Seabits 4.5 (fwd)

From: mike williamson (williams@www1.wheelock.edu)
Date: Wed May 03 2000 - 08:15:38 EDT


S E A B I T S
New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
<http://www.neaq.org/>
Volume 4, Issue 5, May 2000
Copyright, New England Aquarium 2000
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
A rather sopping, gloomy New England April is over, and we're all breathing a
sigh of relief - our new exhibit, Nyanja! Africa's Inland Sea is open and looks
great, thanks to the hard, hard work of many. The new residents are adjusting
well to their homes, including our 12-foot crocodile and 3 pythons. Our
Constrictor Contest starts today, and I'll be accepting entries on what to name
the pythons until July 1. So, send 'em in!

In this issue:
  Watery Words
  Stories
    - Pick a Pair of Pythons
    - Spiders on the Loose
    - Extra Bits
  Out on the Net
  Announcements
    - Constrictor Contest
    - Ecology and Evolution in Aquatic Systems Course
    - Spaces Still Available in Our New Marine Ecology Programs
May Calendar
Subscribe/Unsubscribe
Contact Us

***** WATERY WORDS *************************************************

      "The real difficulty with sustaining a useful connection with nature,
      though, comes from the fact that nature does not seek to make a
      connection with us. It is a hard truth to swallow, but nature
      does not care if we live or die. We cannot survive without the oceans,
      for example, but they can do just fine without us."

                -- Roger Rosenblatt
                   Time Magazine, April 2000, Vol. 155, No. 17

***** STORIES ******************************************************
This month's stories
  1) Pick a Pair of Pythons
  2) Spiders on the Loose
  3) Extra Bits

----- PICK A PAIR OF PYTHONS --------------------------------------------
If you crawl through the python tunnel (be sure to say hi to the hedgehogs
along the way) in the new Nyanja exhibit, you can poke your head up inside a
plexiglass-enclosed 360 degree viewing window. If you time it right, you can
watch 14 feet of solid African rock python muscle silently slither past you.

African rock pythons are native to central and southern Africa, and are
constrictors, like boas. They are not venomous, instead relying on their muscle
power to subdue, suffocate and squelch their prey. Which is not to say that
they can't bite - they have sharp teeth and will bite if provoked. Large
pythons in the wild have an impressive diet that includes wild pigs, monkeys
and even antelopes thanks to that uniquely snake ability to dislocate their
jaws and swallow food much larger than their mouths. For the most part, they
stick to small mammals, lizards, fish and birds. Humans are rarely on the menu,
but the large ones certainly have the ability to overpower a person.
Ironically, the most dangerous place to encounter a large constrictor may be a
North American living room. Many species of snakes make excellent pets, but
more than one python owner has been left badly shaken (including cartoonist
Gary Larson) by a reptilian housemate.

Pythons are masters of escape, able to disappear through surprisingly tiny
openings. Adults are not usually vulnerable to predators unless they have eaten
a large meal that slows them down. Crawling up a tree with a 20-pound monkey in
your stomach would be a challenge for anyone.

Our three pythons, one 8-foot male and two larger females (12 and 14 feet),
were captive born, bred and raised by the folks at New England Reptile
Distributors (NERD). According to Kevin McCurley, these captive animals have
nice tempers and are not dangerous to people, unless you smell like food. They
are curious animals, and have spent a fair amount of time in their new digs
examining it for any small exits that may have been overlooked by our exhibit
designers. So far, so good.

Our pythons are all between 3 and 4 years old, and may live into their
twenties. Although they don't yet have names (see contest below), we do know a
little something about their personalities - the male is shy, the big female is
outgoing and friendly, and the smaller female is nervous. She has something to
be nervous about, too - she's about to be a mom. Our pregnant python bore 38
eggs on April 27. Mother and eggs apparently are doing fine, and for the moment
the eggs are in an incubator behind the scenes. Eggs usually incubate for
70-80 days, so we are expecting baby pythons around mid-July. We'll keep
you posted on the baby boom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Droplet: African rock pythons are diminishing in numbers in the wild, thanks
largely to the human predilection for snakeskin handbags, shoes and other
decorative items. Large animals are becoming rare in the wild, where their size
is a hindrance in escaping human hunters. We also kill them just because they
are snakes.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

