Press ENTER to search, ESC to clear

5 Things I Learned: Surinam Toad

With a triangular head, flattened appearance, bumpy skin and tiny lidless black eyes, the Surinam toad is one odd-looking amphibian. Their earthy-colored, mottled, leaf-like appearance allows them to blend into the rocks and plant debris at the bottoms of muddy, slow-moving waterways of South America.

The Surinam toad can stay underwater for more than an hour and is actually considered an aquatic frog. Its rough skin earned it the “toad” name. See these unique animals up-close at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Nature. It’s a curious thing.

-Samantha Fryberger

Bird is the Word

You might be curious about the bird calls you hear while walking through the Aquarium’s Tropical Forest Gallery. Birds play important roles in their ecosystems, from being predators and prey, to acting as pollinators and seed dispersers, to providing magnificent sights and sounds we have come to expect from wild habitats. You will find three different colorful species of birds at the Aquarium. Crested wood-partridges are peculiar, ground-dwelling birds native to Indonesian rainforests. Be on the lookout for the showy red crest on the male’s head. What the female is lacking in head decorations, she makes up for with beautiful green body feathers, compared to the male’s dark blue variety. You might see these birds using their feet to move things around on the ground while foraging for edible treats.

Black-naped fruit doves are another pair of birds where a quick visual study easily distinguishes the male and the female. The male sports the black nape on his neck and head area, while the female is entirely green. Fruits and seeds make up the majority of the menu for these doves.  If you’re fortunate, you may hear and see the male making his vocalization from a perch.

If extremely active birds are your favorite to observe, look no further than the curl-crested aracaris. They’re a playful and curious pair, seemingly hopping and flying around endlessly, always searching for the next item to eat or interact with. They mainly accomplish these activities using their spectacular, large, multicolored bills. Stop by and see if you can spot any out–of-the- ordinary items in their exhibit; these are provided regularly to enrich the birds’ active brains.

Matt Debelak

5 Reasons to Check Out Hauntaquarium

Looking for something to do this Halloween? Here are 5 reasons your family will enjoy Captain NEO’s Hauntaquarium at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium October 18, 19, 25, 26 or 27* from 6 – 9pm.

RAIN, SHINE OR SNOW IT’S A GO Our pirate party activities—from a DJ dance party to face painting—are indoors.

FUN, NOT SCARY There are pirates, pumpkins and magic, but nothing gets too spooky. Parents attending with kids in tow are encouraged to come in costume; as long as it is child-friendly and does not include a mask.

BUDGET-CONSCIOUS PRICING Due to the generosity of sponsors like the Cleveland Monsters, Integrity Radio and K9 Cleveland, the cost to attend Captain NEO’s Hauntaquarium is less than daytime admission—$12 ($10 for Passholders).  If you purchase your ticket in advance and show it at the gate to the lot, parking is also included.

MORE THAN TREATS Captain NEO’s Hauntaquarium is more than a treat trail with stickers, candies and temporary tattoos. The evening also includes animal encounters, mini science experiments, costumed SCUBA divers and activities to spur the imagination of budding young biologists.

FEEL-GOOD FUN We hope you’ll enjoy the evening and take away a newfound appreciation for how flashlight fish get their special glow, where piranhas earned their fearsome reputations or why poison dart frogs are such brilliant colors. We are excited for any opportunity to share our passion for aquatic life and the environment with curious learners of all ages.

Interested? Space is limited. I suggest getting your tickets in advance to make sure you get the night of your choice AND free parking. (*Note: October 27 is being held in partnership with Autism Speaks Northeast Ohio and is for families who could benefit from a reduction of stimuli.) You can purchase tickets here.

  • Neda Spears

A Spin on the Laundromat: Moon Jellyfish

You may wonder as you walk through the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s Coastal Boardwalk Gallery why there is a giant washing machine. As you get closer, you will see what is gently swirling in the fanciful exhibit—moon jellyfish. The decision to showcase these animals in such a way came from Director of Artistic Production and Operations, Bruce Orendorf.

