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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shedd Aquarium

I went to the John G. Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium, located on South Lake Shore Drive. For $50, you can get a city pass that includes the aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, the Hancock Observatory, the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. It's a great deal and pays for itself if you go to three of the places.

The Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium is located right next to the famous Field Museum and features 8,000 freshwater and marine mammals in natural settings. The Oceanarium is said to be the largest indoor marine mammal pavilion in the world.

They have a nice way of greeting you.

One of the major exhibits on display is the Waters of the World, which features fish is 90 recreated natural habitats. This Giant Gourami, for instance, is from river and streams of Malaysia and Indonesia and was introduced throughout Asia and India. Since it's such a big fish, it's often used for food in those areas, which is a concern for conversationalists.

The Nile Knifefish is quite electric:
The Nile knifefish, the only species in the family Gymnarchidae, resembles an electric eel with its dowdy coloring and long, tapering body. Both fishes have specialized organs that generate electric fields. While the eel’s electrical discharge can kill a horse, the knifefish’s wavelike signal is too faint to even stun prey. Instead the pulses enable the knifefish to plot its course, detect food or foes a few feet away, and exchange such information as species and mating or warning signs. These are optimal responses to the Nile’s muddy unpredictability.
Each knifefish has its own frequency of discharge, and if two fishes get too close to each other they have to modulate the frequencies in order to find food.

One of the aquarium's Austrialian Lungfish is the aquarium's oldest fish. It was brought over in 1933. In general, they are considered "old" fish because lungfish fossils show the same huge scales and flipper-like fins as today's species. This leads scientists to believe that the lungfish is an "ancient kind of fish". According to some of the exhibit information, this fish has hardly changed in 100 million years. Now, it is endangered in its natural habitat.

The Fire Eel, or Mastacembelus erythrotaenia, has its origins in Southeast Asia. It is a nocturnal fish and can sometimes be fed by hand.

The aquarium goes through a great deal of care to describe, in easy terms, entire habitats. They had a large area of fish from African lakes. Lake Tanganyika is the world's largest freshwater lake, and at almost a mile deep, it's the second deepest in the world (to Russia' Lake Baikal).

According to Wikipedia, the lake's depth has interesting consequences:
The enormous depth and tropical location of the lake prevent 'turnover' of watermasses, which means that much of the lower depths of the lake are so-called 'fossil water' and are anoxic (lacking oxygen). The catchment area of the lake covers 231,000 km, with two main rivers flowing into the lake, numerous smaller rivers and streams (due to the steep mountains that keep drainage areas small), and one major outflow, the Lukuga River, which empties into the Congo River drainage.
Another, Lake Malawi, is also long and narrow but half as deep as Tanganyika. It is the ninth largest lake in the world, but contains more species than any other.

Lake Victoria is the largest tropical lake in the world, the second biggest overall (depending on your criteria).

The aquarium weaves in knowledge and advocacy with a lot of fun. The effects of global warming on Lake Tanganyika is discussed. They say that scientists believe that in the last 80 years, warming air temperatures around the lake have led to a 30% drop in the number of fish caught.

A study by various scientists concluded that:
Ultimately, O'Reilly and her colleagues found that temperatures have increased 0.6 degrees Celsius in the air above the lake, with a proportional increase in the water temperature, while wind velocities have decreased.

Those temperature changes stabilize the water column in lakes, especially in the tropics where, unlike in temperate regions, winter cooling and mixing is absent. The increased stability decreased circulation, hampering the re-supply of nutrients from the deep water to the surface waters of the lake where they help algae grow. The algae, which form the base of Lake Tanganyika's food chain, ultimately feed the commercially important fish.

Future predictions for this region indicate a roughly 1.5 degree Celsius rise in air temperature, said O'Reilly—further stabilizing the lake and reducing mixing, with potentially devastating effects on fish stocks.
The lakes are important in part due to their diversity. The Great Lakes in the U.S. combined have about 200 species of fishes, where Malawi alone has 1,000. Lake Tanganyika contains one-fifth of the world's drinking water.

Other areas, like the lakes and rivers of Nicaragua and Central America have very interesting fish, like this Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus). According to one website, these fish are "owner conscious," and respond to attention given to them.

The Golden Butterfly Fish (Chaetodon semilarvatus) is native to West Africa.

An exhibit titled "Invasive Species," looks at the ways in which non-native specials such as round goies, zebra mussels, and other aquatic intruders have multiplies, spread and harmed the econology of the area's lakes. All too often, a very small (to us) animal accidentally introduced into the water can wreak havoc on an entire ecological food chain.

The Beaded Anemone (Tealia coriacea) caught my eye for various reasons. One was that is sort of looked like a hairdoo worn by the NFL's Edgerrin James. Unlike James, who plays in Arizona know, this being lives in places like British Columbia and Baja California.

One educational display talked about the cycle of flooding and receding waters, and how it creates invasive species and how certain fish react to it.

It also talked about how the habitats change due to the increase and loss of water. In high water season, for instance, the flooded forest provides a wide variety of food and other opportunities for aquatic animals, as they can feed off of plants, roots, and other organisms. As waters recede however, land animals and people have more opportunities to eat at fish trapped in very small areas.

It didn't get into why Noah didn't take any fish with him.

There are public feeding times led by aquarium staff that talk about specific kinds of fish on display. At this exhibit, the aquarium handed out a pamphlet on the "right bite" choices for ecologically aware seafood choices. Farmed catfish is good, wild-caught caviar is bad. It was another example the delicate balance of fun, education, and advocacy that the aquarium does very well.

Near the end, I checked out the dolphin display, where they perform tricks that wow the crowd.

Apparently, these types of activities are natural for the animals, and little training has to take place.

They are cute, but I really hate the Miami Dolphins, so as far as I'm concerned eat lots of tuna.

I missed a lot here. I could have easily spent a whole day here. But there were other sites and sounds of Chi Town that I had to check out, and I had been here years before.

More stuff later.