It’s the 27th annual “Shark Week” on cable’s Discovery Channel.  (You may have noticed that The Maritime Aquarium is the local sponsor of “Shark Week” on Cablevision!)

Although the original intent of “Shark Week” was to share helpful educational information about sharks, some of the programming seems to have slipped toward the over-hyped and dramatic and scary (and, in the case of Sunday night’s big kickoff, fictional and silly).

We’ll use the themed week to offer some not-so-terrorizing – and true – insights into the sharks living at The Maritime Aquarium.

Shark Respiration

Did you believe that all sharks must keep swimming to survive? To move water across their gills to breathe?

Not true.

The Maritime Aquarium is all about letting you get close to our animals, sharks included. We currently have seven species of sharks on display. When you visit, odds are good that the sharks of only one of the seven species will be swimming.

The sharks of the other six species probably will be … not swimming. Resting on the bottom.

For The Maritime Aquarium’s “Shark & Ray Touch Pool,” we favor species of sharks that are less active, to offer you a better chance of getting a feel for them – literally. The nurse sharks, epaulette sharks, brown-banded bamboo sharks and coral catshark are all species that prefer to hang out on the bottom. This makes it easier for you to run two fingers down their backs – a fun, learning opportunity. (The chain catsharks in an exhibit nearby are similarly inactive.)

lemon-shark-Maritime-Aquarium

The Maritime Aquarium's lemon shark, at rest in the "Ocean Beyond the Sound" exhibit.

Surprised?

Certainly, a number of species of sharks swim pretty much 24/7.  Sometimes – like with great whites, makos and whale sharks – they have to swim to breathe. (It’s called obligate ram ventilation.) As they move, water flows into their open mouths and over their gills.

But there other reasons for sharks to just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Sharks – including the big sand tiger sharks that dominate The Maritime Aquarium’s “Ocean Beyond the Sound” exhibit – sink if they stop swimming! And, on very rare occasions, for whatever reason, our sand tigers do. They’ll spend a brief time on the bottom and then resume swimming.

(Why do they sink if they stop swimming? Sharks lack swim bladders. Water moving over their pectoral – or side – fins provides lift in the same way that wings on an airplane provide lift. No water movement, no lift.)

Over the years, we’ve learned that most sharks can alternate between swimming to breathe (ram ventilation) and sucking water into their mouth and over their gills (buccal pumping).  Obviously, if you can breathe without swimming, your energy requirements – and thus your need to hunt for food – are lower.

Besides our sand tiger sharks, a 7-foot lemon shark also lives in the “Ocean Beyond the Sound” exhibit. She spends the majority of her time on the bottom.

And the sharks in our “Shark & Ray Touch Pool” are generally at rest too.  Being on the bottom works out just fine for these species because that’s where they tend to find their prey: animals that also live on – or bury into – the sea floor. Plus, many of these shark species don’t get very big, so staying low will prevent them from being preyed upon by bigger fish, including larger species of sharks, higher in the water column.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

 

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It’s the 27th annual “Shark Week” on cable’s Discovery Channel.  (The Maritime Aquarium is local sponsor of “Shark Week” on Cablevision.)

Although the original intent of “Shark Week” was to share helpful educational information about sharks, some of the programming seems to have slipped toward the overhyped and dramatic and scary (and, in the case of Sunday night’s big kickoff, fictional and silly).

We’ll use the themed week to offer some not-so-terrorizing – and true – insights into the sharks living at The Maritime Aquarium.

Shark Teeth

Shark jaws are equipped with rows and rows of teeth. If a tooth is lost, the tooth behind it rotates forward. Actually, we should say “When a tooth is lost …,” not “if.”   Sharks commonly lose teeth.

We humans get only two chances with our teeth: our “baby” teeth and then our adult teeth.  Lose one of your adult teeth and you’re in for some cosmetic dental work because ain’t nothin’ going to replace it otherwise.