----- SPIDERS ON THE LOOSE ------------------------------------------------
By Sue Knapp, Roving Reporter

Beware: in the new Nyanja! Africa's Inland Sea exhibit, we are displaying some
large and beautiful golden orb spiders in an open-air exhibit. Without glass
separating you from the spiders, you can get up close and personal - but should
you want to? Unless you're an arachnophobe, yes! This is a rare opportunity to
get a good look at these spiders and appreciate their unique role in the Lake
Victoria ecosystem.

You are probably wondering if this is safe. Our animal husbandry staff assure
us that orb spinners are extremely skittish and terribly frightened of humans.
These spiders have very thin legs and do not walk well on the ground, so they
would not get far even on their eight feet. Plus, they tend to move up when
alarmed and prefer higher locations. They are best suited for tree top living -
exactly the type of exhibit we have built for them.

To ensure that the spiders stay close to home, husbandry staff carefully
monitor temperature and humidity levels appropriate for these particular
spiders. Plus, feeding time always happens in the exhibit - this should curb
any orb spinner from wandering far. In a similar open exhibit at the National
Zoo in Washington D.C., open since 1988, there has never been an incident where
a staff member or visitor has been bitten.

But, should the unlikely happen, and an escaping spider bites a visitor, the
venom in golden orb spinners is not poisonous to humans. An escapee would also
not have much of chance at living on its own around here or starting a colony -
being tropical animals, they would never make it through a New England winter.

Now, the other species of spider on exhibit, Pterinochilus or baboon tarantula,
is a different story. The experts describe them as aggressive and very fast
moving. Don't let their fuzzy exterior fool you, they are not cuddly creatures.
Even those who keep these creatures as pets (and I'm not sure why they do it)
recommend not handling them and advise careful tank maintenance because they
move so quickly they sometimes escape. This little arachnid is behind glass.
Since our specimen is shy, our aquarists have built a burrow in ant farm style
so visitors can get a good look at its hairy legs.

We feed our spiders live crickets - the tarantula eats larger 5-week-old
crickets while the orb spinners get the younger 1-week-old bugs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Droplet: At mating time, baboon tarantulas leave their shallow burrows and
search for females. After mating, the female usually devours her partner.
Nutrients provided by the male's body help ensure the success of the next
generation. Males live to 10 years, and females to 30.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

----- EXTRA BITS ----------------------------------------------------------
Some updates to previous Seabits stories.

AT IT AGAIN
It's whaling season for the Makah tribe of Neah Bay, Washington. Under a 1997
deal, the U.S. allows the Makah tribe to kill up to five gray whales a year -
the tribe made its first kill last year, a 3-year-old female. So far this year,
no gray whales have been killed or injured, but the same doesn't go for the
protesters, two of whom were seriously injured when they tried to interfere
with the hunt. At the New England Aquarium's online voting booth, the votes are
pretty evenly split, with 43% in favor of allowing the Makah to whale and 56%
against.

WHALE McNUGGETS STILL A LONG WAY OFF
At the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
held recently in Nairobi, Kenya, the delegates rejected proposals from Japan
and Norway that would have allowed them to trade in gray and minke whales. The
International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a worldwide ban on commercial
whaling in 1986, but Norway and Japan still hunt and kill whales by using a
loophole that allows whaling for "scientific purposes." Whales killed for
scientific reasons must be utilized completely according to the IWC.

