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What Does Parenting Look Like in Nature?

Ever wondered what parenthood looks like when it comes to the animal kingdom? From mouthbrooding to live births, parenting takes many different forms depending on the species. Here are a few interesting examples among the animals you might see on your next Aquarium visit:

Box Turtles

Box turtle crawling over substrate at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Box turtles are an egg-laying animal. After breeding, the female will bury the eggs on shore, leaving them to hatch and fend for themselves. Did you know the temperature of the environment where the eggs are laid determines whether they emerge as male or female?

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Black-Naped Fruit Doves

Black-naped fruit doves sitting in a nest at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
This species splits parenting responsibilities between the male and female, with each bird taking turns looking after the nest while the other forages. That vigilant care is important, as the female often lays just a single egg that needs 18-26 days to incubate.

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Surinam Toads

Surinam toad sitting still underwater at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Fun fact, Surinam toads are actually frogs despite their misleading name. Their intrigue doesn’t end there—these frogs have a particularly interesting reproduction cycle. After breeding, female Surinam toads embed the eggs on their backs and carry them until they hatch. Instead of tadpoles, offspring emerge as fully metamorphosed little frogs.

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Cichlids

Eartheater cichlid swimming at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Cichlids like this red-striped eartheater are mouthbrooders—this means they carry their offspring in their mouths until they are mature enough for independence. It may look strange to humans, but these fish will let their offspring forage for food before sucking them back up if the parent feels threatened. This close-quarters parenting gives offspring a better chance of survival.

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Stingrays

Stingray giving birth in shallow water.
One of just a few animals that give live births at the Aquarium, stingrays like the one above will carry their young for 11-12 months. Most of the time they give birth to just one pup, who is then left completely independent. While it takes a bit longer for the pups to fully mature, they enter the world with a fully formed barb ready to deter any possible threat.

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SHELL-ebrate the curious moms and dads in your life at Greater Cleveland Aquarium during Mother’s Day Weekend and Father’s Day Weekend.

For more fun, parent-themed animal facts, check out the video below:

These Small Animals Make a Big Impact

While the giant Pacific octopus or sandtiger sharks always make an impression on Greater Cleveland Aquarium guests, many little animals are capable of doing mighty things, often impacting their ecosystems in invaluable ways. Check out few examples of a few smaller species worthy of your appreciation on your next #cleaquarium visit.

Stoplight Parrotfish

Stoplight parrotfish swimming near coral at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Parrotfish jaws and teeth are uniquely adapted for eating corals. Their strong teeth can crush up the hard coral skeleton and once it passes through the fish’s digestive system it is expelled as sand. It is estimated that parrotfish produce as much as one ton of coral sand per acre of reef in year.

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Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp

Scarlet cleaner shrimp on a rock in the Aquarium touchpool.
Cleaner shrimp set up cleaning stations on top of a rocks or coral, almost like underwater car washes. Once the cleaner shrimp sway side to side to signal they are “open for business,” fish drop in to have their dead cells and parasites removed.

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Cookie Dough Sea Cucumber

Cookie dough sea cucumber curled up against a rock.
Cookie dough sea cucumbers interact with their environment almost like an earthworm in soil, breaking down small particles in the water that contribute to the nutrient cycle.

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Eastern Musk Turtle

Up-close image of an eastern musk turtle standing on a rock.
Found in the Eastern and Central United States, these little turtles are sometimes called stinkpots for the big smell they produce to deter predators.

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Northern Clingfish

Underside of a northern clingfish stuck to the Aquarium acrylic.
The clingfish is unique in its ability to quickly attach and detach from wet, irregular surfaces. Their suction disk can cling so tightly that scientists are trying to create suction cups based on the clingfish’s disk’s functionality.

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Plan a visit to Greater Cleveland Aquarium for a BIG look at SMALL species during Spring Discovery Days.

For more small animal fun facts, check out the playlist below:

How Do These Animals Attract a Mate?

