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ROYAL FISH FLUSH

Have you heard the news? The royal baby has arrived!

That’s right, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex–a.k.a. Meghan Markle–have welcomed their first child, and that people are excited about it. Even the London Eye–the famous landmark along the River Thames–has been lit up with the colours of the Union Jack to celebrate the little one’s arrival.

We at the aquarium would like to celebrate the “o-fish-al” arrival of the seventh in line to the Crown in our own special way, by checking in with some of our favourite royals under the sea.

RED KING CRAB

king crab

The undisputed ruler of the crustaceans is…the red king crab! This giant decapod (that means that it has 10 legs) is one of the largest crustaceans in the ocean. Adult king crabs can have a leg-span of nearly five feet, and can weigh over 20 pounds. This makes them a coveted prize for anglers, but they also play an important role as the ocean’s clean-up crew. Red king crabs are scavengers; they eat dead and decaying plant and animal matter on the ocean floor.

Like all decapods, the shell of the red king crab is in fact its skeleton, which covers the outside of its body. This exoskeleton does not expand as the crab grows, so red king crabs must shed (molt) their old shells in order to grow, revealing a new, larger shell underneath. This new shell is soft for a time and leaves the red king crab open to predation–it’s not easy being king!

QUEEN ANGELFISH

queen fish

The queen angelfish is downright iconic. With her yellow, green and blue colouration, the queen angelfish is one of the most eye-catching fish in the already rainbow-coloured coral reefs of the Caribbean. Her name comes from the dark splotch of colour on her head, which makes her look as though she’s wearing a crown.

Queen angelfish are foragers–they eat everything from sponges to algae to coral. Juvenile queen angelfish have also been known to clean parasites and eat loose scales off much larger fish.

Every queen (angelfish) has her king–queen angelfish live in pairs year-round, suggesting a monogamous bond.

EMPEROR ANGELFISH

emperor angelfish

The emperor angelfish is a master of disguise, in more ways than one. The adult emperor angelfish (right image) is patterned in a way designed to confuse predators, with alternating blue and yellow stripes and a dark band across its eyes. Its colours as a juvenile (left image) are so different–dark blue with white and blue rings–that the two were once considered to be two completely different species!

Male emperor angelfish are territorial. While a few females might cohabitate peacefully with a single male, he will attack any other male angelfish that tries to enter their living space. This emperor doesn’t like to share his court!

REGAL BLUE TANG

blue tang

That’s right, it’s Dory! Not only is her common name decidedly regal, but she’s Hollywood royalty! Dory has many aliases, including the blue surgeonfish and palette surgeonfish. Her regal common name comes from her royal blue colouration.

Regal blue tangs are important for the health of the reefs they live in, because they eat away at the algae that might otherwise grow on and cover the coral, affecting its ability to photosynthesize.

The name surgeonfish comes from the sharp spines that line the tang’s back and tail–so sharp that they have been compared to a surgeon’s scalpel. Male regal blue tangs establish dominance by “fencing” with their caudal spines, but they have another foolproof way to deter predators–by lying on their side, motionless, essentially “playing dead” until danger has passed. Didn’t Dory try that one in the movies?

LIONFISH

lion fish

You might wonder why the venomous lionfish has made this royal list–what’s so royal about a lion? Well, apart from being the undisputed king of the jungle, the lion is in fact the national animal of England, and has long represented the British royal family!

Everything about the lionfish warns you not to touch it–its red and white stripes, its long, showy fins… And for good reason. The lionfish is able to defend itself with 18 needle-like dorsal spines, which deliver a painful dose of venom if touched.

The lionfish is an excellent hunter–its huge mouth is perfect for gobbling up prey, and it can use its fanned pectoral fins to steer prey until they are trapped. This has made the lionfish a problematic species in parts of the world that it is not native to. The lionfish’s hunting prowess, quick reproduction rates and adaptability have made it an invasive species in the Caribbean and southeastern coast of the United States.

So welcome, Royal Baby! And remember, cod save the Queen!