DOLPHIN-SAFE TUNA STAYS THAT WAY
The change in dolphin-safe tuna legislation that was to go into effect on April
11 was blocked by a federal judge. The change would have allowed tuna caught by
encircling dolphins, as long as the dolphins were freed unharmed, to be labeled
dolphin-safe. Currently, only tuna caught without encircling dolphins can be
labeled dolphin-safe. The judge ruled that the Commerce Department didn't
consider whether repeated chasing and capture has a negative impact on the
dolphins. Particularly for the 3 depleted species of dolphins, the Northern
offshore, the Eastern spinner and the coastal spotted dolphin, this question is
important to answer. The Clinton administration's modifications to the
legislation are supported by a number of environmental groups, including
Greenpeace, who say that the move away from setting on dolphin has resulted in
a tremendous amount of bycatch. According to the Center for Marine
Conservation, the "cost" of saving 1 dolphin by prohibiting fishermen from
setting on dolphin means killing approximately 15,620 small tunas, 382 mahi
mahi, 190 wahoo, 8 rainbow runners, 11 blacktip sharks, 4 silky sharks, 2
whitetip sharks, 2 other sharks and rays, 1 marlin, 482 triggerfish, 800 other
small fish and 1 sea turtle.

***** OUT ON THE NET ************************************************
For additional information, you might want to check out the following
websites. Some of these links represent partners in aquatic conservation
and animal husbandry; others are simply resources we think may help you
enrich your perspective on our watery world. By listing these websites, the
New England Aquarium is not automatically endorsing or verifying the
accuracy of their content unless explicitly stated.

Pythons
<http://www.newenglandreptile.com/>
<http://www.neaq.org/Nyanjatour/pages/africanpython.html/>
<http://www.thesnake.org/pythons.html/>

Spiders
<http://www.thesnake.org/spiders.html/>
<http://www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw/Spiders/InfoNed/The_spider.html/>
<http://atshq.org/>

***** ANNOUNCEMENTS **************************************************
This month's announcements
  1) Constrictor Contest
  2) Ecology and Evolution in Aquatic Systems Course
  3) Spaces Still Available in our New Marine Ecology Program

----- CONSTRICTOR CONTEST ------------------------------------------------
Name those pythons! Our three new residents, African rock pythons, are, sadly,
nameless at the moment. They are a male (8 feet) and 2 females (12 and 14
feet). To enter the contest, send your suggestions for names to me, Jen Goebel,
Seabits Editor, at jgoebel@neaq.org. Preference will be given to a trio of
names, but names for individual snakes will also be accepted - however, the
first person to suggest "Monty" gets lashed with a wet noodle. This contest is
open to Seabits readers, New England Aquarium members and visitors, but not to
New England Aquarium staff, interns, volunteers or former webmasters. Closing
date for entries is July 1. We will announce a winner in the August issue. The
winner can choose between these prizes: a large plush python thanks to our gift
shop (which also has lots of other cool plush Nyanja animals, by the way,
including tarantulas, crocs and chameleons) or a wonderful whale watch for two,
out to Stellwagen Bank to see the great whales in their natural habitat. The
runner-up will receive the other prize. Questions? E-mail me.

----- ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION IN AQUATIC SYSTEMS COURSE ---------------------
>From Sunday July 23 to Saturday, July 29, the Marine Studies Consortium is
offering a 3-graduate credit (45 Professional Development Point) course through
Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA. The course runs from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
each day and includes field trips, meals and breaks. Typical days include
collections and observations in the field followed by experimental design and
microscope work in the lab. Discussion, analysis and creative time are
interspersed. Field sites include pond, stream/river and salt marsh. One day
will be spent at the Marine Science Center sampling Nahant Bay from the R/V
Mysis, exploring tidepools and examining the local fish collection. Another day
will be spent at the New England Aquarium to view our regional plant and animal
collections from both an ecological and evolutionary perspective.
Transportation and some meals are included. Participants are asked to prepare a
classroom project or other interpretive activity that is based on course
concepts. Projects will be presented, evaluated and distributed to all
participants. Prerequisites include a college degree and a strong interest in
marine and environmental science. Class size is limited to 24. On-campus
residence is strongly encouraged.

Instructors include Rae Barnhisel, Ph.D., an aquatic ecologist and
evolutionist, Ricki Carfagno, M.Ed., a science specialist, Joel Rubin, New
England Aquarium Teacher Resource Center coordinator and scheduled guest
lecturers.

Contact Dr. Elizabeth Gardner, Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, MA, 02467.
Phone: (617) 731-7094 or e-mail <gardnerb@pmc.edu> for more information or an
application. Deadline for applications is Monday, July 10, 2000. Cost is $900.

