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Cute Newborns Appear at the Tennessee Aquarium

2/9/2012 3:19:42 PM

A spiny turtle is one of the Aquarium's recent newborns.

This spiny turtle hatchling is one of the many new faces at the Tennessee Aquarium.

A bug-eyed baby pipefish was among dozens of siblings born at the Tennessee Aquarium recently.

Aquarists were surpised by a new crop of baby pipefish recently.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                   Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

Cute Newborns Appear at the Tennessee Aquarium
Endangered Turtle Hatchling and Baby Pipefish

Chattanooga, Tenn. (February 9, 2012) – Tennessee Aquarium herpetologists are pleased to announce a new arrival.  A spiny turtle, Heosemys spinosa, hatched over the weekend from a single egg that was incubated at 82 degrees for about 105 days. According to Tennessee Aquarium senior herpetologist Bill Hughes, this tiny turtle is a big success story for a species on the brink of extinction in the wild. "Captive breeding of this species is still an uncommon event, with only three other U.S. zoos having success," Hughes said. "However, we have worked carefully with these animals and have had 13 spiny turtles to hatch at the Aquarium since 2007."

Spiny turtles, like many other threatened or endangered species, are part of a cooperative management program in progress among Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited (AZA) institutions. Hughes maintains the records for this species management plan.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has listed this species as Critically Endangered in Indonesia, and Endangered in other parts of its range. Over-collecting these animals in the wild has led to the demise of these rather amazing turtles.

Hatchlings like this one, and others in this special management program, represent the last hope if this species vanishes in the wild. So each rare turtle hatchling is worth celebrating.
These turtles get their common name from the spikes surrounding the edge of their shells. Spiny turtles are also sometimes called cog-wheel turtles because of their jagged appearance which is most pronounced when first hatched. According to Hughes, the saw-blade carapace edge becomes rather smooth as these turtles age.

This latest hatchling is only about 5 cm long and weighs 37 grams - these measurements are similar to that of our other newly hatched spiny turtles.

The parents are maintained off exhibit, but Aquarium guests can view an older baby spiny turtle in the Turtle Gallery, located on level 2 of the River Journey building at the Tennessee Aquarium.
Baby Pipefish Appear

The Tennessee Aquarium recently received a shipment of wild-caught alligator pipefish. Among this batch of 10 pipefish were two pregnant males, one of which delivered a few babies upon arrival. Female pipefish lay between 60 and 200 eggs on the abdomen of the male and he develops a thin membrane around them.  His abdomen becomes soft and spongy, allowing the eggs to receive nutrients from him. Babies hatch after about 3 weeks and are little over a centimeter in length.

This species grows rapidly with males attaining a length of close to a foot and females being slightly smaller. Right now, most of these babies are only about two centimeters in length. That's only about as long as their father's snout.

Their tiny eyes look almost comical atop such slender snouts. According to assistant curator of fishes Carol Haley, the strange-looking, elongated bodies help them avoid predators. "These close relatives of seahorses resemble a string bean in appearance," said Haley. "This helps them camouflage themselves where they live, in sea grass beds and sargassum mats."
 
In the wild, alligator pipefish, Signathoides biaculeatus, are found throughout the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Tennessee Aquarium guests can see adult alligator pipefish in the Philippine Reef Edge exhibit in the seahorse gallery.

Alligator pipefish have a prehensile tail like a seahorse which is used to hitch onto just about anything around them, including each other. They'll hang out in a backup area at the Aquarium until they are big enough to be placed on exhibit.
   

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