Love is in the air—and underwater—at Greater Cleveland Aquarium. With Valentine’s Day this week, you might be wondering how certain species at the Aquarium attract mates. Read on for a few fun animal courtship facts, from horseshoe crabs to red-bellied piranhas.

Weedy Seadragons

Weedy seadragon male carrying eggs
Weedy seadragons perform an elaborate courtship dance beginning roughly two to four weeks before breeding. This dance often takes place at sunset and involves two seadragons mirroring each other’s movements.

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Solomon Island Leaf Frog

2 Solomon Island leaf frogs together
When they’re ready to mate, male Solomon Island leaf frogs emit a barking sound to attract a female. When their brood is ready, the eggs hatch as fully formed frogs, with no tadpole stage for this species.

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Red-Bellied Piranha

Red-bellied piranha close-up photo
Red-bellied piranhas swim in circles to attract mates. The eggs are then placed in bowl-shaped nests and hatch in just nine to 10 days.

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Red-Eared Slider

Two red-eared slider turtles
These turtles can be a bit forward with their courting rituals—fluttering their claws around the face of potential mates to show interest.

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Horseshoe Crab

Horseshoe crab next to a heart
Horseshoe crab females attract mates by coming ashore and releasing pheromones to signal males. They can then lay up to 100,000 eggs in a brooding season.

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Plan a visit to Greater Cleveland Aquarium to learn more about species and nearly 250 others. We’d love to “sea” you!

For more Valentine’s Day animal fun facts, check out the playlist below:

Q&A with United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland

This year, the Aquarium brings back Difference-Makers Days in partnership with United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, a week-long event (Monday, January 15 – Sunday, January 21, 2024) highlighting UBF’s work and the achievements of African American innovators.

Guests save $5 on daily admission through the week, and $1 of every ticket sold directly benefits UBF, who will be onsite for MLK Day and January 20-21 to share their mission.

Ahead of Difference-Makers Days, we caught up with UBF Development Coordinator Adrianne Sims for a Q&A discussing the organization’s ongoing impact on Northeast Ohio’s Black community.

United Black Fund at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Development Coordinator Adrianne Sims (Left)

Question: What is the mission of United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland?
Adrianne Sims: 
At the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, we believe in actively engaging with our agency partners to help them become sustainable and growth-oriented resources for their communities. We understand the importance of aiding those in need, and that’s why we strive to better prepare the nonprofits that serve them. We’re committed to making a positive impact on the Black community, and we’re here to support our partners every step of the way.

Question: How does UBF impact the Northeast Ohio community?
Adrianne Sims: We are deeply moved by the significant milestones we have achieved in our efforts to support the Black community. Our MORTAR Cleveland Program has successfully launched its first cohort of Black entrepreneurs, and we have been the unwavering financial foundation for several large-scale movements and events that empower the Black community, such as the FutureLAND Conference 2.0. Our commitment to supporting Black-led and owned businesses, particularly those led by Black women, is fueled by our understanding of the challenges they face. We strive to change the narrative that Cleveland is not a favorable place for them and are dedicated to making it a better place. Moreover, we have launched two $25,000 grant initiatives specifically designed to address Black needs. We pledge to continue our efforts to empower and support the Black community and to stand with them through their struggles.

Question: How can people in the community contribute to UBF’s mission? 
Adrianne Sims: We understand the importance of giving back to the community, and that’s why we at the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland are grateful for the incredible generosity of our donors and foundations. It’s their kindness that enables us to provide vital resources and support to various organizations, helping us further our mission of empowering and uplifting the community. We welcome you to join us in this inspiring movement toward positive change in the Black community by visiting our website or connecting with me (Adrianne Sims, Development Coordinator) to learn more about how you can contribute to this cause. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.