----- SPACES STILL AVAILABLE IN OUR NEW MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRAMS -------------
The South Shore will be crawling with young scientists, biologists and
ecologists participating in an exciting new summer program in the town of
Duxbury, MA. The New England Aquarium and the Duxbury Bay Maritime School
(DBMS) are offering marine ecology programs along with the very popular DBMS
sailing programs. Youth in grades 4-9 can choose from three one-week ecology
programs listed below. The programs are: Seashore Scientists (tidal zones,
beach geology, water quality), Bay Biologists (shellfish, aquaculture,
plankton, marine vegetation), and Salt Marsh Ecologists (salt marsh biology,
development impacts, birds and waterfowl). Each one-week program features an
extended day habitat-based field trip, hands-on activities, challenging group
science projects, making tools to use in the field and focusing on local and
global environmental issues. All programs run for three hours either 9 a.m. -
12 noon, or 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Thursday
sessions are 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. for an all day outdoor field trip.

BAY BIOLOGISTS
Ages 9-12: June 26-30, July 17-21 or August 7-11
Ages 13-14: August 7-11 only
SALT MARSH ECOLOGISTS
Ages 9-12: July 3-7, July 24-28 or August 14-18
Ages 13-14: August 14-18 only
SEASHORE SCIENTISTS
Ages 9-12: July 10-14, July 31-August 4 or August 21-25
Ages 13-14: August 21 - 25 only

Special Offer: Receive a $20 discount when you sign up for a second or third
program!

To register for any DBMS Marine Ecology Summer Program, please call the Duxbury
Bay Maritime School at (781) 934-7555 or e-mail your inquiries to
<dbms@goldtel.net>. A non-refundable $50 deposit for each one-week program is
required at the time of registration.

***** MAY CALENDAR *******************************************************
Thursday, May 4, Museum Day at South Station, 11-2.
Join us at Boston's South Station and enjoy the vast variety of museum
offerings in the greater Boston area. Along with the New England Aquarium live
hands-on tidepool and a 42-foot inflatable right whale, participate in museum
programs from the Kendall Whaling Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Zoo New
England, the MIT Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Museum of Transportation
and many more. Free.

Saturday, May 6, Whale Tales Preschool Explorers Class, 9:30 a.m
Recommended for ages 3 to 5. This program combines a story, a hands-on activity
and a take-home art project. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and fee
information.

Sunday, May 7, Whale Tales Preschool Explorers Class, 9:30 a.m.
Recommended for ages 3 to 5. This program combines a story, a hands-on activity
and a take-home art project. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and fee
information.

Friday, May 12, Family Sleepover, 7 p.m
Enjoy an evening chock full of "fishy" activities in the Aquarium's Exploration
Center. After a busy evening of marine exploration, midnight snacks and
pillowcase art, you will sleep in the Exploration Center. A light evening snack
and breakfast are included. Recommended for ages 6 and older. Children must be
accompanied by an adult. $40 per person for members, $45 per person for
non-members. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and information.

Friday, May 12, Take the Bait Members Night, 6-8 p.m
An annual tradition, Take the Bait is an opportunity for members to view the
galleries at leisure, after the Aquarium has closed to the general public.
Enjoy special presentations and activities. Call (617) 973-6564 for more
information or to RSVP. Free to members.

Wednesday, May 17, Dive Club Meeting, 6:30 p.m.
Dive Club meeting at New England Aquarium. Guests and new members always
welcome. Call (617) 973-0240 for details or visit <www.neadc.org>. Meeting
Location: Conference Center.

Friday, May 19, Free Lowell Lecture, 5:30 p.m
The Crisis of Freshwater: Species Decline and the Machinery of Extinction by
Dr. Melanie Stiassny, Curator, American Museum of Natural History. Seating is
limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. For reservations
call (617) 973-5295, Fax (617) 367-6615 or e-mail kmallory@neaq.org.

Saturday, May 20, Coastal Moon: Environmental Powwow, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
This free, public event in collaboration with the Native Americans of the
Northeast celebrates the connection between traditional and contemporary Native
American life and the environment. Includes traditional dancing,
demonstrations, hands-on activities and special presentations. For more
information call (617) 973-0296.

