Texas State Aquarium Released Rehabilitated Brown Pelican

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Texas State Aquarium is pleased to announce that at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, January 20, we will be releasing a Brown Pelican back into its natural TXAQ-rehab-logohabitat at the Packery Channel Park in Corpus Christi.

The Aquarium’s Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital took in the juvenile Brown Pelican on January 2, after the lethargic shorebird was found on Saratoga Boulevard in front of a restaurant and turned over by Corpus Christi’s Animal Care Services.

Brown PelicanThe underweight animal was found to have several older abrasions on its left wing and a bacterial infection on both feet, once inspected by Second Chances staff. According to staff, this was likely the pelican’s first winter and it was simply unprepared for and unable to handle the cold weather.

After monitoring the bird’s flying capabilities and weight gain, Second Chances staff has deemed it healthy and able to be returned back to its natural environment.

 

 

 

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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.

www.texasstateaquarium.org

Amazing Animal Adaptations

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Amazing Animal Adaptations

From feathers to fur, camouflage to resource conservation, human or animal – we all must adapt to survive.  It just so happens that animals have a multitude of amazing ways to do so.  

Adaptations are genetic mutations that help organisms survive in the wild. Due to the helpful nature of the mutation, it gets passed down from one generation to the next. As more and more organisms inherit the mutation, the mutation becomes just a normal aspect of the species. At that point, the mutation has evolved into an adaptation.

An adaptation can be structural, meaning it’s a physical part of the organism, or an adaptation can also be behavioral, affecting the way an organism acts.

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Being cute is actually NOT an adaptation for the porcupinefish.

In the freckled porcupinefish’s case, being cute is not an actual adaptation – but its impressive inflating sure is. 

 

The defense mechanism is a physical adaptation cultivated in order to deter predators from attacking. If threatened, porcupinefish (similar to puffer fish and burr fish) will gulp water or air and  then inflate their extremely flexible stomachs, in many cases doubling their size, thus reducing the range of potential predators to those with much bigger mouths.

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Note the spikes on its body.

The process of puffing, however, is extremely stressful to the animal. If this ever occurs to one of our fish here at the Aquarium, we take note and monitor the animal until it returns to its normal size. 

A second defense mechanism is provided by the fish’s sharp spines, which radiate outward when the fish is inflated. Other marine creatures that have adapted inflation as a means of defense include the swell shark, a carpet shark that dwells in Pacific waters off the coast of California.

Another amazing animal adaptation you can see in action at the Aquarium is the hair on our North American River Otters.

If you’ve come to see them lately, you might’ve wondered how Merlin and his new female companion could possibly swim when the degrees are dipping into the 40s – it’s all thanks to that thick, sleek coat of fur.

Merlin shake

Merlin’s fur makes him look pretty majestic and also keeps him warm in chilly temps.

The river otter is almost impervious to cold because of an outer coat of coarse guard hairs, plus a dense undercoat that helps to waterproof the animal by trapping a layer of air against the otter’s skin. 

So, we have great defensive deterrents, an environmental adaptation – what about nutritional necessities? Enter: birds.  

Just as in the case of sharp teeth, large, strong beaks are often an adaptation used to help an animal eat. However, big – often sharp – beaks can be a feature of both carnivores and herbivores.

 If you’ve visited our Eagle Pass exhibit, you’ve gotten a glimpse of Mortimer, our Turkey Vulture. Morty’s sharp, hooked beak is ideally designed for tearing flesh from the carrion she feeds on.

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You’ve never seen a parrot enjoy a walnut as much as Zeppo does.

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Zeppo shows just how easily his strong beak can break into a walnut’s hard shell.

 Similarly, the sizeable beak of the macaw has been adapted to help it crack open large, tough-shelled nuts. Our Green-Winged Macaw Zeppo and Military Macaw Kogi excel at (and thoroughly enjoy) cracking open the thick shells of Brazil nuts and walnuts and chowing down on the meaty insides. 
 

 Defensive mechanisms, insulating fur, enhanced beaks – and we’re barely even scratching the surface of animal adaptations!  Delve deeper into the world of adaptations – not to mention exaptations, speciation, coadaptation, mimicry, and more here: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/adaptation/?ar_a=1

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The remnants of Zeppo’s easily cracked walnut shell.

 Come visit our Aquarium’s amazing, adaptive animals to learn more about them firsthand! 

 

Doling Out Diets

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Buying, cleaning, chopping and preparing food for one is work enough – can you imagine prepping meals for thousands? That’s what we do every day here at the Texas State Aquarium.

