both rescues that came through our Rescue and Rehabilitation Dept.

From the perspective inside the tank, Esther writes, "She was so-so cute, looking at me for a long time, and we touched each other's hands through the glass window."

These two images tell a story of a special moment shared on both sides of the glass. It's connections like these that inspire us here at the Aquarium. Maybe a young visitor connects with a diver and will grow up to be a scuba diver, advocating for the protection of wild reefs where they dive. Or maybe a visitor is captivated by an animal and will go on to study marine science in school. Whatever the path, we hope to engage visitors—young and old—and motivate them to become future ocean protectors.

Thank you for exploring our blue planet with us, Lynne and Gabriella! And thanks for sharing your picture, Esther!


Myrtle on TV: Outtakes

Aquarium fans may have noticed our most famous resident on TV recently. Myrtle's photo shoot happened last spring with photographer Keith Ellenbogen, and she was a willing model because we had some delicious leafy greens to keep her interested. Here are a couple outtakes from that shoot.


So about that lettuce... A lot of people ask about Myrtle's food. What does a 550-pound sea turtle eat? Mostly vegetables, believe it or not. As a green sea turtle, she would normally eat a large quantity of sea grasses and algae (she'd also get an occasional crab or fish while foraging). So we give her a wide variety of greens—like lettuce, some protein (shrimp, clam, squid, or small fish) as well as an assortment broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, green pepper zucchini and Brussels sprouts (her favorite). Daily vitamins are also on the menu. What a healthy gal—even on Thanksgiving! (See how Myrtle's healthy eating is helping the planet, too.)

A glimpse of the variety in Myrtle's diet

If you want to see Myrtle eat her healthy smorgasbord, visit the Aquarium and grab one of our daily schedules. Pretty much every time divers are in the water Myrtle gets a meal. Otherwise, she's constantly hounding the divers during every feeding! This gives the divers time to feed all the other animals in the tank—like the loggerheads, the parrotfish, the boxfishes and other schooling fishes.

Buy your timed ticket online! Take advantage of waived online ticketing fees right now.


New Arrivals: Needlefish

We recently added a few new fish to the exhibit, including needlefish. These fish were collected during our spring expedition to the Bahamas and have undergone a routine quarantine in the meantime. But they look spectacular schooling at the surface. Here's the school from our perspective.

Visitors can climb to the top of the Giant Ocean Tank to take a look at these fish, too. It's not a stretch to see why they're called needlefish! These are some of the fish that we've collected eggs from before. See what larval needlefish look like.

Skinny little needlefish stick to the top of the tank.

Come by and see them sometime!


Meet the Turtles: Ari the Kemp's Ridley

Meet Ari our Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) sea turtle. Ari - formerly known as Kate - arrived at the New England Aquarium on 9/9/09, after a rehabilitation stint in New Orleans at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (AAOA).

In June of 2007, Kate was found injured (suspected boat strike) on Rutherford Beach, Louisiana, and transferred to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the following day to AAOA.  Her injuries were assessed: fractured skull from eye to eye, left eye with missing tissue around the socket, an exposed salt gland, and a deep 5cm long dorsal scute laceration. In October she was transported to an orthopedic surgeon for an operation using rods and plates to pull the skull and scales up and together, in addition to have the laceration to her shell wired together.  By January of 2008, Kate was swimming and eating on her own!

The damage to her left eye was severe and permanent, and in the end she lost sight in that eye, making it very difficult for her to hunt live crab and capture it. Therefore, it was deemed she was non-releasable due to the fact that she could not fend for herself in the wild.

Word of this sea turtle needing a home made it to Boston, and before long she was on a flight to Logan airport for her introduction into the GOT!  So that's how we came to acquire Kate, whom we renamed Ari which is short for arribada: large-scale nesting of some species of sea turtles including Kemp's ridleys.
"During an arribada, hundreds of thousands of these 2-foot-long turtles (the smallest [sea turtles] in the world) gather off certain beaches, and over several days, come ashore to dig holes in the sand and lay eggs." — Susan Scott, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 28 Sept. 2009
Come see her swimming around the Giant Ocean Tank... if she's not napping of course ;-)

Kemp's ridley sea turtles are the smallest and most endangered species of sea turtle in the world. They are also the species of sea turtle our marine animal Rescue and Rehabilitation team treats most frequently during cold-stun stranding season. That's why it's great to be able to show visitors what this species looks like! They are much more petite than the other species on exhibit—loggerhead and green sea turtles. And Ari definitely has a personality.

Come meet Ari and learn what it takes to rescue sea turtles during our Turtle Rescue Team program this summer!



Hungry Hungry Loggerheads

In our Giant Ocean Tank we have 3 species of sea turtles - green, Kemp's ridley and loggerheads.  Each species gets their own feeding station, and our loggerheads - Carolina and Retread - are fed at the bottom of the tank, in what we GOT divers call "turtle alley".  Each morning at 10:00 AM we feed them a specified amount of "squid tacos", our jargon for squid stuffed with fish, usually capelin.

Come along on a snapshot journey of a feeding I did just this week.

The squid tacos are prepared and put in red bags, one for each turtle.  Other tools needed are... 1 pair of gloves (for safety), 1 feeding stick and 1 rattle - a PVC pipe filled with nuts and bolts and capped on both ends to make it waterproof.

Then it's time to head underwater and down to the feeding station in "turtle alley".  As soon as I break the surface and look down, I see that both girls are awake and likely hungry.

As I descend to the bottom I begin shaking the rattle... while clearing my ears and staying aware of my surroundings.