Question: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the Black community in Northeast Ohio today?
Adrianne Sims: It’s crucial to acknowledge the tough realities that the Black community in Northeast Ohio are facing. It’s heartbreaking to know that Cleveland has been designated as the worst city in America for Black women, but we understand that this is just a fraction of an even more significant issue. The environment in which our community lives has a profound impact on our access to quality healthcare, economic stability, affordable housing and quality education. We understand that immediate action must be taken to ensure that the Black community in Northeast Ohio receives the resources and support it deserves to thrive and have the quality of life that every human deserves. We feel the need to connect the dots of environmental justice and uplift Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of justice for all by linking it to the environment, climate, housing stability, healthcare and education because we firmly believe that every individual deserves to live in a safe and prosperous environment.

Question: What have been some of the benefits of the UBF and Greater Cleveland Aquarium partnership?
Adrianne Sims: There have been many benefits: This partnership has expanded the information, (our mission, programs, Grantees and Donor Advised Funds, etc.), of United Black Fund to Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s audience. Attendees have actively engaged with UBF about the new information regarding Greater Cleveland and the African American community. This collaboration has raised awareness of pioneering African American marine scientists and environmental researchers, along with highlighting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work not only in our nation, but in the Greater Cleveland area too!

For more information on UBF and Difference-Makers Day, visit the event page here. Can’t visit during Difference-Makers Days? Anyone interested in supporting UBF is encouraged to visit unitedblackfund.org and/or “Text to Give” by sending UBF to 50155

What’s On These Animals’ Wish Lists?

At Greater Cleveland Aquarium, the holidays are for giving thanks and meaningful gifts. Let’s take a look at a few of the animals who call the Aquarium home, and the presents on their wish lists this year.

Picasso Triggerfish at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Named for its vibrant bands of color, the Picasso triggerfish wishes for a new paint brush set.

Paint Brushes

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Snowflake eel at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Snowflake eels want a tunnel to play and relax in. Tight spaces make them feel at home.

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Archerfish at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Archerfish have impeccable aim when they shoot water as far as 6 feet at prey, knocking them into the water. Let’s get this one a dart board!

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Harlequin Sweetlips at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Known for its plump lips that get more prominent with age, the harlequin sweetlips wants a new shade of lip stick for the holidays.

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Eastern Musk Turtle at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
The eastern musk turtle, known for the smell it produces to deter predators, surely has perfume on its wishlist.

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Blue Runner at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Maybe not the fastest fish, blue runners still live up to their name with a fresh pair of tennis shoes.

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You can see these animals and more when you visit Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Check out the Aquarium’s See & Do page for a chance to see some of these species and nearly 250 others as you learn about their habitats and how you might support them.

What Are These Animals’ Favorite Meals?

All animals have their favorite foods, just like people do. This Thanksgiving, while humans are filling up on turkey and stuffing, these species want tasty treats like mice, crickets, crayfish and even sea monkeys.

Green Tree Python
Green tree pythons love to eat live mice like they would in the wild.

Greater Cleveland Aquarium Mouse

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Sandbar sharks prefer a hearty helping of squid for dinner.

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Freshwater stingrays like this ocellate river stingray often dine on crayfish.

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Moon jellies make a meal out of teeny tiny brine shrimp.

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This crested wood partridge looks for crickets when it needs a tasty treat.

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You can see these animals and more when you visit Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Check out the Aquarium’s See & Do page for a chance to see some of these species and others dine on their favorite snacks.

Best Places to Dive: Cleveland Water Intake Crib #5 – Cleveland, OH

Greater Cleveland Aquarium Dive Safety Coordinator Halle.When you think of diving in Lake Erie, you probably picture hazy green images of the many shipwrecks that litter these waters. Hundreds of wrecks have been discovered in the Great Lake and perhaps thousands more exist, but Halle Minshall has an entirely different suggestion for a top Lake Erie dive site.

“One of the coolest dives in the Great Lakes is the Cleveland Water Intake Crib #5. This dive is so exciting because of all the history 50 feet below the surface,” Halle says.

