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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

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

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

5 Things I Learned: Anableps

Quickly swimming at the surface, Anableps anableps can be difficult to spot despite the fact that they swim in schools. Let’s get a closer look at these unique fish.

Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Megan Brown, Intern

5 Things I Learned: Bushynose Pleco

It might be hard to find a bushynose pleco, but that’s by design! Take a closer look at this bristlenose catfish in the video below.

Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Hannah

Species Highlight: The Argentine Tegu

Commonly known as the giant tegu, the Argentine black-and-white tegu is the largest species of tegu lizard. We are going to take a closer look at one of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s newest residents and learn about its habitat, diet and even a unique characteristic with aquarist Brenton Maille.

Adaptability is Key

Did you know the Argentine tegu can survive in a range of habitats? From rainforest to scrubland, these tegus utilize the habitats available to them. Because tegus are very adaptable, they have resisted deforestation, which is a very common threat to species in the rainforest. “Tegus utilize different habitats and different areas of those habitats as well,” says Maille.

Many people know of this tegu species because it’s considered an invasive species in Florida, meaning it is not native to that area. According to Brenton, it is believed that the Argentine black-and-white tegu may have become invasive to Florida due to the pet trade. While the tegu is tiny and pretty adorable when young, they can eventually reach lengths of up to 4 feet which can be more than some pet owners are ready to handle. “Once a tegu started to get too large for a home environment people would release them into the wild, making them invasive species,” Maille says.

Maintaining a Balanced Diet

So what does a tegu eat? “In the wild, their diet changes throughout their life,” Maille says. When born, they are predators, eating mostly birds’ eggs and small insects. Once tegus get older and grow they switch to mostly omnivorous lifestyles, although they may still occasionally catch small rodents. They are generally good hunters and scavengers in the wild.

The Aquarium’s animal care staff works hard to make the diet balanced and reflect similarities of the wild. According to Maille, the Aquarium tegu receives “eggs, fish, rats and a mix of apples, bananas, pears and greens.”

Competitive Edge

Most people know that cold-blooded animals rely on outside temperatures to determine their body temperature. While the tegu is an ectotherm, it has the rare ability to raise its own body temperature by about five degrees in certain circumstance. While this is interesting and unique, there must be a reason . . . right? That reason is for breeding season. “Males compete better and females can produce and lay eggs faster,” Maille says.

Nature. It’s a curious thing. Learn more about the Argentine black and white tegu and other reptiles on your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

– Tori Pishkula

5 Things I Learned: Red Terror Cichlid

This colorful, eye-catching fish is a red terror cichlid (Cichlasoma festae). It can grow to lengths of 12 – 20 inches and live somewhere between 12 – 20 years. But what else do we know about it?

The red terror cichlid in the Aquarium’s Tropical Forest Gallery is hard to miss. Stop by and see this and many other very different but equally intriguing cichlids at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Sam Fryberger

5 Things I Learned: Spotted Turtle

The  Greater Cleveland Aquarium is a partner in SPOTD, a cross-organization collaboration to boost the number of spotted turtles in Northeast Ohio. Learn more about these attractive little turtles here:

 

Nature. It’s a curious thing. To see a spotted turtle and learn about the Splash Fund, Wild4Ever Foundation and Terrestrial Brewing Company‘s “I Love It When I Save the Turtle Porter, visit the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s Ohio Lakes & Rivers Gallery.

– Sam Fryberger