Bruce had a few ideas about how to fit the new exhibit in with the gallery’s deliberately kitschy boardwalk theme. The jellyfish exhibit uses a circular kreisel tank that causes the water to flow in a circular motion and enables the animals to rise and fall, but moves slow enough so that they are allowed to move freely as well. In thinking about the exhibit’s relationship to a boardwalk Bruce thought, “Cotton candy machine?”, but ruled that out as that kind of machine operates horizontally, not vertically. Then he thought, “You know what that looks like? A washing machine.”

The moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), which gets its name from four internal gonads that have a moon shape, cannot swim, so their movement in the water relies on currents. They use currents to move through the water to find their prey, which consist of zooplankton, fish eggs, larval crabs and shrimp. Here at the Aquarium, their diet consists of artemia nauplii, a form of brine shrimp.

“I want people to find them as interesting as I do,” said Aquarist Bethany Hickey, who is in charge of the exhibit, and who has a particular interest in invertebrates. Hickey says that ensuring that the temperature, as well as the water currents, mirror that of the environment these animals live in, is crucial to their survival. “They are very susceptible to any environmental changes, and that necessary stability is somewhat challenging to maintain in the exhibit,” she said.

After landing on a name, Bruce built the façade in-house and had signs made that were similar to what you would see in a real laundromat, but would also work within the Coastal Boardwalk theme.

Now you know some of the thought and planning that goes into creating a new exhibit. Next time you visit, check out the jellyfish in the Blue Moon Laundromat.

– Neda Spears

5 Tips to Recycle Responsibly

We all want to do our part to help the Earth, but sometimes we feel we just we don’t know how. Nine out of 10 people said they would recycle if it were “easier.” Here are 5 simple tips to become a recycling regular:

1. Follow City’s Pickup Standards.

Depending where you live, recyclables are either collected in blue plastic bags or loose in bins. Follow the regulations of your City to ensure extra plastic is not wasted. If your City does not require collection in plastic bags, use a bin or cart when taking out or dropping off recycling.

Collecting recyclables in plastic bags can cause issues with the recycling equipment and sorting machines. Plastic bags can get tangled and contaminate sorted recycling bins creating more trouble and waste. Because of this, they can end up in landfills, blow away and clog our waterways, oceans and seas.

Plastic bags, like grocery bags should never be recycled with your recyclables. Collect plastic bags and consider looking into collection programs at local grocery stores and retailers. To find a location accepting drop-offs near you, check out plasticfilmrecycling.org. 

2. Only recycle clean, empty containers.

Rinse out your bottles, jars and cartons before throwing them in the recycling. Remember, that pizza box isn’t recyclable. While it is cardboard, it can never be clean and free of grease and food remnants.

3. Replace bottle lids after cleaning.

Plastic lids can now be recycled but they can’t be recycled alone. Bottle lids that are thrown into recycling alone can be hard to spot and are often lost in the process of sorting. This means they can end up with the trash and head to a landfill. After you empty and clean your containers, make sure to put the caps back on.

4. Don’t mix everything together if you’re unsure.

When recycling, it is important not to “wish cycle”. Wish cycling is a term used to describe when someone puts items in their recycling and is unsure if it’s recyclable or not. This creates more waste and contaminates items that could have been recycled. While it feels good to recycle more items, make sure you only recycle the “core” recycling items at home: cans, cartons, glass bottles and jars, paper and boxes, and plastic bottles and jugs.

5. Research your city’s recycling policies.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can continue or start recycling correctly, research your City’s website to find out what items are accepted, and the best way to recycle. Each site will address any frequently asked questions you might have on recycling properly where you live. If you live in Cuyahoga County, you can find more information at cuyahogarecycles.org.

Species Highlight: Poison Dart Frog

Poison dart frogs got their moniker from indigenous Central and South Americans using the toxins the animals secrete through their skin on hunting arrows. We talked to aquarist Connor Craig to learn more about some of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s newest (and deadliest) residents.

Poison dart frogs can be found in nature in the humid rainforests of Central and South America. Their vivid coloring is a form of protection from would-be predators. “A poison dart frog’s bright color advertises the fact that it’s poisonous, so they don’t get eaten,” says Craig adding that although darts frog come in a variety of hues, their color doesn’t correlate to how poisonous they are.

Their deadly poison comes from the frog’s diet of different small insects like ants, small flies and beetles. In the Aquarium, the poison dart frogs eat fruit flies, pinhead crickets and a vitamin supplement to ensure proper nutrition. “The controlled diet doesn’t allow for the development of the poison for which these animals are known,” says Craig.