Saturday, May 20, Whale Tales Preschool Explorers Class, 9:30 a.m.
Recommended for ages 3 to 5. This program combines a story, a hands-on activity
and a take-home art project. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and fee
information.

Saturday, May 20, Cohasset Family Field Trip, 10 a.m. - 12 noon
Spend a few hours with Aquarium educators in Lily Pond exploring habitats and
raising your awareness about environmental issues in this area. Learn how to
identify aquatic or marine life and see how animals have adapted to live in
their watery world. Activities will be based on age and interest so every
family member will have a unique learning experience. Recommended for ages 5
and up. $6 per person for members, $12 per person for non-members. Call (617)
973-5206 for reservations and information.

Sunday, May 21, Whale Tales Preschool Explorers Class, 9:30 a.m.
Recommended for ages 3 to 5. This program combines a story, a hands-on activity
and a take-home art project. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and fee
information.

Sunday, May 21, Freshwater Fair, 1 to 5 p.m.
Join us for some free freshwater fun at Leverett Pond in Brookline (in Jamaica
Plain on the Brookline/Boston border) at the annual Freshwater Fair. The day
will include animal tracking, thumbprint art, science experiments, pond
clean-up, face painting, nature walks and more. Call (617) 973-0274 or e-mail
<htausig@neaq.org> for more information. Recommended for all ages.

Thursday, May 25, Free Lowell Lecture, 5:30 p.m
Lake Victoria and Beyond by Dr. Caroly Shumway, Marine Biologist,
Neuroethologist, New England Aquarium and Dr. Tundi Agardy, Senior Director,
Marine Program, Conservation International. For reservations call (617)
973-5295, Fax (617) 367-6615 or e-mail kmallory@neaq.org.

Saturday, May 27, Newport Exploration Center Opens, 10 a.m.
Just steps away from the inviting sand and sparkling water of Easton's Beach in
Newport, Rhode Island, New England Aquarium's Exploration Center in Newport
begins beach walks and other programs. In mid-June, the hands-on tidepool and
other exhibits on marine animals and habitats, focusing mostly on Narragansett
Bay, will open. For information on schedules and events, please call Bonnie
Epstein at (617) 973-0294, e-mail bepstein@neaq.org or call the facility
directly at (401) 849-8430. Admission is free for New England Aquarium members,
all others pay $3 (children under 3 free).

Saturday, May 27, Behind the Scenes Guided Tour, 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Take a peek behind the scenes in one of our galleries! This 45-minute tour
includes a look at the Food Room, the Aquarium "fish kitchen." Two tours are
offered, at 10 a.m. and at 11 a.m., and are $5 for members and $10 plus
admission for non-members. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and
information.

Saturday, May 27, Falmouth Family Field Trip, 10 a.m.
Spend a few hours with Aquarium educators in Chappaquoit Marsh exploring
habitats and raising your awareness about environmental issues in this area.
Learn how to identify aquatic or marine life and see how animals have adapted
to live in their watery world. Activities will be based on age and interest so
every family member will have a unique learning experience. Recommended for
ages 5 and up. $6 per person for members, $12 per person for non-members. Call
(617) 973-5206 for reservations and information.

***** SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE INFORMATION ******************************
To subscribe to Seabits, either visit <http://www.neaq.org/beyond/seabits/>
OR send e-mail to <macjordomo@neaq.org>. In the body of your email message
write "subscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

To unsubscribe to Seabits, send email to <macjordomo@neaq.org>. In the body
of your email message write "unsubscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

***** CONTACT US *****************************************************
Questions and comments? Contact Jennifer Goebel at
<jgoebel@neaq.org>.

***** THAT'S ALL FOLKS ***********************************************
If you've been wondering what happened to the three seals who used to live in
the harbor seal plaza exhibit, they have temporarily moved around back and are
cohabitating with the sea otters until the pile driving for our new IMAX
theater is done. They'll be back soon.
- Jen Goebel, Editor.



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