The Aquarium's most popular residents
of creatures that swim, fly and crawl in realistic habitats, the
Tennessee Aquarium has a variety of creatures to intrigue and
delight visitors of all ages. Here's a glimpse of some
of the Aquarium's most popular inhabitants:
BIG AND THE BOLD
The big blue catfish in River Journey’s Nickajack Lake exhibit
are among the largest on exhibit in the U.S., weighing up to 100
lbs. These bottom-dwelling creatures have flat heads, long slender
barbels that resemble a cat's whiskers and "naked" or
scaleless skin. The barbels are covered with many taste buds,
which have a triggered feeding response when food comes in contact
with them. Catfish rely more on taste and touch than they do on
sight. They are active at night, on dark cloudy days, or in murky
or muddy water.
visitors assume the Aquarium’s catfish are males, they are
really big mamas. They typically weigh more than male blue catfish
and can produce up to 100,000 eggs at a time.
Several alligator snapping turtles, the largest exceeding 150
pounds, live in the Delta Country gallery in River Journey. The
largest freshwater turtle in North America, the alligator snapper,
gets its name from its strong jaws and shell ridges that resemble
an alligator's back. It lures its prey by lying in wait and wriggling
its pink, worm-like tongue and can stay submerged almost an hour
before coming up for air.
Octopi are intelligent and highly adaptable animals. They can
be found in almost every type of ocean environment, from the shallow
waters near coasts to the deep sea, and come in a variety of shapes
and sizes. The giant Pacific octopus, shown in Ocean Journey's
"Boneless Beauties" gallery, is the largest of the octopus
species. Like many octopi, the giant Pacific octopus has the ability
to drastically change its color with its special pigment cells,
called chromatophores, to blend into its environment or to attract
are intelligent and social animals that get bored if they do not
receive stimulation from new experiences. At the Aquarium, the
octopi are given puzzles to solve, like a bell jar with a piece
of soft-shell crab inside. Also, they quickly learn to unscrew
the tops of the jars to get to the food inside.
Although the giant spider crab is the largest of all crabs, it
must still protect itself from predators. Its armored exoskeleton
helps protect it from larger predators such as octopi, but it
also uses camouflage. The crab's bumpy carapace blends into the
rocky ocean floor. To further the illusion, a spider crab will
adorn its shell with sponges and other animals. See these jaw-dropping
creatures, which can reach widths of 10 feet, in Ocean Journey's
"Boneless Beauties" gallery.
These graceful, flat fish, which resemble "Dory" from
Disney's Finding Nemo, are bright yellow when born but
turn blue or purple when fully grown. The blue tangs in River
Journey's Gulf of Mexico exhibit swim together in a school as
they would in the wild. The white triangle on the blue tang's
tail is more than just part of its costume; it's actually a dangerous
spine used for protection. The blue tangs at the Aquarium have
doubled in size since they were collected in the Florida Keys.
River Journey's fire-bellied toad is well camouflaged with its
green and black markings. When threatened, a fire-bellied toad
will raise its head, arms and legs upward to show its rightly
colored orange and black belly as a warning. This serves to warn
predators of the toad's toxic skin secretions. This behavior is
toads eat insects and can be found in Southern China, Thailand,
Korea and other continental southeast Asian countries.
Like the octopus, the cuttlefish is a master of disguise and a
quick color-change artist. These "chameleons of the sea"
use chromatophores to change color. A cuttlefish also can change
the texture of its skin, raising or lowering it to help the animal
blend in with rocks or coral. This natural camouflage helps the
cuttlefish hide from predators. If hiding is not successful, the
cuttlefish has one last defense: it can jet away, leaving behind
a cloud of toxic ink in the face of its attacker.
Featured in Ocean Journey’s “Boneless Beauties”
gallery, cuttlefish eat a variety of small crustaceans and fish
and live in underwater caves and rocky reefs in Australia and
waters between the Red Sea and Japan.
Butterflies are found in nearly every habitat from the Arctic
tundra to the tropics, decorated with unique, multi-colored designs
on their wings. They feast on honeydew (a sweet secretion produced
by aphids), fruit juice, sap or liquids secreted by dung or decaying
sizes, butterflies are unique in that their entire bodies are
covered with overlapping scales -- much like shingles on a roof.
These scales are so thin that it would take more than half a million
of these scales stacked up to be an inch tall.
One of only two living species from an old group of ancient fish,
the paddlefish in the Reelfoot Lake exhibit in River Journey will
eventually reach six feet or more in length. This filter feeder
normally lives in dark, algae-filled water, but its long snout
contains many sensory cells that allow it to navigate, detect
the presence of food and help stabilize the fish while its mouth
is wide open. And no, the paddlefish gliding by with an open mouth
does not have lockjaw; it's just letting small particles of food
drift into its long gill rakers, straining it from the water.
Juveniles have teeth, but the adults are toothless. Often called
"spoonbill catfish" in Tennessee, the paddlefish is
not related to the catfish at all.
Some scientists believe the alligator, with its long body, short
legs and flattened skull, has changed little since the Jurassic
period. The female alligator in River Journey's Delta Country
often basks on its specially heated beach at the edge of the cypress
swamp pool, seemingly oblivious to the northern bobwhite and hooded
merganser nearby. Adorable baby gators also call the Aquarium
home in River Journey's Discovery Hall and Mississippi Delta Country
exhibits. These tiny gators bask on logs in the swampy water and
make cute chirping noises as guests admire them.