Photos:
Queen Angelfish www.animals.mom.me/diet-queen-angelfish-4669.html
Adult Emperor Angelfish www.fishkeepingworld.com/emperor-angelfish/
Juvenile Emperor Angelfish www.mashbox.org/underwater-10-the-brightest-sea-inhabitants/

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Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Hosts Prom Do-Over Event

April 22nd, 2019

Downtown Toronto attraction invites 19+ guests to Enchantment Under the Sea

TORONTO, ON – Was your first prom night full of teased hair, cheap cologne and taffeta dresses? Do the photos conjure up distant memories of slow dancing to one-hit-wonder songs you thought would never end? Either relive those glory days or make new memories at Ripley Aquarium of Canada’s Enchantment Under the Sea event. On Friday, May 3rd dust off that prom dress or ruffled tuxedo shirt for a prom do-over and enjoy a night you’ll never forget – and not regret!

There are no curfews or chaperones at this party, and the punch is already spiked at the fully-stocked cash bar. Dance the night away to some of the best songs of the past few decades with music from Sole Power featuring The Digs and DJ Kyrei. Capture the moment and strike a pose with friends in front of the many Insta-worthy photo ops and have a chance to win prizes for best (or in some cases, worst) dressed prom king and queen.

Tickets for Enchantment Under the Sea are available to guests 19+ and can be purchased in advance or at the door. For more information, visit Here or call 647-351-FISH (3474).

Media Contacts:
Lauren Chan
647-632-7453
lchan@ripleys.com

Melanie Greco
647-456-2653
melanie@getinkpr.ca

10 BRIGHT WAYS TO SPEND YOUR EARTH HOUR

Have you heard of Earth Hour?

Earth Hour is a movement founded by the World Wildlife Fund in 2008. This annual event encourages individuals, communities and businesses to turn off non-essential electricity for one hour as a symbol of commitment to the environment and to the health of the planet. The event is now observed in over 7,000 cities across 187 countries, and continues to raise awareness about energy consumption (especially coal-fired electricity) and its effects on the environment.

This year Earth Hour will take place on March 30, from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM. Will you be participating?

Here are some fun ways you can spend your hour without electricity, all for the health of the planet:

  • Bust-out the candles: no lights? No problem! Light your space with beeswax candles (they’re all-natural and non-toxic!) and turn even the simplest activity into an event (candle-lit dinner, anyone?).

  • Go for a walk: grab your dog, or the whole family, and get outside. In past years, even the CN Tower has gone dark for Earth Hour–this night-time walk could give you a whole new perspective on your city. Depending on your neighbourhood, you might even be able to see the stars!

  • Plan a game night: crack out your favourite board games, invite your friends, and you’ve got yourself a candlelit games night! (Just make sure candles are set well out of the way of the action–we all know how contentious those games of Monopoly can get!)

  • Do some yoga: roll out your yoga mat, fengshui your candles, and there’s everything you need for a relaxing, candlelit hour of Zen. Or, take this electronics-free hour to clear your mind through meditation.

  • Read a book: there’s nothing quite like getting under the covers and reading a book by flashlight to make you feel like a kid again. If you’re feeling especially brave, choose a spooky mystery or classic horror title to read in the dark.

  • Go camping: speaking of acting like a kid…why not set up a tent or build a fort in your living room? It’s indoor camping! Pack a picnic dinner and eat sprawled out on your best blankets and pillows. Or (carefully) roast marshmallows by candle-fire using chopsticks.

  • Soak in the bath: bliss-out in a candlelit bubble bath, and let the world (and the energy crisis!) slip away for an hour.

  • Take a nap: it’s like the whole world is dimming its lights, just for you! Shut your eyes and catch up on some much-needed z’s.

  • Tell ghost stories: use the dark to your advantage, and set the stage for some spooky ghost stories, whether from a book or straight from your imagination.