Maritime Aquarium shark jaw

Visible in the bottom jaw of this shark jaw are rows of replacement teeth.

Sharks, however, have adapted over the millions of years to have a lifetime supply.  We’ve seen one estimate of up to 30,000 teeth. This conveyor belt of teeth ensures that a shark always has a fresh and effective bite.

Note that we didn’t say that this adaptation ensures that a shark always has a sharp bite. There are some 400 species of sharks and not all of them have the serrated triangular teeth of a great white or the thin jagged teeth of sand tiger sharks. Some species, like dogfish sharks (a common local species), have flatter teeth that look more like molars – perfect for crushing their preferred prey of crabs and lobsters.

Sand tiger sharks are Long Island Sound’s biggest native species. The sand tiger sharks that live in The Maritime Aquarium live a pretty comfortable life and don’t have the dental challenge of meals flailing and struggling in their mouths. But even they regularly lose teeth. It’s how their jaws are naturally programmed.

The Maritime Aquarium’s volunteer dive team goes in with the sharks on most Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.  You may see them at the end of their dives, down at the bottom of the “Ocean Beyond the Sound” exhibit, picking things up.  They’re collecting souvenir teeth.

Maritime Aquarium shark teeth

A diver holds teeth of The Maritime Aquarium's sand tiger sharks, found in the "Ocean Beyond the Sound

(Speaking of shark teeth, a shark’s entire body is covered in teeth of sorts called dermal denticles. Shark teeth and shark dermal denticles are believed to have the same evolutionary origin. Come feel shark skin when you touch live sharks at The Maritime Aquarium’s Shark & Ray Touch Pool.)

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Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio
Meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson

Meet Aquarist Maxine Montello
Meet Aquarist Jessica Mason 

Today, meet aquarist Sarah Penfold!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

Ever since I was a young child I was always fascinated with animals whether it was going to the zoo/ aquarium, the pet store, or even just watching documentaries on TV. My dream has always been to work at a zoo or aquarium because I love being around animals and seeing all of the different characteristics each possess and learning what it takes to keep them happy and alive.

 

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?

A normal day consists of performing maintenance in each section whether its cleaning algae off a tank or doing a water change. After maintenance is usually feeding time for all of the different exhibits and looking at the health and behaviors of the animals to ensure they are doing well. Medications are administered if needed and enrichments are created which is always something fun for you and the animal.

 

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

My favorite exhibit currently would be the meerkats because there is something different every day. Depending what is used as an enrichment its entertaining to watch them figure out how  to find the insects or observe them rummaging around their newly raked home. In the Aquarium I would say the meerkats are my favorite because each one has their own personality and you get to know how each react to certain things. They frequently make me “laugh out loud” when watching them whether behind the scenes or while they are out on exhibit.

 

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

One of my favorite moments was actually when I was an intern. After enriching the octopus with a Mr. Potato Head doll filled with herring, she looked in my direction and was grasping its arm and held it up to me as if to say “Hello, yes I found the herring thank you!” Overall every time the octopus was enriched it was a memorable time watching her figure out how to get what was placed inside.

 

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?

Without a doubt I would have to say elephants. I would love to someday be able to experience what it is like to take care of them and learn how to keep them happy and healthy. It would also be pretty cool to ride on one and get hit in the face with water from its trunk.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio
Meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson

Meet Aquarist Maxine Montello

Today, meet aquarist Jessica Mason!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

I have always loved animals and have been intrigued with marine biology.  I went to school for molecular biology so I wanted to try something that I can apply my knowledge to within bigger ecological themes rather than just focusing on the small stuff.

 

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?

On a typical day I can expect to feed multiple tanks and do routine maintenance like water changes or algae cleaning.

 

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

My favorite exhibit is the salt marsh gallery.  Watching the animals grow is always exciting, and the sea horses are pretty cute too!  My favorite animal at the aquarium is the octopus.  She’s a smart cephalopod, so giving her enrichments is very fun.

