Creepy Critter #3: Sand Tiger Shark

TSA Omni3

Creepy Critter #3: Sand Tiger Shark

Dun, dun. Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun. DUN, DUN, DUN, DUN, DUUUUN! Though no Great White, if seeing the protrusive teeth of a Sand Tiger Shark doesn’t start the JAWS theme song playing in your head, something is wrong. TSA Omni3

These decidedly ferocious-looking beasts boast a mouthful of terrifying teeth that are even visible when their mouths are shut. They can go through thousands of teeth in a lifetime, losing up to hundreds per year. And even with all those teeth, this predator still swallows its food whole!

Most Sand Tiger Sharks range in size from 6.5 up to 10.5 feet and they can weigh anywhere from 200 lbs to 350 lbs. And despite their intimidating size, they eat little, and can go for extensive periods without feeding.

The stealth hunter gets its name from its tendency to reside near shoreline habitats, and they are often seen trolling the ocean floor in the surf zone, very close to shore. They are found in warm or temperate waters throughout the world’s oceans, except the eastern Pacific. images

Something that sets the Sand Tiger Shark apart from other carnivorous fish is its ability to self adjust its buoyancy levels. The shark will break the surface of the ocean, gulp air, and then store the air in its stomach, allowing it to float motionless in the water. All the better to silently stalk prey… Hans

Though this species of shark has relatively plentiful numbers, they have a scarily low reproduction rate and are thus listen as threatened on the worldwide species list, meaning they are vulnerable to endangerment in the future.

Visit Hans, our very own Sand Tiger Shark, at the Islands of Steel exhibit this Saturday for Green Halloween and learn more spooky shark facts!

Creepy Critter #4: Green Moray Eel

Green Moray Eel

Creepy Critter #4: Green Moray Eel

What’s green, slippery, slithery, looks slightly undead, and lurks under rocks in the ocean? Nope, not Frankenstein – we’re talking about the Green Moray Eel. Green Moray Eel

This creepy critter can be found anywhere from the western Atlantic Ocean, to Bermuda, the northern Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Brazil. Their sinuous, snake-like appearance ups their “ick” factor, but not as much as the fact that they’re actually covered in mucus does! It’s hard to believe, but these species – so known for their vibrant lime green color – is actually brown. The yellow tint of mucus that its body is coated in is yellow, thereby giving this spooky, serpentine creature its signature hue.

TSA Aquarist Rafael Calderon added another creepy fact to this animal’s repertoire of weirdness. “It’s kind of cool, even alien-like, but the Green Moray actually has two pairs of jaws, a primary and a pharyngeal, meaning it’s located deeper inside the eel’s throat,” he explains. “The first set of jaws grabs and holds the prey and the second sucks in the food and eats it whole.” That prey is normally fish, squid, shrimp, crab, and octopus. eel jaws

These incredibly successful predators can allegedly grow to be up to eight feet in length, and they come equipped with some seriously scary teeth. Curved and sharp, you can see them when the eels open and close their mouths every so often, something they do to breathe.  Although this behavior may appear threatening, the eel is actually taking in water to breathe. The water passes over its gills and exits through vent-like openings at the back of the creature’s head. 

“They don’t really play well with others, either,” says Calderon, “Green Morays are very territorial, and if they don’t like you in their space, or if you’re getting too close, they’ll let you know it.”

Another creepy fact via Calderon is that Green Morays love tight, enclosed spaces. No claustrophobia for these scale-less swimmers.

The Texas State Aquarium is home to three Green Moray eels, Russell, Scooter, and Houdini – come get a load of these alien-like fish this Saturday at Green Halloween!

Creepy Critter #5: Eurasian Eagle Owl

Eurasian Owl graphic.fw

Eurasian Owl graphic.fwEyes as big as half dollars and as yellow-orange as a harvest moon stare straight into yours, the intense gaze of the apex predator creeping into your soul…or at least that’s how some may feel. The long look a Eurasian Eagle Owl can give you is not one you’ll soon forget. 

These owls are native to Europe and Asia, and are among the biggest in the entire world – they can reportedly boast a six-and-a-half-foot wingspan! Within this impressive wingspan are serrated (like the teeth on a knife) wing feathers that enable the owl to glide almost silently through the night, stalking its prey – unbeknownst – from the sky. Jessica & Brutus

“It’s a really cool adaptation,” says Bird and Mammal Trainer Jessica Brown, “Also the soft, downy feathers underneath help absorb sound and any turbulence they encounter in the air, making them even quieter.”

 Eurasian Eagle Owls hunt using their silent flight, keen eyesight, and impeccable hearing. Brown says that like other species of owl, eagle owls have facial disks, or groups of feathers around their ears, that actually direct sounds toward their ears. Owls can raise these feathers slightly when on the hunt, enabling them to hear the rustle of a mouse in the grass, the flapping of feathers in the night, or the slithering of a snake in a tree branch. These sounds give away the location of prey animals, making it easy for these owls to swiftly swoop in to catch a meal – and their pointed, powerful talons can exert 500 pounds of PSI (pressure per inch)! Compared to the human hand’s 30 lbs of PSI, that’s scarily strong. “They normally hunt rodents like rabbits and rats, but they’ll also eat other raptors, and they can even take down small deer,” explains Brown.

The scariest thing about this creature, however, is its history. During the first half of the 20th century, Eurasian Eagle Owl numbers declined radically as humans over-hunted and nearly poisoned the whole population. Local European governments began increasing protective measures regarding the owls, and they are now back to a healthier number, though not as populous as they once were. Brutus

TSA’s resident Eurasian Eagle Owl, Brutus, will be one featured creature you can meet at Green Halloween this Saturday! 

