Monday, July 25, 2011
If you follow Aquarium news at all, you’ve already heard about the furry young things making their home in the Molina Animal Care Center. The Arctic fox kits are settling in well. They’re growing quickly and learning basic training skills (they can sit on command). It was great fun early one morning when a local reporter came to see the pups and who should come along to visit the young brothers but two twin girls on a visit to the Aquarium with their grandparents! They took great delight in seeing that the foxes were twins, just like they were. However, it’s likely that our fox pups are actually a pair of septuplets, as Arctic fox litters often number at least seven.
While we love our pups, we’re starting to get tired of calling them No. 1 and No. 2. But we don’t want to keep the naming fun all to ourselves. The pup with one blue eye and one brown (a condition called heterochromia related to the amount of melanin present) will be named by one of you. While the deadline for suggesting a name has already passed, we’re now getting ready to enter the voting round. You will have the opportunity to vote on the top ten name suggestions starting later this week. “Like” us on Facebook and keep an eye out for the voting announcement.
In addition to our fox friends, we’ve recently welcomed a female baby zebra shark, which was born here on July 6. The shark was hatched from an egg case, known colloquially as a mermaid’s purse. Zebra sharks get their name from stripes they are born with that eventually turn into spots as adults. Aquarist Michelle Malme is in charge of feeding and caring for the baby shark, who is eating well and growing, Malme says. Currently the shark’s favorite food is mackerel, which she sucks up in one bite from a feeding stick like a little vacuum. As she grows, she will need to be moved to a larger holding tank to give her more room to swim.
The diving bird hatchery is hopping, too! We have three new Pigeon Guillemot chicks born on July 10 and 12. The mother of two of these chicks was born at the Aquarium in 2003, which was the first year any were hatched here. We also had a Horned Puffin hatch on July 20, with another egg set to crack by the end of this month. The puffin’s parents are two of our original puffins, Brownie (mom) and Sasha (dad). These chicks, along with the young Pigeon Guillemots, will eventually go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is developing a new exhibit for them. The Pigeon Guillemots and Horned Puffins are members of the bird family known as alcids. Alcid chicks are born ready to eat whole fish and only need to be kept warm on the nest for a short period (a matter of days for the puffins), making it easy to hand-rear them if needed, says Karen Anderson, our diving bird expert. Here at the Aquarium we leave the puffin chicks with the parents until they fledge, or grow all their feathers and leave the nest. However, the Pigeon Guillemots are a wild, nervous bunch, so they’re raised by hand by our aviculture team so they grow up accustomed to people.
Lastly, I’m pleased to announce the birth of between forty and fifty Pacific spiny lumpsuckers. This is the first time we’ve had success breeding these little guys at the Aquarium, says Aquarist Janet Monday. In the wild the females, usually larger than the males, lay the eggs and then the males fertilize, guard, and maintain them until they hatch. Basically, they’re stay-at-home dads. We have seven adult lumpsuckers on display in the Northern Pacific gallery. In the wild, these golf ball-sized fish are found in the Pacific Ocean around Japan and Alaska and as far south as Washington.
Well, that wraps up my baby animal update. I think it’s great there are so many species we’re able to breed and raise here ourselves and that we’re able to then share some of those animals with other institutions so we can spread the cuteness (and the learning opportunities) around. Are there any animals at the Aquarium that you’d like to know more about?
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