Thursday, August 27, 2015
It’s another Throwback Thursday as we revisit the day that our gorgeous sea otter Brook saw herself for the first time in a mirror.
Brook is one of the oldest southern sea otters under human care. She is also one of the most beautiful members of her species, in this humble volunteer’s opinion. Back in 2013 we introduced a mirror to Brook to show her just how attractive she is. Her reaction was wonderful. Check out the video below.
If you would like to read more about that day and see additional pictures of Brook and the mirror please check out this blog: Vanity Thy Name Is Otter
Thursday, August 20, 2015
There has been lots of buzz lately about our recent shark sightings! We have been seeing a few sharks that have been identified as hammerhead species swimming at the surface during our trips! We believe we have been seeing a species shark called a smooth hammerhead, which is the second largest hammerhead. In earlier blogs, I have talked about hammerheads, but you can check out some of the photos from last year and from this week as well. This summer, not only are we seeing some hammerheads, but blues on the daily!
We have been seeing blues every day, and even seeing some calves traveling and feeding alongside their mothers. The blue whale calves that we see are not newborns, or even small for that matter! Blue calves are the biggest babies in the world, literally, but by the time we see them, they are often hard to differentiate from their enormous mothers. The few blue whale studies that have been done have shown that the mothers tend to move to Central America to give birth to their young, and by the time they get to our coast, the calves are about 6-7 months old. Again, the reason why we have blues is the incredible krill availability and up-welling occurring off of our coast. This increased food availability not only attracts the largest animals on Earth, but a multitude of species that make whale watching, and marine-ecotourism in general, more spectacular during our summer months.
Breaching minke and humpback whales as well as leaping bottlenose and common dolphins have also been increasing the excitement of our trips! For those who are bird lovers or birders, we have also been seeing a few brown booby birds, which are very rare to see off of our coast. You never know what you will see on a whale watch but right now, you would have a VERY good chance of seeing blue whales and other amazing marine wildlife as you can see by this weeks fantastic photos taken by Tim Hammond, Erik Combs, and the Aquarium photo ID interns. There is still lots of sunshine even though the summer is coming to an end, so come on out with us on a whale watching adventure.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Because the Internet needs more cute baby sea otter videos I thought we’d flash back this week to 2008 and 2010 when I was a surrogate “Otter Pop” to two orphan sea otter pups.
Back in 2008 I was fortunate to have the opportunity to help raise an orphan baby otter. The little pup, Gidget, was found abandoned and had no chance to survive on her own. Fortunately the Aquarium of the Pacific offered the young female a home. After being raised to young adulthood at the Aquarium Gidget would make her way to Monterey to hopefully become a surrogate mother to other orphaned sea otter pups.
To read Gidget’s story check out my blog entry ADVENTURES IN OTTER SPACE.
In 2010 I had another opportunity to raise a baby sea otter. This female, Ollie, is still at the Aquarium of the Pacific. To read about Ollie check out my blog entry HURRAY FOR “OLLIEWOOD”.
Make sure you take a look at the cute video below of my babysitting sessions with these two sea otters as pups.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
We have made it to the point in summer when whale watch trips are really fantastic! This is what we have been waiting on for months; the blues, fins, minkes, humpbacks, and tons of dolphins are all out and about and even feeding in the same areas! Most of our recent trips have been filled with excitement since multiple species are being seen every day in close proximity to each other. I was able to work on a whale watch last week where we had humpback whales, blue whales, and Pacific white-sided dolphins all in the first hour of the trip! We were very surprised to see Pacific white-sided dolphins since they are a seasonal species of toothed whale that we usually only see in the winter and spring, and they are also one of my favorites!
The huge blues have been out there as well and on some days, we have seen multiple at one time all feeding on krill in one area. There has been a lot of upwelling, which causes a lot of nutrients, like plankton, to dwell at the surface which increases the amount of feeding behavior we see off of our coast every summer. We were wondering what the El Niño event would bring us, and so far, just some much needed rain and some amazing and unusual animal sightings! We are seeing more loggerhead sea turtles, mola molas, and huge dark patches of krill at the surface.
As mentioned in the last blogs, I have been introducing our new photo ID interns for this session, and I would like to introduce last, but not least, David! David is a student at Cal State Long Beach and likes exploring, learning new things, meeting new people, and sharing adventures. He is very passionate about marine life: “Working and volunteering at the Aquarium of the Pacific gave me the chance to get my foot through the door and get a head start in my future career as a marine biologist.” He also mentioned that,
“It is a new adventure everyday as an intern. This experience that I am undergoing is forever in my mind and I’m looking forward to the new experiences that await me at the Aquarium.”
David has taken some great photos while gathering data for our whale research collaboration with Cascadia Research Collective. His photos can be seen above with other great shots from Tim Hammond and Erik Combs from Harbor Breeze.
If you have never been on a whale watch with us, or have been on several, it is a perfect time to come make memories with your friends and family. So click here to see how you can get tickets to join our search for marine life during this beautiful summer we are having in So Cal!
Thursday, July 16, 2015
There are just a few animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific that can cause me to have an affectionate emotional response when I look deep into their eyes; sea otters, sea lions, penguins and flamboyant cuttlefish.
In the Jewels of the Pacific exhibit in the Tropical Pacific Gallery is a group of the most amazing creatures I’ve ever seen on land or sea. Although small, their personalities and abilities are addicting and fascinating. At first glance they may look like a tiny herd of colorful neon glowing rhinos or triceratops walking along the bottom of the exhibit. The color and texture of their bodies continuously changing making them look like an electrical light parade float at Disneyland. Then a blink later they can dramatically change their color and blend into their background looking like a rock. They are called flamboyant cuttlefish and they really live up to their names. It’s also really neat how they will interact with you through the glass of their exhibit. They’ll actually come up and stare at you with their mesmerizing alien-like eyes. You really feel like they are analyzing you. You can’t help but feel a connection with these little critters.
I’ve only recently became aware of these cuttlefish so I went to an expert to learn more about them. Janet Monday is one of the aquarists tasked with caring for the flamboyant cuttlefish. She told me that they are found in the Indo-Pacific region from Indonesia to Northern Australia. They have eight arms which are at the front of their bodies and two clear tentacles that they use to capture prey.
An interesting anecdote is how they also use their tentacles to explore their surroundings. The Aquarium of the Pacific is lucky enough to actually breed flamboyant cuttlefish. Janet said that when they are young they are fed tiny mysid shrimp. Later when they are introduced to larger shrimp to eat they don’t immediately capture them. Instead at first they’ll extend their tentacles out slowly and gently tap the shrimp, seemingly asking the question “Is this food?”
Their cuttlebone, which is used to change the animal’s buoyancy, is smaller than other cuttlefish species which is why they spend most of their time walking along the bottom. This leads to the herd-like scenes described earlier. But instead of imaging how it looks, check out the video I’ve put together and watch the flamboyant cuttlefish in action. Janet was kind enough to narrate the video.
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