  • Come to the aquarium: finally, consider spending your Earth Hour with us here at the aquarium! We won’t be in the pitch-dark, but we will be turning off our non-essential lighting outdoors and in the lobby, to do our part for Earth Hour. Want to do even more for the environment during your visit? Consider traveling by bike, foot or public transit.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your Earth Hour, the event is meant to encourage us to “go beyond the hour,” by taking energy-saving action year-round. You can visit the World Wildlife Fund website here to make a pledge to reduce your energy use–whether by committing to purchasing less plastic or to restoring nature in your community–in the coming year.

Sources

  1. “What Is Earth Hour?” Earth Hour, World Wildlife Fund, 18 Mar. 2019, www.earthhour.org/what-is-earth-hour

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Designated as First Autism Certified Attraction in Canada

March 28th, 2019

Canada’s largest indoor aquarium to offer special initiatives for autism families throughout April

In honour of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is pleased to announce that it has been designated as a Certified Autism Center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). After completing intensive autism sensitivity and awareness training, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is the first attraction in Canada to receive this important designation.

Becoming a Certified Autism Center demonstrates an organization’s commitment to ensuring guests with autism and sensory sensitivities have the best possible experience. As part of the certification process, Ripley’s Aquarium staff underwent extensive training as well as an onsite review which involved the integration of IBCCES Sensory Guides at each exhibit to give visitors more information on sensory impacts.

“We’re thrilled that Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is the first organization in the country to complete this process. Their team’s dedication is unmatched and we are so excited families will have another great option to experience together,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.

Autism Ontario’s Family Support Coordinator, Sinthea Chowdhury agrees, “Being the first Canadian attraction to be an Autism Certified Center means more inclusivity, sensory integration and access to an invaluable community experience. We hope to see more Canadian attractions follow suit and foster a welcoming and barrier free environment,” she said.

Additionally, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will host several sensory-friendly days throughout April which will offer increased lighting, a music-free environment and a quiet room for guests who require a break. These sensory days were developed in conjunction with Autism Ontario and will occur on April 2nd, 7th, 14th and 28th; as well as on the first Sunday of the month the remainder of the year.

For more information, visit Here or call 416-351-FISH (3474).

Media Contacts:
Melanie Greco
647-456-2653
melanie@getinkpr.ca

Lauren Chan
647-632-7453
lchan@ripleys.com

BLUE PLANET, GREEN PLANET

What do you think of when you think of St. Patrick’s Day? The rolling green hills of Ireland? Green shamrocks and leprechauns? Green food colouring in otherwise perfectly-good beer? Whatever images you associate with March 17, the cultural and religious holiday celebrating Irish heritage, it’s likely that they’re awash in green!

And when it comes to the colour green, the ocean might not be the first thing that pops into your head. After all, when we look down at our planet from above, it’s our terrestrial spaces that appear green—the oceans have always been, and will always be, blue. …or will they?

The planet is warming—the effects of climate change can be seen all across our oceans, from the phenomenon known as coral bleaching, all the way down to changes in the growth and abundance of phytoplankton (microscopic photosynthesizing algae). These changes are happening at an unprecedented rate due to decidedly human factors such as industrial carbon emissions.


There are two main classes of phytoplankton, dinoflagellates – which have a whip-like tail (flagella), and diatoms – which do not.

While you are more than likely aware of the harmful effects that climate change is having on our planet, a new study has shown a surprising side-effect that you might not have considered… The planet is about to get a whole lot greener—and not in the environmentally-sustainable way you might have been hoping for.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA and the US Department of Energy published a paper last month summarizing their findings using a global model that simulates the growth patterns of different species of phytoplankton, and how those phytoplankton absorb and reflect light. This model could serve as an early warning signal for ocean health–or ill health.

In short, the researchers found that more than 50% of ocean waters will experience a change in colour by the year 2100!

Regions appearing blue (such as the subtropics) in satellite photographs will become bluer due to a loss of life in general, and phytoplankton in particular, compared to those regions today. However, water that currently has a greenish tinge, such as that near the Earth’s poles, will become even greener, due to warmer water temperatures creating blooms of more diverse species of phytoplankton in those regions.

So what creates the ocean’s colour to begin with, and how does algae affect it?

