The re-energized focus on Long Island Sound's story is obvious in the colorfully redesigned main hall, which has been renamed Newman's Own Hall in celebration of a $1.2 million grant from Newman's Own Foundation."
– The Norwalk Citizen
Yes, there are sharks in Long Island Sound and this is the biggest of four native species. (The other three are brown sharks and two species of dogfish sharks. Certainly, even more species of sharks visit the Sound; they just aren’t considered native to it.)
Don’t worry about dipping your toes in the Sound, though. The last recorded shark attack in the Sound was a non-fatal nip in 1961 by an undetermined species, off of Long Island’s north shore.
Sand tiger sharks can grow to 10 to 11 feet long but that’s rare. The 7-footers displayed in the Aquarium are a common mature length.
The Maritime Aquarium displays two green sea turtles. Hatched in December 2004 in the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys, the turtles are still young for sea turtles. When fully grown, they can reach 500 pounds.
Because their populations have been drastically reduced, all species of sea turtles are federally protected. Several species make occasional summer appearances in Long Island Sound – green, loggerhead, leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley – then migrate to warmer southern waters in the fall.
The sea turtles at The Maritime Aquarium are not suitable for release to the wild. Keeping them here represents a long-term commitment. Green sea turtles take 20 to 50 years to reach maturity, and they can live for 80 to 100 years.
With their dog-like faces, the harbor seals stir perhaps the most emotion and empathy from Aquarium visitors. Thus, the seals may be the most effective tool in inspiring visitors to do their part in protecting and conserving Long Island Sound.
Harbor seals are the main species of seal that visits Long Island Sound each winter. (Our Winter Creature Cruises offer the chance to see them. Details ...) These federally protected animals spend the summer in the Gulf of Maine at their pupping and breeding grounds. But in the winter, they prefer a little space, so a large number of them migrate down into the Sound.
Come see the seals being fed at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 & 3:45 p.m. daily. We don’t ask them to do tricks but we do reward them for entertaining natural behaviors.
Sort of like a 3-year-old human, river otters are constantly in motion … until the need for a quick nap. They’re cute and very fun to watch, but good luck getting them to stay still for a photo!
River otters are common in Connecticut. But note that we have them displayed in our Watershed Gallery. Unlike sea otters of the Pacific coast, river otters do not venture into the salty Sound. Their habitat is a broad area that contains a variety of freshwater feeding opportunities. (They're also smaller than sea otters.)
We have them completely behind glass because, as members of the weasel family, they have a musk gland they use to mark their territories. Smelling that would diminish your enjoyment! (You may see one rubbing its neck on a rock or branch depositing its musky fluid.)
Actually we want you to call them “jellies,” because they’re not fish. Jellies are fascinating and soothing to watch; in The Maritime Aquarium’s display, they’re like a living lava lamp.
Of course they’re not soothing to encounter in the water. In our “Sting” Gallery, the Aquarium presents several native species of jellies. You’ll find moon jellies in our largest display and usually sea nettles or lion’s mane jellies in smaller tanks.
Exhibiting jellies is no easy feat. They’re such poor swimmers that they would be sucked into the filtration system of most normal aquarium displays. So we have them in special tanks with gentle water circulation. Be sure to visit our Marine Lab too, to see how we raise a year-round supply.
Often, the best learning experience occurs by touch. At our Intertidal Touch Tank, we offer “hands-on” learning with guided introductions to a variety of animals commonly found on the Long Island Sound shoreline.
You’ll feel the tickly feet of sea stars, the smooth hard surface of horseshoe crabs, the protective single foot of the whelk and lots more.
It’s all safely and capably presented by members of the Aquarium’s trained volunteer staff. (Look for them in their green shirts at other key locations in the Aquarium!)
Though it may seem like you need to drum up your nerve to touch the animals in the new "Shark & Ray Touch Pool," there’s no danger in it at all. The several species of sharks in the "okay to touch end" of the pool are docile and the rays’ stinging barbs have been removed.
A side window, plus an underwater viewing window for kids, offer cool perspectives as the rays cut through the water.
When you're ready, just roll up your sleeves and use two fingers gently please!