Aquarium Showcases Courtship during February.
Things – I think I Love You.
Tenn. (January, 31st 2008) – The Troggs
smash hit “Wild Thing” was the grooviest love song
when it was released in 1966. Today there are plenty
of wild things at the Tennessee Aquarium that have some pretty
groovy love songs and courtship rituals as well. In fact,
you should hear our frogs singing their own version of wild
thing. Not to mention the lead vocals at Penguins’ Rock.
Here’s a sample of what you might discover throughout
the month of love at Chattanooga’s riverfront aquarium.
Visitors to Penguins’ Rock are sometimes surprised by
the rather raucous mock courtship displays. The Aquarium’s
gentoo and macaroni penguins will occasionally pair up and
begin loudly calling to each other while bobbing and swaying
their heads. Normally this is only two penguins at a
time, but that is loud enough according to penguin keeper Amy
Graves. “Imagine what it will be like when all of these
birds start calling. It will be deafening inside the exhibit.” Graves
explains that this is not true courtship behavior, but a practice
session in the penguin world. “Penguins need small, smooth
stones to build their nests. We call these magic rocks
because to the penguins, the rocks are like dimming the lights
and playing soft music. The nesting materials are the cue to
WWF – World
Some species of dart frogs choose just the right location
to attract a mate. If another male invades that space,
a frog wrestling match will ensue. The winner claims
the territory and presumably a fine mate. In spite
of their aggressive nature, dart frogs are very caring parents.
Dave Collins, the Aquarium’s curator of forests says
both males and females have an amazing parental instinct. “If
the area where the eggs are laid begins to dry up, one or
both parents begin to transport water to the clutch to keep
them moist,” says Collins. “If things get too
dry, the parents will carry the tadpoles on their backs to
a place with more water.” A new frog exhibit will open
on Leap Day at the Tennessee Aquarium featuring three species
of dart frog.
Dean Martin might have made “That’s Amore” one
of the most famous love songs ever recorded, but probably not
the song of love that is most heard around the world. That
title might go to frogs and toads. On any given spring
or summer evening, the chorus of frogs calling to attract a
mate is overwhelming. But they are not the only amorous amphibians
that vocalize to woo the opposite sex.
and newts emit a variety of soft squeaks, low whistles, barks
and clicks. In addition, many salamanders communicate with
the opposite sex chemically and visually. “Many
species have well developed hedonic glands that emit an attractive
chemical,” says Collins. “A complex courtship
dance involving a lot of head rubbing and dancing in circles
takes places between the salamanders as the male leads the
female to the proper location to reproduce.” Several
species of salamanders can be seen at the Aquarium like the
hellbender, a native amphibian that was once common in the
Tennessee River, but has been listed as Near Threatened by
the World Conservation Union.
the chorus of frogs is beginning to wane. Researchers worldwide
are trying to solve a crisis that could wipe out one third
to one half of the world’s 6,000 amphibian
species. You can show your love for frogs, toads, salamanders
and amphibians by trying a few of these suggestions at home.
- Don’t over-fertilize your yard. Excess
chemicals are harmful to the sensitive skin of amphibians.
a backyard habitat. A small pond will attract
frogs and toads that will reward you by gobbling up insects.
- Make sure you are careful when weed-eating and mowing overgrown
grassy areas. Frogs and toads may be hiding within the taller
vegetation and may not be able to escape quickly.
a small portion of your yard a natural area for amphibians.
A compost heap helps you dispose of leaves and lawn clippings
while giving toads a place to live.
See Dragons Dancing
Weedy seadragons are among the most unusual animals on display
at the Tennessee Aquarium, and they have one of the best
love stories around. One pair of weedy seadragons currently
on exhibit in the Tasmanian Kelp Bed display has been courting
since September of 2006. Look closely and you may
see their dancing display almost every day. These lovers
have successfully bred twice in the past, and one of their
babies is now 5 years old. The Tennessee Aquarium is
one of only a few aquariums that have been successful breeding
When a seahorse chooses a mate the pair tends to stay together
constantly. They oftentimes will hold onto each other’s
tail and swim together, rest together and even hunt for food
together. The mating dance begins with the male bowing
his head to squish his pouch empty of water. Next he’ll
swim around the female flaunting himself. This display
involves filling his pouch with water to show her how full
it can be. If she’s impressed enough, the pair will
swim upward belly to belly as she releases her eggs into
his pouch. The male holds the eggs in his belly for
30 to 45 days until the baby seahorses are released. And
baby seahorses seem to appear all the time at the Tennessee
It’s always Valentine’s Day in the Mississippi
Delta and Tennessee River galleries. Here male freshwater turtles
do their best to impress the ladies with their courtship displays.
red ear sliders and southern painted turtles can be seen swimming
in front of, or above their female counterparts. With
long claws extended, they carefully yet rapidly seem to fan
their prospective mates in the face.
It’s often said that love is mysterious, and that’s
certainly true when it comes to the green moray eel. Eels
are rather secretive animals and up until the late 1800’s
not much was known about moray courtship and mating. Researchers
know today that moray eels reproduce by engaging in a choreographed
courtship during which they will open their mouths very wide
at each other and eventually end up entwining their bodies
together. Morays can stay like this for up to nine hours, at
which point they separate and the eggs are fertilized.
Two large green moray eels can be viewed in River Journey’s
Gulf of Mexico exhibit. They are normally seen down low snuggled
up in a rock, or entwined among the mangrove trees.
Coral reefs like those within the Flower Garden Banks National
Marine Sanctuary have a unique love story. Eight nights
after the first full moon in August, corals spawn at the
same time. This event has been described as looking
like an upside-down snowstorm. More information and images
of the coral spawning can be found near the Secret Reef exhibit
in the Ocean Journey building.
Date and More, eh?
Some people think the Tennessee Aquarium is the perfect place
for a first date. Just ask Lee Prichard and Whitney
Moon. The Lee University couple came to the Aquarium
on their first date. One year later, Lee brought Whitney
back to the Aquarium and proposed. Whitney said yes,
and the two are planning a Spring ’08 wedding. Whitney
says, “The Tennessee Aquarium is a great place to make
Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for
the natural world. Admission is $19.95 per adult and $12.95
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 $24.95 for adults and $16.95 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
press kits & downloadable images: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/Newsroom.asp