It has to do with how sunlight interacts with what’s in the water itself. As you may know, light is comprised of all the colours of the rainbow. Water molecules absorb almost all light frequencies except for the colour blue, which is reflected back to us, which is why the open ocean appears as a deep blue in photographs taken from space. But ocean water that contains a lot of phytoplankton will appear greener, as the chlorophyll (the green pigment that helps plants and algae photosynthesize the sun’s energy into food) in phytoplankton absorbs almost all of sunlight’s blue spectrum, and reflects back more green light.


This side-by-side comparison from NASA illustrates typical Arctic waters (left) and the same waters during a massive algal bloom (right).

What does this all mean, apart from the fact that our planet could soon be looking a lot greener?

Plankton of all kinds—and phytoplankton in particular—are at the bottom of a huge number of ocean food chains. So if climate change shifts the growth of phytoplankton—whether from one species to another, or from one part of the ocean to another—this will change the types of food webs that they can support, and that will impact on species further up the food chain. Entire ocean ecosystems will be affected.

Not to mention that phytoplankton produce about 50% of the oxygen we breathe… Needless to say, changes to their distribution across the ocean means a whole lot more for the planet’s health than just its colour.

But don’t despair. When it comes to climate change, we have more power than you might think. Stay ‘tuna’ed to the Deep Sea Diary for an upcoming post about what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and join the fight against climate change.

For now, sláinte, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may all your rainbows end in a pot of gold(fish)!

Images

  1. Phytoplankton, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/phyto.html

Sources

  1. Anderson, Paul Scott. “Much of Earth’s Surface Ocean Will Shift in Color by End of 21st Century.” EarthSky, 7 Feb. 2019, www.earthsky.org/earth/mit-study-climate-change-affect-color-earth-oceans
  2. Dennis, Brady, and Chris Mooney. “Climate Change Will Alter the Color of the Oceans, New Research Finds.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Feb. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/02/04/climate-change-will-alter-color-oceans-new-research-finds/?utm_term=.9295b2a6173e
  3. Moran, Barbara. “Climate Change Is Altering the Color of the Ocean.” WBUR, WBUR, 4 Feb. 2019, www.wbur.org/news/2019/02/04/climate-change-ocean-color-phytoplankton
  4. Obscura, Atlas. “Climate Change Is Shifting the Color of the Oceans.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 5 Feb. 2019, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/climate-change-ocean-color-algae-nature_us_5c59e918e4b09293b208ea51
  5. Dutkiewicz, S. et al.Ocean colour signature of climate change. Nature Comm. www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08457-x

STRANGER THAN FICTION: THE INSPIRATION BEHIND MYTHOLOGICAL SEA MONSTERS

It was explorer Robert Ripley himself who said that “truth is stranger than fiction.” Where tales of mythological sea monsters are concerned, this is definitely true. Ancient seafarers saw strange and wonderful real-life sea creatures on their ocean journeys, and through the power of imagination and oral storytelling, these animals took on larger-than-life proportions.

Today we’re taking a closer look at some fantastically strange sea monsters, and the real-life sea creatures that inspired them.

Those beautiful siren sea cows…

The legend of sirens or mermaids – half-human, half-fish and, in some versions of the story, sweet songstresses that lure sailors to their doom – is probably one of the best known tales of mythological sea creatures. From The Little Mermaid to “mermaid hair, don’t care,” mermaids and sirens proliferate our culture.

These stories are thought to have been inspired by a rather unlikely source. Manatees are the largest aquatic herbivores. Also called sea cows, they are big, slow-moving, mustachioed grey animals related to elephants. They are from the order Sirenia, a clue that they were probably the animal that inspired written documents about so-called sirens

So how did the giant, slow-moving sea cow inspire the legend of mermaids? It could have to do with their decidedly human-like behavior with their young. Female manatees have been known to cradle their pups in their flippers while nursing. Add to this a behaviour known as spy-hopping, whereby a manatee rises vertically out of the water to check things out at the surface, and it’s easy to see how a sailor might mistake this curious sight for a siren, especially after months at sea.