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Weighing food is an essential part of diet prep.

Since 2011, Aquarist Emily has helped to prepare most of our animals’ daily food, called diets, comprising the daily caloric intake of the thousands of animals that are residents here at the Aquarium. There’s fish like capelin, herring, mackerel, and bonito, then krill, shrimp, clams, various vegetables, fruits, and even nutritional supplements given to the animals, which all have specific feeding schedules and very different nutritional needs. 

Emily orders food from suppliers, and even goes to the grocery store weekly to ensure our animals have the freshest and healthiest fruits and veggies possible.

“I get some very weird looks sometimes when I’m in the checkout line,” she says with a laugh. “Over the years, a lot of the people at H-E-B have come to know me and they know my uniform, but every once in a while, someone will look at the 20 heads of lettuce I’m buying and ask; are you going to eat all of that?”

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Our parrots in WildFlight eat a variety of veggies, fruit, and nuts.

Emily is a true believer in the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Thus, the animals’ diets are changed up regularly and are also designed to mimic as closely as possible the same types of food the animal would be exposed to in the wild. For example, our sea turtles (which are all rescue animals) receive a mixed daily diet of either bell pepper, cucumber, or broccoli, and are sometimes treated with peas. 

“Those veggies are as close, nutritionally, to sea grass and algae and what they would find in nature, as we can get. And I switch it up fairly often just to give them options,” says Emily. Talk about good eating!

To make sure everything stays good, there is a stringent labeling and rotating system Emily abides by, and a host of different color-coded cutting boards and food prep instruments designated specifically for meat, fruits, and so on.

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Color coding prevents cross-contamination.

And just how is an animal’s diet determined, you ask? A whole list of factors goes into divvying up diets, but the most prominent involve an animal’s body weight, size, and activity level. By and far, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins Shadow and Kai eat the most in the Aquarium. The energetic duo consumes around 30 pounds of herring and capelin a day! 

Diets also change. As some animals – like snakes, spiders, seahorses, and more – grow, their food intake has to be adjusted accordingly. And just like people, some animals have discerning dietary tastes. Islands of Steel resident Sand Tiger Shark Hans used to salivate over salmon, but no more.

“He can be very picky,” says Emily, “Salmon used to be his favorite, but now it’s bonito or bust.”

Aquarist Rafael also has some picky eaters on his hands.

“Our Zebra Moray Eel will eat shrimp and only shrimp. And it has to be peeled,” he said of the finicky fish.

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Emily weighs capelin – being sure to get the exact measurement.

Not only do aquarists have to be aware of animals’ changing tastes for food, they also have to feed different animals in different ways. Some fish have their diets “broadcast,” or spread out by hand across the top of the exhibit, while others – like Hans – have to be “stick-fed,” i.e., have their food attached to a long pole, which they then swim directly to and gobble right off! 

“It takes skill and good timing,” adds Rafael.

To ensure our animals receive the highest quality food, we order from AZA-approved (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) suppliers who also meet strict USDA standards.

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Just a portion of the diets being prepared for the day.

Emily looks out over the 20+ Tupperware containers she has spread over the metal food prep table. She lines them up according to exhibit and aquarist and begins chopping tiny pieces of clam, explaining that certain stingrays have miniscule mouths and can only consume small bites of food. There’s a lot of time and work that goes into being the Aquarium’s designated dietary commissary but Emily says she enjoys it. 

“I like making sure that everything is as good as possible for our animals and having a direct hand in that, and I mean, I’m pretty sure I could have a successful career at a sushi restaurant,” she says with a laugh. 

As visitors, members and donors, your support allows us to care for and feed the many animals that call the Aquarium home. Please consider making a gift or visiting soon to help us provide the best food possible for our residents!

Aquarium Breaks Ground on Caribbean Journey Expansion

Aquarium Breaks Ground on Caribbean Journey Expansion
Texas State Aquarium staff and Board were joined today by elected officials and area leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of its $50 million Caribbean Journey addition – the largest expansion in the Aquarium’s 24-year history.
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Texas State Aquarium staff and Board were joined today by elected officials and area leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of its $50 million Caribbean Journey addition – the largest expansion in the Aquarium’s 24-year history. Caribbean Journey Expansion groundbreaking

Bringing the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean to the shores of Corpus Christi, the  Caribbean Journey addition will complete the final two phases of the Aquarium’s original master plan and will transform the Texas State Aquarium from a leading regional aquarium to one of the one of the top aquariums in the nation. At four stories and 65,000 square feet, the new Caribbean Journey expansion will be significantly larger than the original Gulf of Mexico exhibit building.   

