While we were in Tampa last month we spent several hours at The Florida Aquarium. We saw aquatic and terrestrial animals from across Florida and around the world – from freshwater springs to saltwater seas. There were simulated wetlands, shallow bays and beaches, and a coral reef ecosystem. In addition to its wide range of exhibits, the aquarium conducts research and rescue efforts that help to restore Florida’s sea turtle and coral populations and to ensure that sharks continue to swim in their seas.
One of my favorite sections of the aquarium was Moon Bay, where I found the translucent moon jellies completely mesmerizing. These amazing prehistoric creatures have swum in our planet’s oceans for over 500 million years, and yet they aren’t fish at all!
Popular at the aquarium is the Roseate Spoonbill, Florida’s only native pink bird. This colorful bird eats by swishing its bill from side to side in the water. When it bumps into a fish or crustacean, he snaps his bill shut.
This ring-tailed lemur, one of three at the aquarium, came from St. Catherine’s Island off the coast of Georgia. Lemurs are primates who communicate with each other through sound and scent.
These fish are called Lookdowns, named for the way their eyes always appear to be looking down. Their silver color helps to distract predators and their thin bodies allow them to all but disappear at the threat of danger.
Seahorses don’t have scales like most other fish, and they are not strong swimmers. They move very slowly by fluttering their dorsal fin and they use their tail to hold on to sea grasses and reefs. Seahorses mate for life and are the only animal species on earth where the male bears the offspring.
We were disappointed that the new penguin habitat was not open, but African penguins will call the aquarium home later this summer. It’s easy to see why The Florida Aquarium is one of the top ranked aquariums in North America.