Even famed explorer Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids. In 1493 he wrote in his journals about spotting three mermaids from aboard his fleet to the Americas. This is one of the earliest European accounts of a manatee sighting, though it was hardly complimentary to the manatees: they are “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”

Kraken or giant squid?

Out of all the sea monsters of legend, few are as fearsome as the kraken.

The kraken is a terrifying sea monster said to live off the coasts of Norway and Greenland – it is described as a vast creature with giant tentacles, all the better to drag fishermen or even entire ships of sailors to their death beneath the waves. The kraken is hard to detect, because it lurks under boats in the dark of the water, but it was said that if fishermen suddenly started catching a great many fish, it was because the kraken had scared them to the surface, and was ready to attack.

Once the kraken sinks back below the surface, the real trouble starts: its massive size was said to create a colossal whirlpool, taking anything still at the surface down with it.

That’s definitely the stuff of nightmares. The good news is that the kraken does not exist. The giant squid, however, is a real animal, and was likely the inspiration for these cautionary tales.

The existence of giant squid was confirmed by Danish naturalist Japetus Steenstrup in 1857; he named it Architeuthis dux, which translates as “ruling squid” in Latin. Today there are 21 confirmed species of giant squid. They can grow up to 15 metres, including their tentacles. That’s huge, but not likely to take down any ships.

The giant squid is elusive, so its maximum size is still hotly debated. It lives at depths of up to 1,000 metres, probably in order to avoid making a tasty snack for its top predator – the deep-diving sperm whale.

Leviathan

Speaking of whales…

In the earliest days of sailing, encounters with whales led to strange stories and the creation of the myth of the Leviathan, which manifested in different ways. To some the Leviathan was a giant fish. To others, it was a serpent, crocodile or marine mammal. In some versions of the legend, it was a monstrous whale (called the Devil Whale) that lay asleep in the water and was frequently mistaken for an island. But when sailors stepped aboard to prepare their dinner on land, the great whale would wake, and sink below the surface, bringing the sailors and their ship with it.

Another version, the prister, was described as being “two hundred cubits long, and very cruel.” It had two blowholes, which could fire onto ships like water cannons. How to defeat this fearsome beast? Try sounding a trumpet, in order to startle it away. Obviously.

These tales were likely inspired by real-life encounters with whales – both alive and dead. The sperm whale – the largest toothed predator in the world, at up to 67 feet long – has been known to strand itself on shallow beaches, and was likely the source of many legends of sea monsters. It should also be noted that baleen whales like blue and fin whales have two blowholes – they too seem to be an inspiration for this fearsome beast.

The sea serpent

Lastly, no exploration of sea monsters would be complete without mentioning the sea serpent. A sea serpent or sea dragon was a type of dragon described in various mythologies. They were imagined as huge, toothy, serpentine monsters.

The possible real-life inspiration for these tales – the oarfish – is almost as fantastic as the legends themselves. First described in 1772, the oarfish is the longest (known) living species of bony fish, at up to 56 feet long and weighing up to 600 pounds. Like the giant squid, oarfish are deep-dwelling animals, thought to live at a depth of 1,000 metres, and sightings of living oarfish are rare.

They are known as the “king of the herrings,” due to their resemblance to those smaller fish. Despite their massive size and monstrous looks, they are not dangerous – they eat plankton and have a tiny gullet! Still, sometimes oarfish get pushed to the surface by storms or strong currents, where they can become distressed and die. It’s not hard to see why a sputtering, squirming oarfish might have been thought of as a terrifying sea serpent.

Are you feeling curious? Swim by the aquarium to visit our Curious Creatures exhibit and learn more about the strange and bizarre animals living below the surface.

Photos:
Manatee www.time.com/4719439/manatees-endangered-species/
Giant Squid www.behance.net/gallery/54729185/Giant-Squid
Sperm Whale www.hakaimagazine.com/news/sperm-whales-have-eve/
Oarfish www.nbcnews.com/science/weird-science/caught-camera-rare-sighting-oarfish-worlds-largest-bony-fish-n76376

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OPEN WIDE: UNDERSEA TOOTH ADAPTATIONS

Open wide! February 9, 2019 is International Dentist Day – a day to celebrate one of the oldest and most important jobs in the world. While you might not be the biggest fan of sitting in the dentist’s chair, you can’t deny that keeping our teeth clean and shiny is a huge part of our overall health.