Texas State Aquarium and Valero Make Major Campaign Caribbean Announcement

Valero $500K Announcement 042

Half-million dollar contribution from Valero aids fundraising effort for Aquarium’s Caribbean Journey expansionCarribbean Campaign Logo Color FINAL

 September 4, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Texas State Aquarium is excited to announce another significant gift for Campaign Caribbean, the Aquarium’s capital campaign which will fund the largest expansion in its 24-year history. Today, continued partner Valero announced a generous $500,000 gift to Campaign Caribbean, which surpassed the crucial midway point of achieving its $50 million goal earlier this year and has a groundbreaking scheduled for late this year.

The major gift will sponsor the new entryway into the Caribbean Journey experience, introducing guests to the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean. “For more than three decades, Valero has been committed to the Coastal Bend Region through the jobs we create and the contributions we invest in our community,” said Dennis Payne, Vice President and General Manager, Valero Corpus Christi Refineries. “Today’s gift for the Texas State Aquarium is another demonstration of our commitment to Corpus Christi, especially causes that focus on education and environmental sustainability. It’s Valero’s hope that this new entryway will usher in a wave of excitement for tourists, residents, and businesses across the state.”

Texas State Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid commented, “Since the opening of the Aquarium almost 25 years ago, Valero has been a great partner and great patron. Valero has been consistently generous and helped us advance our mission. This latest investment affirms their commitment to environmental education, wildlife conservation, and economic development in this community, and throughout Texas.”

The $50 million Caribbean Journey addition – which completes the final two phases of the Aquarium’s original master plan – will transform the Texas State Aquarium from a leading regional aquarium to one of the top aquariums in the nation.

In late 2012, the Texas State Aquarium launched the leadership phase of Campaign Caribbean, a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds for construction of the Caribbean Journey wing. At 65,000 square feet, the new Caribbean Journey wing will be significantly larger than the original Gulf of Mexico exhibit building.  “The new wing will be 50 percent larger, however, in terms of indoor exhibit space. It will more than double what we currently have,” said Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid.  “This is going to be a multi-level, highly immersive, state-of-the-art experience.”

Visit to take the Caribbean Journey.




Texas State Aquarium: Connecting people with nature and inspiring conservation of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums

and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


Valero $500K Announcement 042

The Current Presents: Stingray Science September!


At the Texas State Aquarium, we’re slinging stingray science!

The stingrays featured in our exhibits are the Southern, Atlantic, and cownose species, and they are all native to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Atlantic stingray is actually pointed and resembles the letter “A.” The cownose has a rounded nose that very much looks like a cow’s, and the Southern stingray is equipped with a wide-angled wingspan. All stingrays’ mouths are located on the bottom of their bodies and most contain crush plates, allowing them to break through the tough shells of crustaceans like shrimp, clams, and crab.

While pop culture and certain accounts assert otherwise, stingrays are not naturally aggressive animals. The often misunderstood creatures will only protect themselves when they feel threatened.  One way to make sure you don’t accidentally scare one is to make sure you always do the “Stingray Shuffle.” When walking or wading in shallow waters where these animals live, place your feet right next to each other, and take short steps, being sure to kick up sand. Walking like this will trigger the stingray’s electrical sensors and alert them to your presence, allowing them ample time to swim away.

Stingray barbs – the pointed tips of their tails – are poisonous and can be dangerous. If you or someone you know is ever stung by a stingray, do NOT pull the barb out. Barbs have sharp, serrated edges like steak knives. After seeking immediate medical attention, either rinse the area with hot water, or wrap a towel soaked in hot water around the wounded area. Because a stingray’s toxin is protein-based, very hot water helps to break it down.

Stingrays are cartilaginous animals and belong to the same family as sharks and skate. 

You can visit our stingrays in the Stingray Lagoon, Amazon, and Shark Touch exhibits!

Cownose raycownoseAtlantic ray





Press Release


January 9, 2014


At Texas State Aquarium


CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – On January 8, a live dolphin was recovered from the remote location of San Jose Island, after being found in the surf. The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) along with Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) Director, Tony Amos, were able to successfully transport the animal to the Texas State Aquarium (TSA) in Corpus Christi.


TMMSN volunteers and TSA staff, under the supervision of TSA veterinarian Dr. David Stelling, are working around the clock with the 500-pound adult male bottlenose dolphin.  The animal has been swimming on his own, but still requires in-water support (to be held up and walked by volunteers) at various intervals.


Initial labs show that the dolphin was dehydrated upon stranding, with additional diagnostics results pending. The dolphin is receiving antibiotics, in addition to routine supplements, and is being tube-fed fluids for rehydration.




Texas State Aquarium: Connecting people with nature and inspiring conservation of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums

and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.

Scuba Santa Arrives at TSA


Scuba Santa Arrives at TSA

On Saturday, December 14, the Texas State Aquarium will introduce Scuba Santa to guests who visit the “Diver in the Water” presentation. After Santa hands out goodies to the fish and other Flower Gardens residents, he will be available to take photos with guests who want to appear as if they are underwater with Scuba Santa!

Scuba Santa will be appearing during the “Diver in the Water” presentation the week leading up to Christmas, from December 14th through the 24th. The “Diver in the Water” show occurs at 11:00 a.m. daily.

The Texas State Aquarium will close early at 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, will be closed on Christmas Day, and will reopen on December 26th at 9:00 a.m.”