 

Do you have a funny memory working with an animal or exhibit?

I was recently trying to get a bass from a small opening in the deck of the outside tank which also holds a few sand tiger sharks.  One of the sharks decided to check out my hands and grazed it.  It didn’t bite me, but I got out of that hatch rather quickly!

 

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?

If I could work with any animal I’d choose lions.

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio
Meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson

Target training the sea turtles.

Today, meet aquarist Maxine Montello!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

Growing up in Maine I have always had a passion for nature. I knew that I would be working with animals in some way or form. While studying biology in undergrad, I became extremely interested in marine biology. I love the true beauty of the ocean and all the little mysteries that come with it.

What is a typical day at the aquarium like?

As an aquarist, we arrive bright and early to check on the animals at the aquarium. Our days are pretty busy between checks, feeds, water quality, cleaning and many other little husbandry tasks. It is our responsibility to ensure that our animals are getting the best care that we can offer.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the aquarium favorite animal?

I love working with the sea turtles and all their tank mates. However, the lorikeet exhibit is awesome way for people to enjoy a hands on experience!!

Do you have a favorite funny/special memory working with an animal or exhibit?

Working at the Aquarium for the past 5 years has really pushed me to increase my knowledge in the field. The minute I began working with our sea turtles I knew that I wanted to continue to work with these magnificent animals. In addition to working at the aquarium I have been obtaining my Master’s degree. My thesis involves observing nesting females on the island of Barbuda (real place, I swear). There is nothing more amazing than experiencing these animals in the wild. I am actually writing this little blog from Barbuda in between sea turtle patrols!!

If you could work with any animal what would it be?
It would be pretty awesome to work with saltwater crocodiles.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

 

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas
Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker

Evelia and Moby!

Today, meet aquarist Evelia Atanacio! 

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

As a child my mom would take us to Beardsley Zoo and Mystic every year and since then I knew I wanted to work in the animal field. I had SeaWorld barbie on my desk with her orca that stayed seated there all the way until I moved out of my mother’s house. It wasn’t until I met Vicki Sawyer in college that my dream became a reality.  She was my inspiration to continue pushing on and reminded me how much i loved training.  It wasn’t SeaWorld but the Maritime Aquarium gave me the chance to intern then work with these fabulous animals and now I am proud to say I get to kiss seals!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?

Never a dull moment! You never really know what your day brings.  We have our routines but working with animals things can change very quickly. The busiest time of the day would have to be before we open, there is a lot of running around to get tanks/animals ready for the public.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

One of my favorites had to have been the Sponge Bob exhibit. It was a fun theme and some of the animals were pretty neat! My favorite that I have worked with would have to be the penguins.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

The one that stands out the most  has to be was the bond that I had with one of the male penguins we had in ’09. Moby — I will never forget that little guy. He and I bonded and he courted me for most of the time he was here. Every time I went onto the exhibit to clean or feed he was always at my heals. We would sit and preen each other and had our bonding moments. He was protective over me when the other keeper (male) was around me. When I left on maternity leave I was sure he would “move on” but when I came back and went to visit it was as if I never left.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
HMMM that’s a tough question so I’ll give  my 3 top dream animals: Dolphin, polar bear, and giraffe!!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

 

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio

Kerry with one of our past special exhibit stars, an African penguin!