What better way to honour IDD than to dive into an underwater exploration of the different kinds of tooth adaptations found in the ocean?

Shark teeth

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CONGRATULATIONS! IT’S A…SEAHORSE?!

As you may have heard, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s newest residents are a whole herd of baby lined seahorses. But wait, there’s more! You may also have heard that they hatched on New Year’s Day – our very own new year’s babies! They arrived on January 1, 2019 with much fanfare; in fact, their arrival was covered by media across the country.

We’re very excited about our new fry (baby fish), so we thought we’d take this opportunity to teach you a bit more about them.

First things first: they were the size of grains of rice when they were first born, not jellybeans.

But that doesn’t mean that they were any less cute!

The lined seahorse (a.k.a. the northern seahorse, a.k.a. the spotted seahorse) is found in the Atlantic Ocean, as far north as Canada and as far south as the Caribbean, Mexico and even South America. It swims in an upright position (thus its scientific name – Hippocampus erectus), using its dorsal and pectoral fins to guide it through the water. Seahorses have an armoured body made up of bony plates and prehensile (capable of holding) tails, which they use to grasp onto sturdy structures such as seagrass or coral. Due to their weak swimming abilities they spend much of their time anchored like this, sucking in small prey through their tubular snouts.

Due to their unique digestive system – they lack a true stomach for the gradual digestion of food – seahorses may feed continuously for up to 10 hours a day!

Here at the aquarium our shoal of seahorses is fed at least three times daily, and our new babies, up to six times a day! That’s a lot of work for our aquarists!

Lined seahorses eat plankton and small crustaceans such as brine shrimp. Their eyes are able to move independently of one another (like a chameleon’s), all the better to survey their surroundings and ambush unsuspecting prey. While they are found in a wide variety of colours (from black, grey and brown to green, orange, red and yellow), they also have colour-changing skin cells called chromatophores (like an octopus) that allow them to blend in with their environment.

The lined seahorse is monogamous through the mating season; a bonded male and female will perform a special ritual dance every morning to reestablish their connection. They revolve around one another, change colours in unison, and sometimes even grasp tails.

As you may know, seahorses are unique in the animal kingdom in that the male is the primary caregiver of young. The female seahorse passes her eggs into the male’s brood pouch – a pouch where the eggs are protected before hatching – where they are incubated for about three weeks. Upon hatch, they are only the size of a grain of rice! Regardless of size, the male releases them into the water column and from that moment on they must fend for themselves.

The number produced from the male is anywhere from 97 to over 1,500 offspring!

You might ask why so many baby seahorses are spawned at a time, when only a fraction of them will survive to adulthood. Think of it as quantity versus quality. Essentially, organisms living in inhospitable environments with limited resources and lots of predators (like the ocean) reproduce quickly and in large numbers to ensure that at least some of their offspring survive to their own age of reproduction. This is the same strategy employed by sea turtles and horseshoe crabs – both species lay thousands of eggs, but few survive.

Luckily, here at the aquarium, the new year’s babies have been separated from the rest of the shoal, and have a better-than-average chance of surviving this vulnerable period.

Lined seahorses have a lifespan of 1-to-4 years; here at the aquarium, they live 3-4 years, the maximum reported for their species.

Now that you know all there is to know about the lined seahorse, giddy-up and get yourself to the aquarium to see our New Year’s babies, now on display in The Gallery!

 

Sources

  1. Bester, Cathleen. “Hippocampus Erectus.” Florida Museum, 12 May 2017,
    www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/hippocampus-erectus/
  2. Langley, Liz. “Romance of the Seas: Strange Mating Habits of the Seahorse.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 25 June 2016,
    www.news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/seahorse-reproduction-behavior-conservation/
  3. “Lined Seahorse.” Chesapeake Bay Program,
    www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/fieldguide/critter/lined_seahorse