Carolina is the first to arrive, and she looks hungry!  I continue to shake the PVC rattle.

I get my 2 red bags situated in the sand, ready to feed the turtles.

But oops, Carolina gets confused and goes the wrong direction.  I shake the rattle some more.

After a minute of her not understanding where she's supposed to go, I lend a hand and pull her in.

One squid taco for you!

Both sea turtles get vitamins along with their meal - I use my hands to guard the squid taco from getting stolen by a thieving fish.

Though as soon as I turn my head, an Atlantic spadefish swoops in and steals one of the capelin, argh!

Retread still hasn't shown up by the time Carolina has finished her meal, but I look up and see her above me so I head up in the water column to help her down to the feeding station.

Carolina doesn't think her meal is over though.  She gets in my face for more squid tacos please!

Retread is certainly hungry and she eats her whole meal.  She is completely blind so in order to feed her you must tap her on the chin and then present the taco in front of her mouth.  Sometimes, she'll just bite at the water hoping to snag something.

Success - feeding is over and I head back up to the surface... [Watch video of loggerhead feeding time here!]

...And wave at some kids on the way up of course.

As I said we feed our loggerheads daily at 10:00 AM, so for your next visit come early and look for us through the GOT windows on the first floor.



Sea Turtle Siesta

You may see a seemingly lifeless turtle on the bottom of the Giant Ocean Tank during your next visit. You may even wonder if it's alive. Well, I'm here to tell you that it is!

Retread snoozing
Yep, that turtle is just snoozing and, in fact, our sea turtles love a good nap now and then. They all have their favorite spots to rest and some have more than one. They are able to stay underwater for a couple hours or even more, so siestas are quite common among our marine reptilian friends in the GOT.  Have a look at this video for proof!

Join the Aquarium's animal rescue team! The Aquarium is a global leader in saving endangered turtles. Come see rescued turtles in the Giant Ocean Tank! These turtles were treated but deemed unable to survive in the wild. Plus, our newest interactive exhibit gives you hands-on experience with the process of diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating these fascinating animals. 


World Turtle Day 2015

Happy World Turtle Day from the Giant Ocean Tank turtle gang!

This green sea turtle needs no introduction.  Queen Myrtle of the Giant Ocean Tank.

Carolina, loggerhead sea turtle

Retread, loggerhead sea turtle

Ari the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, hangin' with her bff

And I can't resist showing this picture after that last one.  Yes our turtles do have quarrels sometimes.

turtle tiff



Smallmouth Grunts and Their Journey to the GOT

The majority of the animals in the Giant Ocean Tank collection come from Aquarium expeditions to the Bahamas. (Certified divers are welcome to join us on these expeditions where we work with Bahamian wildlife officials to sustainably bring back fish.) These animals go through an incredible journey as they travel up from the Bahamas to their new homes in Boston.

Smallmouth grunts school on reef | Photo: Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble via Wikimedia Commons

But not all of animals in the GOT come from the wild and over the last year, in partnership with several institutions, close to 750 smallmouth grunts, which had been raised from eggs, arrived at aquariums all over North America—including the New England Aquarium.

Frenetic smallmouth grunts schooling in the Giant Ocean Tank

The smallmouth grunts (pictured above), along with other species of grunts, tend to school down near the bottom of the GOT. In past years, our smallmouth grunts came from the Bahamas. But these new arrivals had a totally different journey.

Their journey began when our larval science partner, Roger Williams University, purchased several thousand fertilized smallmouth grunt eggs from FishEye Aquaculture in Florida.

Over 6000 eggs fit in 4 mL of water!

A microscopic view of a grunt egg

The New England Aquarium has partnered with researchers at Roger Williams University on past aquaculture projects, such as rearing queen triggerfish. This work continues our sustainable ornamental fish initiativemuch of this work being funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. As before, these microscopic fish eggs were given expert care and hatched into larvae so small they were barely visible.

2 day old smallmouth grunt larvae

The larval smallmouth grunts were held in special round tanks with black bottoms. This can make them very difficult to see but improves their chances of survival

The larvae spent several months growing into tiny fish at the lab at RWU's Center for Economic and Environmental Development. Figuring out the appropriate live food that must be even tinier than the larvae is a budding science that is being carefully studied by our partners at Roger Williams. Eventually, the half-inch-long fish were transported up to our Animal Care Center in Quincy, MA.

The young fish during transport to the Quincy facility

The smallmouth grunts continued to grow and were moved to larger tanks to keep them happy. After several months, they were large enough to start being shipped around the country—and north to Boston! Grunts were sent to the North Carolina Aquarium - Fort Fisher, the Albuquerque BioPark Aquarium and Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto.

The barrels stay in the tank for possible refuge until the grunts are completely comfortable out in open water

The remaining 500 smallmouth grunts were recently added into our Giant Ocean Tank. The grunts were acclimated in large barrels for a few days but now they are out and look great! Here's a video of their journey from larval fish behind the scenes to the beautiful schools in the Aquarium.

These smallmouth grunts are part of our sustainable animal acquisitions. By breeding large numbers of these fish, we are able to show them in the Giant Ocean Tank in densities much closer to what a diver would see on a wild reef. By not focusing on large schools like these grunts, future Aquarium expedition teams can work on increasing the diversity of the animals we do bring back.

Next time you are visiting the New England Aquarium, take a moment to appreciate the sizable school of smallmouth grunts in the Giant Ocean Tank. And be sure to ask where our animals have come from—the journey our animals go though can be quite an exciting story!