Monterey Bay Aquarium

DIY Cuttlefish Incubator at Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Originally posted on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Blog, we provide this intro to their story about an amazing improvised Cuttlefish incubation system:

How do you incubate Cuttlefish eggs behind the scenes in preparation for [Monterey Bay Aquarium's] forthcoming “Tentacles” special exhibition? You could, at a cost of hundreds of dollars, buy commercial incubators. But that would be too easy. Plus, Aquarist Bret Grasse figured he could create something just as good as the store-bought jobs.

For $2.50 and “a day in the life of one volunteer,” he makes a better bubbler out of soda bottles, plastic tubing and silicone glue. It looks like mad science, but it works. To date, he’s produced hundreds of baby cuttlefish for exhibit using the system.

Read even more about this clever approach on Monterey Bay Aquarium's blog and DEFINITELY check out the Tentacles exhibit when it opens April 12, 2014!

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Cuttlefish Photo Monterey Bay Aquarium 2Photo credits: Monterey Bay Aquarium


Sailfin Sculpins Hatched at Monterey Bay Aquarium

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For the first time, Monterey Bay Aquarium has welcomed Sailfin Sculpin babies! Hatched behind the scenes, the young fish can now be seen on exhibit. Notable for their conspicuous spiked dorsal fins, Sailfin Sculpin frequent tide pools along the Pacific Coast. Although common, they can be hard to spot, as their colors blend with the seaweeds and rocks.

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Photo credits: Monterey Bay Aquarium


Rescued Baby Loggerhead Arrives in Monterey

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After a full day of travel on December 20, this baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) touched down in Monterey, California, around 10 p.m. Steve Vogel, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Husbandry Curator who accompanied the little turtle on its journey, brought it immediately to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where it went straight into the water behind the scenes.

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The next morning, Veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray examined the hatchling. At just four months old, it weighs almost half a pound (0.22 kg), and its shell measures about 4.4 inches (11.2 cm) long and 3.4 inches (8.7 cm) across. The turtle passed the exam, but is being keep it behind the scenes until after Christmas to acclimate to a regular feeding routine. 

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This Loggerhead is one of nine on loan to various U.S. zoos and aquariums from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. They were late hatchlings that didn’t make it to the water with their nest-mates. All of them were rescued from nests on North Carolina beaches and will eventually be returned to the wild. This little turtle will stay at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for as long as two years before its return release back in North Carolina.

This new turtle will serve an important role during it’s stay, acting as an ambassador for its species. The Aquarium will make it the focal point of an exhibit that highlights the threats facing sea turtles and other ocean animals from unsustainable fishing practices. In the wild, sea turtles often die when they’re accidentally caught in fishing gear, primarily in trawls and longlines. sea turtles around the world also face deadly threats from ocean pollution – particularly plastic debris.

Since the turtle eventually will be released back into the wild, the aquarists will take a “hands-off” approach and not hand-feed it or spend more time with it than necessary, though they will continue to keep track of the hatchling’s weight through routine exams.


Weedy Sea Dragon Brood a first for Monterey Bay Aquarium

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium animal care team and a nurturing weedy sea dragon dad have achieved a milestone reached by only four other aquariums in North America: the birth of a brood of sea dragon babies.

More than 80 of the inch-long fish – Australian relatives of the seahorse – began hatching on July 22. The father, who carried the eggs in a brood pouch under his tail, delivered the young, with the last eggs hatching on August 2.

The young are being raised behind the scenes for now, said Associate Curator of Fish and Invertebrates Jonelle Verdugo, who heads the seahorse husbandry team at the aquarium. If they survive and thrive, visitors may get to see them as part of a special exhibition. Others will be transferred to colleague institutions with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Verdugo said the papa weedy sea dragon remained on exhibit and was free to swim about as usual while he was giving birth. Each day, the young were moved behind the scenes as they hatched, and placed in smaller aquariums to receive closer attention from caregivers.

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Photo Credits:  ©Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder

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Remembering Toola, A Pioneering Sea Otter

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium regrets to announce the passing of Toola, a female Sea Otter who was arguably the most important animal in the 28-year history of the aquarium’s pioneering Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. Toola died early Saturday morning (March 3) in the aquarium’s veterinary care center, of natural causes and infirmities of age.

She was the first rescued Sea Otter ever to raise pups that were successfully returned to the wild; and was the inspiration for state legislation that better protects Sea Otters.

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Toola was about 15 or 16 years old when she died. She was rescued as a mature adult (5+ years of age) when she was found stranded on Pismo Beach on July 21, 2001. She suffered from neurological disorders, likely caused by infection of her brain by the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. The resulting seizure disorder required twice-daily anticonvulsant medication and prevented her release back into the wild.