If you’ve ever passed over the Shoreway and looked toward the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, perhaps you’ve noticed the orange and white cylinder a few miles out. It might look like a freighter approaching this working river, but it never moves. It’s actually a water intake crib—a permanent structure that pulls freshwater from the lake and ultimately into the taps in businesses and homes in the Greater Cleveland area.

But the crib that we see three miles into the lake, called Five-Mile Crib or the Kirtland Crib (because it lies five miles away from the Kirtland Pumping Station at East 49th Street), is one of four cribs in the lake and the only one above water. A short distance from the Five-Mile Crib, invisible from shore, is a white buoy that marks the location of the underwater crib that Halle loves to dive.

“In the early 1900s, city workers built a cofferdam and created the intake crib to provide water to the residents to the city of Cleveland. All the tools and supplies they used to construct the crib were discarded in the surrounding waters and make for a walk back through history,” Halle reports. Incredibly, the above-water crib was finished in 1904 and the underwater Crib #5 was extended from a crib closer to shore and completed in 1916, but not without tragedy.

Cleveland’s downtown cribs are in 50 feet of water. Diggers, called “sand hogs,” dug another 50 feet under the bottom of the lake before making a 90-degree turn and then tunneling back to shore. The Five-Mile Crib displays a plaque in honor of the 38 men killed during the construction completed in 1904 (and does not include many more who perished from a then little-understood effect called “the bends”).

Then, during the construction of Crib #5, there was a terrible explosion when workers hit a gas pocket in 1916, resulting in the death of another 21 men. The use of a safety hood (an early prototype of the gas mask) developed by Cleveland inventor Garrett Morgan led to the rescue of two men and the recovery of several bodies. In 1991, the treatment plant connecting to Crib #5 was renamed the Garrett A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant in his honor.

At the dive site, divers encounter bulwarks rising 20 feet from the bottom, supporting the outside rim of the crater-like intake crib. The 20-foot opening is large enough that divers aren’t sucked into the grated entrance, and the moving water leads to unusual clarity for a Lake Erie dive. “The construction tools used to build this water intake crib over 100 years ago are easily accessible and visible and yet the divers who visit this site leave them unmolested, further preserving a piece of our history,” Halle says. The elevation of the intake was carefully considered, avoiding ice and boat traffic at the surface, as well as sludge and bacteria that gather at the bottom of the lake.

“This is one of my favorite dives I have ever done in Lake Erie, the history and culture tied together with the modern-day need for drinking water are fascinating,” says Halle, continuing, “The technology and precision needed to make a tunnel like this, miles out into the lake and a connecting horizontal tunnel under the lakebed, fascinates me.”

The four Cleveland cribs provide clean freshwater to 1.4 million customers in the Greater Cleveland area. “I don’t think very many Clevelanders consider where our water comes from or how it gets from the lake to your faucet. We are so lucky to be geographically situated with such bountiful natural resources,” Halle says.

 

Cleveland Water Intake Crib is the ninth in our weekly series of the Aquarium dive team’s favorite dive locations. Stay tuned for the final destination and suggest somewhere new we might want to explore.

  • Ray D.

 

Best Places to Dive: Forfar Field Station, Andros Island, Bahamas

Diver Steph Q with a sand tiger shark at the Aquarium.We dive for a variety of reasons. To commune with nature, to unwind, to explore. Our “pale blue dot,” as astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan pointed out, is just a “very small stage in a vast cosmic arena,” but perhaps by diving in we can learn to better appreciate that fragile ecosystem largely invisible to us as we commute between school, work and the grocery store in our busy daily lives.

Greater Cleveland Aquarium diver Stephanie Quinn took a formal approach to learning about our dot when she enrolled in a study abroad program during her senior year at Ohio University. Stephanie and her future husband spent a week at the Forfar Field Station, an educational and scientific non-profit organization that has served as a resource to over 50,000 thousand students ranging from middle school to graduate students and researchers. Most field study trips last a week and involve groups of 10-45 students with a focus on marine science, geology, botany, climate change or other scientific fields including social science. Imagine a classroom along the shoreline where students put their learning to the test by plunging into their environment.

