Texas State Aquarium releases a Green Heron back into its natural habitat



The Texas State Aquarium released a Green Heron back into its natural habitat at the Port Aransas Birding Center.

The juvenile shorebird was brought to the Wildlife Hospital mid-September, with a fractured metacarpal. Given the proper time to rest and recover, staff deemed the bird ready to be released back into its natural habitat.

greenheron093016_0006The Aquarium’s Second Chances Wildlife Hospital will gladly take injured raptors, shorebirds or waterfowl babies, but will not be able to take in other baby birds. If you are unsure of what kind of bird you have, call 361.881.1210.

IMPORTANT: Because birds are protected, it is not legal to keep a bird unless you have the necessary permits to do so. It is very important that you turn over any bird as soon as possible, not only because it’s the law, but for the bird’s safety and well-being.


Totally Touchable: 16 Animals You Can See and Feel at the Aquarium


Kid with urchinAt the Texas State Aquarium, we’re all about providing extrasensory experiences to excite and engage visitors with animals and nature. It’s been scientifically proven that people, especially children, tend to feel more passionately for and care about things they can see and interact with up close and personal – that’s why we foster compassion, education, and conservation via the ability to touch and feel certain animals.

We hope the thrill of petting a shark’s tough skin, feeling the tingling tube feet of a sea star, and holding a live conch will create lasting memories in your child’s mind for years to come, and also inspire them to care about our world’s oceans and the inhabitants that swim, splash, and scuttle beneath their waves.

Below is a list of the many totally touchable animals you can encounter at the Texas State Aquarium:


  1. Hermit crabhermit crab small

Found in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, the striped hermit crabs in our Living Shores touch pool area are only hermit-like as a defense mechanism, and because as they grow, they have to change shells, temporarily exposing their soft, vulnerable bodies to the world. The striped hermit’s body and legs are dark green or brown, streaked with white. Adult crabs often occupy shells of over 10 cm. (4 in.) in length.


  1. Horseshoe crab

Did you know we have an animal older than the dinosaurs that you can actually touch?! That’s right; the hard-shelled, blue-blooded horseshoe crab has been scuttling around the earth for over 300 million years! Though with their hard exoskeletons, ten legs, nine eyes, and long tails called telsons, they seem to look more like they come from outer space than earth. These can be found in our Living Shores touch pool area.slipper lobster sm


  1. Slipper lobster

You might notice that the slipper lobster seems to be lacking a very crucial part of lobster anatomy – where are its pinchers? Don’t worry; this crafty crustacean, found in our Living Shores touch pool area, comes equipped with multiple ways to fend off predators. This lobster has one of the toughest carapaces under the sea, and it also has amazing camouflage capabilities, as well as the ability to climb and cling to surrounding landscape to escape!


  1. Sea urchin

Also found in our Living Shores touch pool area, the spindly spindles of the pencil and short spined urchins in our touch pool area only look menacing – there’s nothing to fear! Urchins can be covered with hundreds of these spines and can range in color from white to purple to blue and even red. pin cushion urchin small


  1. Sea star

The Bahama, or red cushion, sea star found in our Living Shores touch pool area is the largest sea star found in its range, which stretches from the Caribbean Sea to the western Atlantic Ocean. The upper surface of this oceanic omnivore is hard and covered with blunt spines, but pick one up, and you’ll feel its tube feet moving against your hand.


  1. Southern Ray smallSouthern stingray

These flat, diamond-shaped rays are usually a stone gray or muddle olive color and the large adults are famously seen in the waters off the Cayman Islands swimming with visitors. Not only can you touch them in Stingray Lagoon, you can also see larger southern stingrays in our Islands of Steel and Flower Gardens exhibits.


  1. Cownose stingray

The distinctive w-shaped nose of the cownose ray looks just like that of its bovine namesake. These rays swim in multiple exhibits at the Aquarium and are among those that can be touched at Stingray Lagoon. Like most rays, cownoses have crushing plates they use to eat clams and oysters. And though they can use their barbs for defense in the wild, we trim the barbs of all the stingrays at the Texas State Aquarium. They’re made of keratin, just like our hair and fingernails, so the procedure is totally painless.