The only natural predator of the poison dart frog is the fire-bellied snake (Leimadophis epinephelus), which has developed a resistance to the frog’s poison. However, the biggest problems facing poison dart frogs are related to human activity. “One of the first signs that something is wrong in an ecosystem is if indicator species, such as amphibians, start to decline,” Craig says. “Many species of amphibians are threatened from human activities like deforestation, the pet trade and deteriorating water quality.”

While deadly, imagine if their poison could be used to make someone feel better. Scientists are using the toxins blue poison dart frogs secrete to study how nerves conduct electricity to help them create new human painkillers.

Get an up-close look at green and black, Patricia dyeing and ‘Azureus’ blue dart frogs on your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Hannah

5 Things I Learned: Cleaner Shrimp

Take a stroll down our Coastal Boardwalk Gallery and you’ll find all sorts of creatures. One of the most interesting that you’ll find in our invertebrate Touch Pool is the decapod crustacean, commonly known as a cleaner shrimp. These shrimp exhibit a cleaning symbiotic relationship with the fish they rid of parasites. Here are 5 facts that I have learned about cleaner shrimp.

You can come see a cleaner shrimp up close and even get a “mini-manicure” when they clean the dead skin from your fingers at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s Invertebrate Touch Pool. Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Payton Burkhammer, Intern

Coral Reefs and Sunscreen

What can I do, here in Ohio to help protect the coral reefs thousands of miles away? The answer may surprise you. There are numerous ways YOUR individual actions can either hurt or help coral reefs around the world. One such action is the selection of your sunscreen! The sunscreen you have at home may contain chemicals that are extremely dangerous for coral reefs.

Image source: http://rethinkcleveland.org/home.aspx

Sunscreens are important to us they help prevent skin damage from the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun. But, the protection of our skin comes at a cost, a few of the chemicals used in sunscreens have been found to have negative effects on coral reefs.  The ingredient oxybenzone is found in 65% of non-mineral sunscreens and it has recently been discovered to damage coral DNA. Oxybenzone, while thought to be an important ingredient for sunscreen has been found to negatively impact coral reefs across the globe.

Image Source: Halle Minshall

In 2005 Dr. Craig Downes and the United States National Park Service were working in collaboration to uncover the cause of coral losses in the U.S. Virgin Islands when they stumbled upon the role sunscreen played in coral death. The tourists, sunbathers, snorkelers and divers lathered in sunscreen and to enjoy turquoise blue waters were introducing chemicals that kill the very corals and damage the ecosystem they are trying to enjoy.

Image Source: https://slideplayer.com/slide/4629733/

It is estimated that every year swimmers, snorkelers and divers introduce 14,000 tons of sunscreen to coral reefs. This introduction of the harsh chemical components in sunscreen, sea temperature rising and ocean acidification have worked together to create the perfect storm for coral reef destruction. Corals are living animals, not plants, these tiny animals build the foundations of the reef out of limestone. The tiny coral polyps live in large communities and play host to a special alga called zooxanthellae.  The zooxanthellae live inside the coral and share food they produce from photosynthesis in return for their safe housing.

Image Souce: Halle Minshall

So, what can you do to help the coral reefs?

Consider looking into some of the many “reef safe” sunscreen options and/or avoiding the need for sunscreen by wearing a hat or UV-safe long sleeved shirt and pants to protect your skin.  Alternatively, stay indoors instead of in the sun entirely.  We need to be more aware of the impact of our actions even though they may seem inconsequential.  Some states have begun to regulate the chemical components in sunscreen to help keep their coral reefs healthy.

Do your part and think about what you put on your body and into the ocean and coral reef ecosystem!

5 Things I Learned: Weedy Seadragon

Is that seaweed or a weedy seadragon? Seaweed-like appendages camouflage the weedy seadragon, helping it blend in to its costal Australian habitat. Want to know more? Here are 5 things I learned, but beware, their laidback surfer vibe is relaxing enough to put you to sleep:

Weedy seadragons are a Near Threatened species found along the southern coastline of Australia. You can see weedy seadragons and learn more about conservation during your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Hannah Moskowitz, Intern