Out of this World Experience at the Tennessee Aquarium's Fly
Tenn. (Dec. 24, 1997) - Travel to New Guinea where colorful
rainbowfish dart below the surface of the water while water
dragons explore the lush plants that overhang the rivers
edge. Marvel at the adorable pig-nosed turtles and pink-bellied
turtles surfacing at the Tennessee Aquariums new exhibit:
near the equator between Asia and Australia, New Guinea is the
highest tropical island in the world with mountains tall enough
to support glaciers. Covering 303,090 square miles, New Guinea
is famous for its spectacular mountains and infamous for its
active volcanoes, which number the largest in the world.
a rich diversity of wildlife still being uncovered in New Guinea
because much of the island has escaped destructive human development,
said Dave Collins, curator of forests. Our new exhibit
gives visitors a rare perspective of this beautiful, unspoiled
Guinea is also a land rich in cultures. More than 1,000 languages
-- one-fifth of the worlds total languages -- are spoken.
Cultural diversity is also evident in the look and lifestyle
of New Guineas residents. The crocodile people of Sepik
cut their skin in a ritualistic pattern to resemble the teeth
marks of crocodiles. The Asmat people were enthusiastic headhunters
. . . until recently.
Collins is quick to point out that flora and fauna are not the
only living things featured in the Fly River exhibit in the
Rivers of the World Gallery: Leseurs water dragons, black
tree monitors, frilled lizards, pig-nosed turtles, pink-bellied
short-neck turtles, snake-neck turtles, dwarf rainbowfish and
forktail blue-eyed fish.
and New Guinea are the only places in the world where these
fish can be found, explained Chris Coco, curator of fishes.
They come in a variety of colors from fire engine red New Guinea
rainbowfish to shimmering turquoise Lake Kutubu rainbowfish.
Schooling in large numbers, they feed on small crustaceans,
insect larvae and some aquatic vegetation.
of feeding patterns, Monitor lizards in New Guinea have
it made, added Collins. They are the dominant meat-eaters
because there are no mammal carnivores to compete with.
At the Aquarium the lizards mostly dine on insects, meal worms
and small rodents, said Collins.
the Fly River exhibit with the lizards and turtles, are forktail
blue-eyes, which are tiny fish that get their name for their
characteristic blue irises. They rarely exceed two inches. Their
pectoral fins are located close to their heads and the males
wave them up and down in elaborate courtship displays.
lush plants on exhibit are not only beautiful, but also useful.
They serve as hiding places for both fish and reptiles. More
than 1,200 species of trees and nearly 20,000 flowering plants
can be found in New Guinea. Plants on exhibit include: myrmecodias,
hoyas, pandanus, medinillas and dischidias. These native New
Guinea plants are grown in the greenhouse peaks
atop the Aquarium.
recently as 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, Australia and New Guinea
were connected by a land bridge. Due to glacial melting, this
area is now covered by water. The Fly River originates high
in the Star Mountains and winds southward along its 1,200 kilometer
path to become the longest river in New Guinea.