“This is truly a historic milestone for the Aquarium,” said Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid.  “Over 25 years ago, our founders had a vision to take our guests on a journey from the Gulf of Mexico into the Caribbean Sea.  Today, we begin construction on the final phase of the original master plan, and once open in 2017, this expansion will complete that vision.  We will have one of the nations’ great Aquariums right here in Corpus Christi.”

A public groundbreaking ceremony was held today on the Aquarium’s lawn, with speakers including State Representative Abel Herrero, Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez, Aquarium Board Chair Deneece Squires, and Aquarium President and CEO Tom Schmid. shovel & hard hat

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 building. Since then, over $27 million has been raised towards the expansion project.

shovels up close

Visit texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean to take the Caribbean Journey.

Texas State Aquarium Announces December 7th Dollar Day Presented by H-E-B

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On Sunday, December 7, the Texas State Aquarium will host a Dollar Day, presented by H-E-B. The Aquarium’s extremely popular Dollar Days offer an admission price of one dollar for all visitors. Along with the special price, there will be an enhanced schedule of programs for the day, as well as a special gift from H-E-B for each family while supplies last.

“We’re thrilled to announce our December Dollar Day, which is possible thanks to the generosity of our longtime partner H-E-B,” said Tom Schmid, President and CEO of the Texas State Aquarium. “H-E-B has long been a generous partner of both the Aquarium and the Corpus Christi community. Supporting our Dollar Day program in order to help make the Aquarium accessible to all local families is just another way H-E-B gives back to the communities it serves.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for H-E-B and the Aquarium to join in a partnership that will offer families some unique experiences and new memories,” added H-E-B Gulf Coast Group Vice President, Rob Hall.  “We hope families will take some time to walk through the amazing and educational exhibits the Texas State Aquarium has to offer for everyone.”

The Aquarium will operate on regular hours for the day, opening at 9:00 a.m. and closing at 5:00 p.m. Children two and under will receive free admission, and parking will remain $5.

Jamming Along With Jellies

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What exactly makes jellies so interesting? Is it the mesmerizing, pulsing way they move? Maybe it’s the fact that they’re beautiful AND dangerous (we’re looking at you, box jelly), or maybe it’s simply that they look like transparent underwater aliens. Whatever the reason – we’re right there with you concerning the crazy cool factor of the wonderful world of jellies. 

Pacific sea nettle in Floating Phantoms.

Pacific sea nettle in Floating Phantoms.

Incredibly, jellies are as old as time. They’ve inhabited the earth’s oceans for hundreds of millions of years, and speaking of oceans, they can be found in every single one, from the surface to the deep sea. Some can even be found in fresh water environments, such as the craspedacusta sowerbii.

And since we’re discussing crazy names – why do you see jellies referred to as jellyfish AND jellies? Well, in more recent years, it’s been decided that the name “jellyfish” is a misnomer. With no bones, no blood, and no brains, jellies aren’t actually fish at all, so scientists, aquariums and zoos nationwide have begun referring to them simply as jellies.

As jellies drift thousands of miles with the ocean’s currents, they have to keep energized. Diet is species-specific, but most jellies dine on fish eggs, plankton, brine shrimp, and larger jellies will eat sea snails, and even small fish. 

Upside down jellies

Upside down jellies

Jellies can range in size from a few centimeters in width, like the Irukandji jelly of Australia, to the Lion’s Mane jelly, which can grow to be the size of a minivan. A jelly that size has got to pack a whopping stinging punch, right? Wrong. While Lion’s Mane jellies can sting and these injuries do irritate the skin, they are mostly minor. The venomous stings of the infamous Box Jelly, as well as the tiny Irukandji are infinitely more dangerous.  Among the most deadly in the world, containing toxins that attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells, the Box Jelly’s sting can easily be fatal. It is so overpoweringly painful, human victims have been known to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure before even reaching shore. Survivors can experience considerable pain for weeks and often have significant scarring where the tentacles made contact. 

Comb jelly

Comb jelly

If you ever find yourself the victim of a jelly sting, Texas State Aquarium Aquarist Victoria says the last thing you want to do is pour fresh water on it. “Fresh water will actually cause the nematocysts to keep firing, and it’ll cause even more pain. Definitely use salt water instead as it deactivates stinging cells,” she advises. Next, Victoria says you should rinse the affected area with vinegar, and then soak the area in the hottest water you can stand. A mild anti-itch or hydrocortisone crème can be used for less severe stings for the next several days, as well as an ice pack and antibiotic ointment as necessary. For severe stings or severe reactions to stings, call 911 and seek medical treatment immediately. 

