Snowy day view from the office

Most people around Boston aren't at the office today. In fact, the Aquarium is closed and most of the employees are safe at home. But there are a few divers in the office today. Who else is going to make sure Myrtle gets her lettuce?! They make arrangements to stay nearby so they're on hand to feed and care for all the animals in the Giant Ocean Tank. All the while, the storm raged outside. Here's the view from their window.

All quiet at the IMAX theatre
Visibility is pretty limited looking across the harbor at the courthouse.

And inside the big tank, it's all tropical and tranquil.

We're old hands at this snow storm routine. Check out last year's snow post!


How sea turtles are just like us

If you stand at the top of the Giant Ocean Tank for any length of time, you'll likely hear the hiss and huff of a sea turtle taking a breath.

Ari the Kemp's ridley turtle breaks the surface for a breath

Seeing a turtle break the surface to breathe is an interesting way to connect with these giant reptiles. They are the only air breathers inside the exhibit—like us!—so they must return to the surface every now and then for a gulp of oxygen.

But here's something you don't usually see. This is what it looks like from the divers' perspective! Retread—our blind, rescued sea turtle—bumbles her way to the surface for a breath of fresh air.

Sea turtles breathe air into and out of their lungs through their nose and mouth. Our large turtles can hold their breath for several hours when they're resting (don't worry, that motionless sea turtle wedged in the coral is just napping).

Zzzzz. This motionless turtle at the bottom of the tank is taking a nice, cozy nap.

When they're active for feeding or checking on the divers in the tank, the turtles breathe more frequently. Try standing at the top of the GOT for a spell and see if you can see all four sea turtles!

Retread (loggerhead) and Myrtle (green)

The turtles (justifiably) get a lot of time of the blog. Check out these posts for more sea turtle awesomeness!


Identifying Parrotfishes

As you know, we just wrapped up our annual census. Counting all of the animals is surely a challenging task, especially when it comes to the species that have different markings and coloration depending on their age or sex.  Parrotfishes—Family Scaridae—are prime examples!

Parrotfishes are categorized into three phases: juvenile, initial and terminal... and some species even display intermediate phases between the three primary phases.  We have six species of parrotfishes in the Giant Ocean Tank. That's a lot of different fish and phases to ID. Let us help you out a bit. Here are some of the fish you might see during your next visit and their phase of maturation!

Notice the somewhat protruding forehead of this blue parrotfish.  The initial phase has a conical head whereas the terminal phase has a very squared off head.
Blue parrotfish, intermediate phase 

This midnight parrotfish is one of the few species of parrots where all phases are essentially the same in appearance... though I did see some very large midnights in the Bahamas this past October that had more white and yellow coloration around their mouths.
Midnight parrotfish

The thick white body stripe gives away this species, a queen parrotfish.
Queen parrotfish, initial phase

This rainbow parrotfish, in its initial phase, has a distinct squared-off tail and scales that are green in the center and orangish on the edges.  The terminal phase rainbows have an orange-brown head and bright green rear body.  These guys can grow to 5 1/2 feet in length!
Rainbow parrotfish, initial phase

The red belly and white spots mean this is a stoplight parrot in its initial phase.  Remember this guy from the cleaning station?
Stoplight parrotfish, initial phase

And surprising to even us aquarists is how different the terminal phase stoplight parrot looks.  See the yellow spot above the gill cover?  And the orange-yellow crescent on the tail?  That's how you know it's a stoplight!
Stoplight parrotfish, terminal phase

This one's kind of hard to tell, but these are two striped parrotfishes in their initial phases.
Striped parrotfish, initial phase

Look for the linear markings - what I would call squiggly lines - on the tail.  This is a striped parrotfish in its terminal phase.
Striped parrotfish, terminal phase

Stay tuned for more about these fish—videos to come!

With so many parrotfish species and their interesting characteristics, you can bet they've been on the blogs before. Check out these posts: