about the “killer” reputations of the Tennessee
deadliest creatures during October “Thrills & Gills”
Tenn. (August 3, 2006) – The Tennessee Aquarium is home
to some very creepy sea “beasties.” But are these
spooky critters as harmful as they look? If you’re lurking
for something new this October, creep on over to the Aquarium
and IMAX 3D Theater for some Thrills & Gills to discover
if these creatures’ frightening reputations hold water,
or if they’re just fish tales.
The octopus is one of the most intriguing and intelligent creatures
in our “Boneless Beauties” gallery. These mysterious
animals of the deep have soft, spongy bodies, with eight snake-like
tentacles and a bulbous head. Octopi can reach an astounding
length of 30 feet, and create a massive black cloud of ink,
which they use not to attack, but as a defense against predators.
are these eight-legged mysterious monsters as threatening as
biologist Danny Alexander claims the octopus is virtually harmless.
“Our octopus is strong and quite intelligent. She occasionally
tries to take us with her into the tank, but the worst injury
I have ever gotten was a ‘hickey’ on my forearm
from one of her suction cups,” said Alexander.
the Octopus’ intimidating disposition it is one of the
most intelligent invertebrates under the sea. Biologists constantly
have the octopus under an enrichment program to feed the brain
of the octopus. They hide its food in jars, puzzles, and in
Kraken-fashion – even in a toy pirate ship.
Known for their razor sharp teeth, the moray eels are rumored
to have the ability to snap the hand off an unsuspecting diver
who ventures too close to an eel’s rocky lair. They constantly
open and close their mouths in a menacing manner. In reality
the eel is simply breathing. The opening/closing mouth action
pulls oxygenated water over its gills.
are near-sighted, generally shy and avoid contact with humans,”
said Thom Demas, Aquarium curator of fishes. “The animals
on exhibit are, in essence, wild, so to ensure diver safety
during feeding times, they are fed with long tongs.”
makes it clear that eels aren’t “out to get you.”
Most negative eel encounters happen when an unlucky diver is
poking around in the rocks. In the wild moray eels can be found
in just about every reef community of the Indian, Pacific and
Atlantic oceans, and range in size from 2 to 10 feet long.
Feared for their rows of razor sharp teeth, and their predator-like
behavior, sharks are considered to be one of the scariest creatures
of the deep. People believe sharks are always in the mood for
a snack, including human ones. But is the shark bite as big
as it seems?
biologists say shark attacks on humans are very rare and very
few are deadly.
are lots of myths and misconceptions about sharks and shark
bites,” said Rob Mottice, acquisitions manager at the
Aquarium. Sharks should be respected, not feared. They do much
less harm to people than people do to sharks. Approximately
100,000 sharks are killed each year, whereas approximately 60
people per year world wide are killed by sharks. People are
more likely to be killed by lightening than by a shark. Many
shark species are threatened with 1 in 4 now considered endangered.
the dives in the secret reef tank, divers have a special T-shaped
“bump stick” which gently keeps sharks at a safe
distance from divers.
Aquarium hosts a variety of species including: sand tiger sharks,
bonnethead sharks and sandbar sharks. There is even a variety
of sharks that are harmless enough to touch: brown-banded bamboo
sharks, white-spotted bamboo sharks, and epaulette sharks.
This little creature has probably never heard the term “haste
makes waste.” Piranhas are known and feared for their
sharp teeth and astonishing feeding speed.
their sharp teeth and lightning speed during their feeding frenzies
make piranha well-equipped for their carnivorous diet, they
are relatively timid and rarely bite humans,” said Carol
Farmer, assistant curator of fishes. “At the Aquarium,
they are well-fed and probably don’t feel the need to
feed on us or their tank mates.”
they may be tame while under Aquarium supervision, Farmer said
piranha behave much differently in the wild.
you won’t see saber-toothed piranha mowing down unsuspecting
Amazonians year round, during the dry season, piranha may attack
a wounded creature and reportedly can strip a 140-pound animal
down to bones in just a few minutes,” said Farmer. “Amazon
natives are cautious, however, and avoid the water if they have
open wounds or when animals are being slaughtered in waterways.
Piranha attacks on humans during the rainy season are extremely
A long torpedo-like fish, the barracuda has probably never won
a smiling contest. In fact the barracuda is feared for its grimacing
the great barracuda has a mouthful of menacing-looking teeth
with large canines in the front and razor sharp, slicing teeth
farther back,” said Rob Mottice, acquisitions manager
at the Aquarium. “The eyes are extremely large because
they are primarily sight feeders, and when you’re snorkeling
or diving, they will sometimes follow you through the water
just to see what you’re doing.”
believe that this fearsome-looking creature views humans as
a three-course meal. But human attacks happen on very rare occasions.
really can’t be sure that the aim of the barracuda won’t
be off just enough to take your fingertip along with the bait
you’re offering,” said Mottice. Divers feed the
barracuda from the top of the Gulf exhibit – a good distance
away from their tank mates as well as the divers.”
Anacondas are one of the world’s largest snakes. They
find their prey in shallow bodies of water, and strike once
their victim nears, using their sharp teeth to haul the prey
under the water. Although they frequently appear on the big
screen squeezing away at some of Hollywood’s top stars,
anacondas are not man-eaters. They do, however, have a deadly
grip when they wrap themselves around their prey for the kill.
The victim usually dies of a heart attack after being squeezed
can view a spectacular yellow anaconda in River Journey’s
“Rivers of the World” gallery.
The alligator and crocodile, two of the fastest meat-eaters
in the world, also call the Aquarium home. A dentist’s
best friend, these swamp beasts average over 130 teeth. With
watchful, beady eyes, these creatures are scaly and often blend
in with their surroundings, ready to attack at any moment…but
attacks on humans are extremely rare.
dwarf crocodiles inhabit River Journey’s Zaire River exhibit,
and several baby alligators can be seen in the Discovery Hall
swamp gallery, as well as the Mississippi Delta exhibit
press kits & downloadable images: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/Newsroom.asp
The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation
for the natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50
per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium
conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door
to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50
per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $22.95 for adults
and $13.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online
at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium,
located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga,
is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving
and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people
with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other
benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.