The lake sturgeon is a species that has remained virtually unchanged
since swimming alongside the dinosaurs. Populations of this fish
have declined due to pollution, habitat destruction and over-harvesting,
though they may live for 150 years. They do not have typical teeth,
but instead have wide "crushing plates" in the back
of their throats, which they use these to crush clams, mussels
and crustaceans at the bottom of lakes and large rivers.
is working with a variety of different agencies and organizations
to reintroduce the lake sturgeon into the French Broad River near
Knoxville, Tennessee as part of their conservation efforts.
lake sturgeon can be viewed and touched in River Journey's Discovery
Hall touch station.
The weedy seadragon is an inhabitant of kelp beds and coral reefs.
Its weed-like appendages and coloration help keep it camouflaged
from predators. Like all members of the seahorse family, the male
carries the eggs. Unlike seahorses, where the males carry the
eggs in a pouch, the weedy seadragon male carries eggs under his
Aquarium is only the second facility in the world to breed and
rear weedy seadragons in captivity. These fascinating creatures
can be seen in River Journey's "Seahorses: Beyond Imagination"
Although some jellyfish do not sting, most have tentacles that
are studded with stinging cells that behave like tiny harpoons
armed with toxic chemicals. This stinging ability makes the jelly
an efficient predator and protects it against animals that want
to eat its soft body. Jellies don't sting people on purpose. It's
just that when the tentacles brush against something, thousands
of the cells explode, launching barbed stingers into the victim.
phantom-like animals are ocean vagabonds, drifting ceaselessly
with the currents and tides. Many of them are almost transparent
a convenient camouflage in their open habitats, where there are
no places to hide from predators. As they are carried with the
current, they are both predator and prey, catching small animals,
fish eggs, and other jellyfish in a net of tentacles. These slimy
creatures can be found gliding in Ocean Journey's "Boneless
FEROCIOUS - - WELL, SORT OF
Sharp teeth and an ability to swim with lightning speed during
its feeding frenzy make these red and gold Amazon River inhabitants
well-equipped for their carnivorous diet. One of the most widely
distributed species in the Amazon Basin, the red piranha can quickly
tear one of its own to pieces if it is injured by a fisherman's
hook. Still, according to the experts at the Tennessee Aquarium,
the reds in River Journey’s Rivers of the World gallery
are among the calmest of the piranhas and are only a threat to
other fish in the exhibit, not their human caretakers.
This long, cylinder-shaped fish has been known to attack man,
but usually when provoked by a spear or other weapon or when a
diver is wearing flashy jewelry that could be mistaken for a small,
shiny fish. The two 4-foot specimens in the Gulf of Mexico exhibit
in River Journey were just 10 inches long when they came from
the Florida Keys just before the Tennessee Aquarium opened in
1992. They are very high-strung and will dart in a panic if about
to be caught.
Contrary to popular belief, a ray will not sting unless someone
steps directly on it, at which point it will whip its tail around
to protect itself by jabbing with its sharp barbs. River Journey's
southern stingray is a ghostly creature with large pectoral fins
that give the impression that it is flying through water.
Sand tiger sharks, seen in Ocean Journey’s Secret Reef,
have possibly the strangest method of reproduction in the shark
family. This shark is ovoviviparous, meaning that its eggs hatch
inside each of the mother's two uteri and are later born live.
The largest sand tiger embryos in each uteri gain nourishment
by eating their smaller siblings. This mode of survival, called
intrauterine cannibalism, results in two large healthy pups that
are about 3 feet in length when they are born.
shark populations have declined by more than 20 percent in the
last 10 years and they are listed as a vulnerable species in the
Atlantic Ocean. The sand tiger, also known as the gray nurse shark
or the spotted ragged tooth shark, poses little danger to humans.
It can reach up to 10 feet in length and is found in the open
ocean around shoreline and coral reefs.
The “Penguins’ Rock” exhibit features
two very active species of cold climate penguins unique to this
region. Gentoo and Macaroni penguins take people to the world’s southern hemisphere and
the sub-Antarctic islands surrounding the South Pole. When visitors
enter “Penguins’ Rock” they will find themselves
immersed in an interactive gallery that will take them on a journey
into the penguins’ world thousands of miles away.
The otter's dense, water-shedding fur, strong swimming skills,
and keen underwater eyesight make it a well-adapted aquatic animal.
It can remain submerged up to four minutes before coming up for
air. The otters in River Journey’s Cove Forest spend much
of the day curled up napping. Morning and early evening are the
best times to catch them at play.
The hyacinth macaw, seen in Ocean Journey’s Tropical Cove
gallery, is the largest member of the parrot family, reaching
40 inches in length with a 50-inch wingspan. These macaws are
social birds and generally live in pairs or small groups. Pairs
are extremely faithful and share the tasks of raising their young.
The hyacinth macaw's natural lifespan is estimated to be 30 to
50 years or more. They are found in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.
STRANGE AND EXOTIC
The young specimens in River Journey's Zaire River exhibit in
the Rivers of the World gallery are worth looking for. (Check
with a docent, who can point them out.) The smallest species of
crocodile in Africa, the dwarf can actually grow to 6 feet in
Leaf-like appendages on the head and body help camouflage this
animal. Although its color looks bright in the Aquarium exhibit,
its greenish coloration appears dull in its natural habitat. This
makes the leafy seadragon resemble a plant. More closely related
to pipefish than seahorses, seadragons lack prehensile tails,
do not swim vertically and are larger than seahorses.
wonders live in shallow green flats and can be found in Southern
Australia. Check out these awe-inspiring creatures in River Journey’s
“Seahorses: Beyond Imagination” gallery.
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.
press kits & downloadable images: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/Newsroom.asp