  1. Whitespotted bamboo shark

Just one of the three types of carpet sharks we have at the Aquarium, these benthic and banded sharks are easily identifiable by their medium and dark brown-striped bodies spotted with white dots. Visitors can get up close with them in our Saving Sharks exhibit.


  1. Brown banded bamboo sharkbrownbanded bamboo shark small

This small shark likes to search the sediment on the ocean bottom for prey and can also amazingly survive outside the water for extended periods of time! It can be found in the Aquarium at our Saving Sharks exhibit.


  1. Epaulette shark

These tan and black-spotted sharks use their fins for more than swimming – they actually walk with them! By wriggling their bodies from side to side and pushing with their paired fins, they can effectively walk across the bottom of the ocean and their Saving Sharks exhibit.


  1. Horn shark

Recognizable by its short, blunt head, ridges over its eyes, two high dorsal fins, and brown coloration with a plethora of small, dark spots, the horn shark can be found slowly swimming inside the touch pool area inside Saving Sharks.


  1. Sea cucumbersea cucumber sm

Named after its resemblance to the common green vegetable, sea cucumbers are important parts of marine ecosystems as they help recycle nutrients, breaking down detritus and other organic matter after which bacteria can continue the degradation process. They can be found in our Living Shores touch pool area.


  1. Horse conch

The largest gastropod in American waters, the horse conch is also one of the largest sea snails in the world. The animal can retract its bright orange soft parts into its shell and seal itself off from predators. Touch one in our touch area in our Living Shores exhibit!


  1. Common spider crab

Also known as a decorator crab due to its tendency to camouflage itself with algae and debris, the spider crab is a long-legged and slow-moving creature that can be found from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico in brackish, salty waters. At the Aquarium, you can catch this crustacean in our Living Shores touch pool.Spider crab sm


  1. Milk conch

This iconic conical conch can be found burrowing into sandy ocean floors all throughout the gulf and the Caribbean. The inside of the shell is creamy in color, and the animal itself is a greenish color with large eyestalks. When disturbed, it will retreat into its shell and close it using the operculum. Get up close in our Living Shores touch pool!


  1. Chiton smChitons

Chitons are marine mollusks that look more like fossils than living animals. They dwell on hard surfaces such as on or under rocks or in crevices and can be found all across the world’s oceans, as well as in our Living Shores touch pool area. They have plates that overlap and give them that tough, tank-like appearance similar to the body of a cockroach. Chitons creep slowly along surfaces thanks to a muscular foot – they’ve been doing so for close to 400 million years.


The Man Behind the Mulch: Meet Landscape Specialist Keith Bethel


From the backwash basins in the very bottom of the building, to the tippity-top of the tall steeple on top of the observation deck, Keith Bethel knows the Aquarium from side to side, top to bottom. The twenty-five year staff member is technically titled Landscape Specialist, but he’s more like the Aquarium’s own Renaissance man. From parking issues, to sanitation stations, electricity and wiring, exhibit building – you name it and he’s had a hand in it.


Bethel pulling errant weeds out of his pristine landscaping.

Though a native Corpus Christian, Bethel lived in Hawaii as a young adult and worked in the landscaping industry, thus giving him the edge he needed 25 years ago to land his current position.

“I was somewhat knowledgeable about tropical plants and our climate here and what works here,” says Bethel.

Bethel says he was largely tasked with making choices regarding planting, soil, landscaping the front, back, and individual exhibit areas all around the aquarium – a somewhat daunting task for a young man. But Bethel knew exactly where to find answers and inspiration; they were right across the bridge.

“I would go and cruise down Ocean Drive and check out what was thriving and doing well in their yards, then take that knowledge back to the Aquarium. We have the same kind of exposure they do and it translates well,” Bethel explained.