 

131-3183_IMGHere at TSA, we house and exhibit lagoon jellies, upside downs, Pacific and Atlantic sea nettles, moon jellies, and comb jellies. Come check them out and learn more about them at our Floating Phantoms exhibit!

Creepy Critter #1: Red-tailed Boa Constrictor

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And the winner of creepiest critter is……the most storied of them all: the snake! Feel squeamish? You’re so not alone. From their cold, scaly skin, to their forked tongues and tendency to eat rodents in one gulp, it’s no wonder these reptiles have secured legendary creep out status. 

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Boa Constrictors are scary in part due to their large size and the way in which they sometimes kill prey – by coiling around it and squeezing so tight as to suffocate it. However, more often, they will strike their prey first, and then coil around it, causing it to die by cardiac arrest. Their jaws are lined with small, hooked teeth perfect for grabbing and holding prey while they squeeze around it. Very large, strong boas can cause spinal fracture due to the huge of amounts of pressure they can apply to prey. Boas will eat almost anything they can catch, be it birds, rabbits, monkeys – even wild pigs, their jaws stretch extremely wide, enabling them to swallow large prey whole. boa teeth

Being native to the warm, tropical climes of North, Central, and South America, boas like to dwell in humid places and partially enclosed spaces like hollow logs; news stories depicting an elderly couple in Florida who discovered a slithery surprise in their garage one day are not at all uncommon.

Boas are known for their distinctive markings. Depending on what type of habitat they’re trying to blend in with, their bodies can be green, red, tan, or yellow, and display geometric-type patterns of ovals, diamonds, and circles. Unfortunately, this beauty costs them. Boas are often harvested for their unique skins and are most commonly killed for snake skin products such as shoes, bags, and other “fashionable” clothing items. Boa meat is also popular and is often seen for sale at markets near their geographic ranges. Black market exotic pet rings also sadly prize boas.

Julius SqueeIMG_6769zer, a 30-lb, 8.5 feet-long Red-tailed Boa Constrictor is the big resident boa at the Texas State Aquarium, come visit him in our Amazon exhibit!

Whataburger to Sponsor First 4D Theater in Texas’s Coastal Bend at the Texas State Aquarium

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October 27, 2014

Million dollar contribution from Whataburger aids fundraising effort for Aquarium’s Caribbean Journey expansion

Whataburger 4D Theater check presentationCORPUS 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, longtime partner Whataburger announced a generous $1 million gift to Campaign Caribbean. The gift is earmarked for the naming of a 4D theater in the Caribbean Journey experience – the first theater of its kind south of San Antonio.

“Whataburger and the Dobson Family are proud to support the construction of the 4D theater which will be named after our mother and the woman who grew Whataburger into the company it is today, Grace Dobson. She had a deep personal commitment to the Corpus Christi community and incredible passion for this place,” said Whataburger Chairman and TSA Board Member Tom Dobson.  “I know she would be very proud.”

Texas State Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid commented, “Whataburger and the Dobson family have been steadfast Aquarium supporters and partners for many years. Thanks to their generous continuing support, we are going to be able to bring the Coastal Bend area its first 4D theater.  4D will bring guests the richest theater experience possible – the action spills out of the screen over the audience with thrill-enhancing sensory special effects—from water mist and smoke clouds to tremors beneath the feet.”

The Texas State Aquarium’s Whataburger 4D Theater will be developed by SimEx-Iwerks, which specializes in designing, building and operating 4-D Experiences® that feature blockbuster content licensed from the world’s major studios. SimEx-Iwerks is an expert in integrating the highest quality 3-D high definition projection with in-seat and in-theater effects to create fully immersive experiences. Their 4-D theaters include a variety of special effects, including bubbles, snow, scent, FX lighting, water mist, seat vibrations, and wind. 

The $50 million Caribbean Journey addition will introduce Aquarium guests to the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean.  Its construction will complete the final two phases of the Aquarium’s original master plan and 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 texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean to take the Caribbean Journey.

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About Whataburger: 

Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dobson gave his restaurant a name he hoped to hear customers say every time they took a bite of his made-to-order burgers:  “What a burger!” Within the first week, people lined up around the block for his 25 cent, 100-percent beef burgers served on five-inch buns. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 760 locations in 10 states with sales of more than $1 billion annually. Visitwww.whataburger.com for more information on the company or become a fan on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/whataburger.

 

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.

www.texasstateaquarium.org