“Forfar Field Station is a rustic former dive resort nestled in a beachfront coconut grove on the east coast of Andros Island,” according to their website. The largest of the Bahamian islands, Andros is host to rich diving opportunities for the students, including “coral reefs, offshore cays, sea grass beds, sandbars, blue holes, subtropical terrestrial habitats, Bahamian settlements and more.” The waters nearby are filled with colorful reef fish, including blue tang, angelfish, parrotfish and butterflyfish.

“It was the best diving,” Stephanie recalls. “Crystal clear water. Great biodiversity. We dove both there (Forfar Field Station) and Small Hope Bay during our study abroad. We then went back to Small Hope Bay for our honeymoon.”

Stephanie joined the Aquarium’s dive team in 2015 and has been a certified diver for 22 years. She lost her logbook, but estimates she has roughly 75 dives outside of the Aquarium. According to Aquarium Assistant Dive Safety Coordinator Matthew Ballish, she has more than 1350 dives in the habitats here.

Sagan, in his well-known speech, said that astronomy was a humbling experience. “To me,” he said, “it underscores our responsibility…to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” These words were meant for the study of the stars but could apply just as well to those that look under the sea.

Forfar Field Station is the first in our weekly series of the Aquarium dive team’s favorite dive locations. Stay tuned for the rest of our list or share your favorite place to dive with us.

– Ray D.

Best Places to Dive? We Know a Few

Diver Ray Danner.Scuba diving and Cleveland, Ohio . . . sort of go together like peanut butter and monkey wrenches, right? I challenge you to find one of those “101 Places to Dive Before You Die” books with a cover that isn’t turquoise, tropical and filled with colorful reef fish. And yet Cleveland has its own extensive dive community. Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes, has hundreds of shipwrecks to explore and is serviced by several dive shops that teach classes, sell gear, and organize trips all over the world. Northeast Ohio is home to around 4.5 million people and an untold amount of scuba divers who love to explore the waters in their own backyard as well as adventure to distant places to see what there is to see in the 70% of our planet that is underwater.

“What is your favorite place to dive?” is usually the first question posed to a diver. Could there be a better place to ask that question than of the staff at Greater Cleveland Aquarium? Not to toot our own horn, but we pack a ton of dive experience into the historic Powerhouse.

The Aquarium currently has 25 divers on staff; that’s not just the dedicated dive team members but also diver-certified aquarists, Life Support Systems staff and some of the Guest Experience folks regularly answering your animal questions. The numbers are dizzying. We did 1,265 dives in 2022 totaling 99,162 minutes. That’s almost 69 days or 10 weeks underwater. We could have watched Avatar: The Way of Water 5,204 times last year!

The Aquarium team has logged 22,246 dives since the downtown venue’s doors first opened in 2012 through the end of 2022, and we have well over 300 already this year. In fact, there’s a good chance that someone is underwater at the Aquarium as you read this blog post.

Best places to dive? Yeah, we have a few. I asked around and started a list. What follows will be a series of ten dive locations around the world as recommended by our team. Some are tropical, some feature shipwrecks and one is even under ice.

We hope that the discussion stirs a passion in everyone to explore the world while you can. There’s so much to experience and we love to talk about all the curiosities we’ve seen underwater. I think I speak for all the staff here when I say that we advocate for the protection of the species and environments that we’ve seen firsthand and feel there’s no better way to learn and love what’s out there than diving in and encountering it, face-to-face. I’ve been diving since 2017 and have been a Greater Cleveland Aquarium diver since 2018. I have more than 1,000 dives here and 65 or so out in the world, including the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Honduras, Niagara River, Tobermory and Greece.

So, if you see someone at the Aquarium and you’re curious, don’t be shy. We love to talk diving and follow this blog series to add some of our recommendations to your “must-experience list.”

-Ray D.