But Bethel’s knowledge and ingenuity doesn’t just stop at plants and landscaping. As a master falconer, he is extremely well-versed on bird care, specifically raptors.

From a very young age, Bethel said he developed a fascination with birds. 


Bethel poses with a hawk behind the Aquarium. 

“From hummingbirds to condors, you name it; I think they’re all amazing creatures,” says Bethel, who used to spend hours of his childhood researching different bird species in the Corpus Christi Library’s encyclopedia collection. After wearing out the more general books, Bethel looked for other options and discovered one single volume concerning falconry, and that was it – the sport flew away with him.

“It is defined as ‘the art of using trained raptors to hunt,’ and is a sport that’s been around for thousands of years,” Bethel says. “There’s such a rich history behind it. Back even before the Medieval period.”

Bethel is very fond of his two peregrine falcons, Mamba, a female, and Colt, a male or tiercel. He says that working at the Aquarium over the years has afforded him great opportunities to learn more about birds of prey.


A master falconer, Bethel is pictured here hunting with one of his two falcons.

“I’m grateful for a lot of opportunities I’ve gotten working here. I’m thankful also for the stability the Aquarium has provided me and my family – my kids grew up in the halls here and now so will my grandkids,” Bethel says with a smile. His daughter Sarah is part of the Aquarium’s Guest Services staff and recently had a baby boy.

Pride indeed runs deep at the Aquarium for Keith Bethel. From creating and maintaining our award-winning grounds, to helping with various tasks in every department, and even helping to transport animals, there truly is so much to learn about the man behind the mulch.

Texas State Aquarium Released Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk


Second ChancesThe Aquarium is happy to announce that we released a Red-Tailed Hawk back into its natural habitat at Hazel Bazemore Park earlier this morning!

The Aquarium’s Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital took in the juvenile raptor February 11, when a local woman discovered the injured hawk near Allison Point Road and brought it to the facility.

Upon inspection, Second Chances staff discovered the young hawk was dehydrated and had a broken clavicle and coracoid, two vital shoulder bones that inhibit flying if fractured. Surgery was performed by Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. David Stelling to pin the bones back together. The major surgery required slow conditioning and physical therapy by staff. The young hawk steadily progressed in its rehabilitation, moving from low perches to higher ones, eventually regaining its ability to fly.

Throughout its recovery, staff carefully monitored the mending of hawk’s injuries and encouraged appropriate eating habits. All were excited to see the healed hawk return to its natural habitat.

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Texas State Aquarium Saddened Loss of Fish Species


The Texas State Aquarium is saddened to report the loss of approximately 400 marine fish.  These fish inhabited several large habitats, including the Islands of Steel exhibit and the Flower Gardens exhibit. In an attempt to control a particularly difficult parasite that had proven resistant to other treatments, staff administered a different, commonly used drug. The fish in the affected exhibits had an adverse reaction to the medication. Staff members worked diligently throughout the night to save as much of the collection as possible, but considerable losses were sustained.

The majority of the Aquarium’s animal collection was not impacted. The Living Shores gallery, Nearshore gallery, Amazon, and Floating Phantoms, as well as a number of smaller exhibits, were not affected. None of the freshwater aquariums, and none of the touch tanks were impacted. In addition, none of the outdoor exhibits such as Tortuga Cay and Texas Trails were affected.  The loss represents about 13 percent of the Aquarium’s overall collection.

As a standard precaution, staff had tested the treatment on an individual smaller exhibit with no adverse reaction prior to administering it into the larger exhibit.

The Aquarium’s first priority is to focus on stabilizing the water in the affected exhibits. The Aquarium has sent water samples from affected exhibits to testing laboratories in hopes of a clear explanation for what caused the adverse reaction.

“This is a very sad day at the Texas State Aquarium,” remarked Aquarium Chief Marketing Officer Richard E. Glover, Jr. “We are working diligently to find out what caused the adverse reaction, and we will keep the public informed with any updates.”