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But she quickly became a pioneer for the aquarium – on exhibit and behind the scenes. Toola was the first Otter ever to serve as a surrogate mother for stranded pups. She raised 13 pups over the years, including one that was weaned from her on Friday as her health declined. Of the 11 pups already released to the wild, at least 5 are still surviving – including the first animal she reared in 2001. Her pups have matured in the wild and gone on to give birth to 7 pups of their own, 5 of which have weaned successfully. Two more of her pups are still behind the scenes, on track for release later this year.

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Toola’s most famous pup is the subject of a new feature film, Otter 501, which debuted in February at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

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Photo credits: ©Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder

On exhibit, Toola’s story of exposure to the toxoplasmosis parasite that can be carried by cats inspired then-California State Assemblymember (now Insurance Commissioner) Dave Jones to introduce legislation to better protect California’s threatened sea otter population. His bill, co-authored with current California Resources Secretary John Laird, became law in 2006. Among other provisions, it created the California Sea Otter Fund that has generated more than $1 million in voluntary taxpayer contributions to support research into disease and other threats facing Sea Otters in the wild.

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Rescued Sea Otter Pup United With Surrogate Mom On Valentine's Day!

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A rescued male Sea Otter pup, being cared for by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, was just placed on the Sea Otter exhibit on Valentine’s Day with experienced surrogate sea otter mother, Joy. The debut of the 8 week old pup makes him the youngest Sea Otter in the aquarium’s history to become part of the two-story exhibit, which is a permanent home for rescued Sea Otters that can’t be returned to the wild. The pup, known as 572, is the 572nd stranded Sea Otter to be brought into the aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program since 1984. He will be named after he is transferred to his permanent home – another accredited facility – later this year.

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©Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder

Pup 572 came to the aquarium on January 5 from a Cayucos-area beach (San Luis Obispo County) as a 2 week-old stranded animal weighing less than six pounds. On arrival he was found to have a superficial laceration on his right shoulder, possibly the result of a great white shark bite that may have killed his mother. He was admitted into the aquarium’s veterinary intensive care unit, where he was cared for until he was introduced to surrogate mother Joy on exhibit after the aquarium closed to the public on February 13. He is the seventh pup, in the last two years, to enter the aquarium’s Sea Otter program after the mother presumably suffered a fatal bite from a great white shark. Pup 572 now weighs 15 pounds, having gained 9 pounds in just under six weeks and is a robust, healthy, developmentally normal pup.

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Little Miss 502

Little Sea Otter pup #502 arrived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium after being discovered weak, sick and alone on a California beach. After four weeks of antibiotics delivered via frozen clams and a behind the scenes introduction to a surrogate mother named Joy, #502 went on exhibit to the public last week. She got her temporary numerical name because she was the 502nd Sea Otter rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's SORAC program since its founding in 1984. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing nature of #502's medical treatment, she cannot be released back into the wild because she won't have the necessary wild-otter skills. Eventually she may be introduced to another orphan turned education animal, the not-to-be-missed Kit, who we met earlier in the summer.

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Read the whole story below the fold.

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Young Turtles, the Size of a Dinner Plate

On July 1st the Monterey Bay Aquarium placed five lively juvenile green sea turtles on exhibit as part of its “Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea” special exhibition. The young sea turtles are just under 9 months old and each is about the size of a dinner plate. The sea turtles are featured in a gallery that shows how rising temperatures could alter the gender of an incubating clutch of sea turtle eggs, or how rising sea levels threaten sea turtles’ nesting beaches.

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Green sea turtle monterey bay aquarium 2 rsPhoto credits: ©Monterey Bay Aquarium / Randy Wilder 

Senior Aquarist Veronica Franklin brought 10 young sea turtles to the aquarium on June 24 from SeaWorld San Diego, where they were among 82 hatchlings born October 5 to resident sea turtles in the park’s “Shipwreck Beach.” The sea turtles’ gender will remain a mystery until they mature a little more. 

The young sea turtles at the aquarium will rotate between the exhibit and behind-the-scenes holding pools. The two larger turtles they replaced, as well as some of the smaller turtles, will be part of the aquarium’s remodeled “Open Sea” galleries that open in July 2011.

There’s more information online about their background, and how Franklin and her staff care for the turtles, at www.montereybayaquarium.org/exhibitupdates.


Sea Otter Research and Conservation

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program is renowned for its success at rescuing orphan pups and releasing them back into the wild. Just last week, Monterey celebrated the news that two female sea otters raised as stranded pups by surrogate mothers at the aquarium have each given birth in the wild to their second set of pups. Programs like SORAC demonstrate the direct link between the groundbreaking research efforts performed at many accredited zoos and conservation efforts in the field. 

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Photo credits: © Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder

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