Today, meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
A love for animals, originally the terrestrial species, then after a summer internship at the Aquarium it turned me around for the aquatic world.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
We start early (7:00 am) to get several projects and cleaning activities completed before the public comes in by 10 a.m. We feeding several animals during the day.  Researching about animals — we have to learn something new each day.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite Animal?
Favorite exhibit is jellies, and favorite animal is a toss-up between meerkats and jellies.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
I loved that the exhibits at the Maritime Aquarium over my 23 years here have given me the opportunity to work with Egyptian Fruit Bats years ago.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
Can’t decide between penguins or elephants.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

 

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Today, meet animal trainer Ellen Riker!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I went to a small aquarium on Cape Cod while on a family vacation when I was 4 years old.  They had an animal show that had dolphins, sea lions and seals.  I was completely enthralled with the animals.  When I was 7 we went back and they asked for a volunteer, my hand shot up and I ended up on the stage.  The trainer picked me up and held me over the tank and said he was going to drop me in and have the dolphin save me to demonstrate how they help people.  He was only kidding and put me down and had me throw a doll in and call for help.  The dolphin brought me the doll and I gave it big herring head as a reward.  I was fully prepared for him to drop me in the tank, I had no problem going in!  From that moment on I knew I wanted to work with marine mammals.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
Lots of cleaning and fish!  We are always cleaning something.  The tanks and exhibits are cleaned every morning before we open, behind the scenes areas are cleaned throughout the day.  There is always an empty bucket to scrub after a feeding.  Lot’s of the aquarium’s animals are fed multiple times a day so that creates a lot of dishes.  We provide enrichment both edible and non edible to many animals.  Water quality of certain tanks is checked on a daily basis and adjusted if needed to maintain proper living conditions for all of our animal’s.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
I don’t know…I’m a mammal girl at heart but we have so many cool fish and reptiles and amphibians!  It’s a close call between Rasal and a lumpfish!

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
My special memory has to be my engagement.  My husband proposed to me in the middle of a seal feeding.  The staff was all in on it and helped him orchestrate it.  He hid behind a boat in Falconer Hall waiting for the end of the feeding when we answered questions.   He patiently waited as people asked questions and then raised his hand and said he had a question.  He got down on one knee on the seal ramp and asked me to marry him.  It was the most amazing and embarrassing moment of my life!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
A walrus.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas
Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker

Today, meet aquarist Ryan Mackbach!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I lived along Long Island Sound all of my life and have been drawn to water. So, I eventually became enthralled with fish husbandry! Since I was little I had every type of pet you could think of, Reptiles, amphibians, Mammals, Fish, and Birds!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
It’s very fast paced! Taking care of multiple tanks and different fish species, it’s exhilarating.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
I would have to say it would be Salmon tank, only because I have spent so much of my career working with Salmonids. My favorite species is the Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
Not currently, but I am sure it will happen!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
It would have to be the largest Salmonid species in the world, the Mongolian Tiamen! Look it up!

 

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein

Today, meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I grew up in Kentucky, so there were lots of opportunities for me to catch and see frogs, snakes and lizards! And that is precisely what I did. I never would have guessed that it would stick with me into adulthood and even into my career!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
The most important part of my job is observing. Reptiles and amphibians will tell you a lot with their behavior if you “listen” to them. So my day begins with observations, then I clean, feed and finally do some routine maintenance like water changes and filter cleanings. With free time I try and think of ways to improve the animals’ habitats. Things like adding live plants, improving the lighting and simply changing the direction of the flow of water can dramatically influence an animals’ behavior and well-being!

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
My favorite exhibit is the Madagascar Ground Boa. She is such an impressive animal. The Ground Boa is a big snake, but is an absolute sweetheart. She enjoys laying around most of the day, but occasionally we like to let her “roam” and get some supervised outdoor exercise.

Do you have a favorite funny/special memory working with an animal or exhibit?
The first animals I ever saw hatch out of an egg was an Asian Red Tail Ratsnake. We had collected the eggs 4 months earlier and just waited. It’s a fantastic feeling to be there for an animal’s first foray into the world! I will always remember that and how it felt.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
If I could work with any animal, I would work with Boelen’s Pythons. They are an amazing species of python from New Guinea and although they are somewhat common in captivity, they still haven’t reproduced in captivity with any regular occurrence. They are one of the few remaining “mystery” pythons of snake husbandry.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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