Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.12 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Wed, 2 Dec 1998 18:37:35 -0500 (EST)


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Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 13:53:13 -0500
To: Seabits <>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.12

New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 12, December, 1998
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1998.
This holiday season, we bring you news from our well-dressed avian friends,
the penguins and the puffins, some other northerly neighbors, and a riddle
to lighten up your holiday: If you happened to be in a house in which every
exposure was a southern exposure, and a bear were to wander by the house,
what color would the bear be?

In this issue:
  Watery Words
    - Our Flightless Feathered Friends
    - Puffin Pops Up
    - On Thin Ice
  Out On The Net
  Aquarium Home to Famous Author
  Here a Seal, There a Seal, Everywhere a Seal
  December Calendar
  Holiday Hours
  Contact Us

=-=-= WATERY WORDS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
To share with the younger set:

      There once was a puffin just the shape of a muffin
      Who lived on an island in the bright blue sea
      He ate little fishes that were most delicious
      And he had them for breakfast and he had them for tea

      But this poor little puffin, he couldn't play nothin'
     'Cause he hadn't anybody to play with at all
      So he sat on his island, and he cried for awhile
      And he felt very lonely and he felt very small

      Then along came the fishes, and they said, "If you wishes,
      you can have us for playmates instead of for tea."
      Now they all play together in all sorts of weather
      And the puffin has pancakes like you and like me.

                             -- Florence Page Jaques

=-=-= STORIES =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
This month's stories
  1) Our Flightless Feathered Friends
  2) Puffin Pops Up
  3) On Thin Ice

----- OUR FLIGHTLESS FEATHERED FRIENDS ------------------------------------
by Sue Knapp, Roving Reporter

They are the cute, tuxedoed waddlers that have been humanized in cartoons
and advertisements for years. In person (in penguin?), they are charming to
watch as they collect rocks, dart through the water, and jump around on
their islands. Here at the New England Aquarium, we have over 60 penguins
of three different species: African blackfooted, rockhopper and little

The conservation message that accompanies our penguin exhibit is simple:
Wild penguin populations are in trouble.

Penguin researchers from around the world are gathering in Boston on
December 4 to announce that they now consider nine penguin species to be
"endangered" or "vulnerable" and two more species to be "near threatened."
Previously, only five of the total 17 penguin species were considered

Should we really be concerned? After all, penguins do not play a huge role
in my metropolitan life. Of course the answer is yes, we should care!
Researchers look to penguin populations as indicators of the health of our
oceans and, since oceans are two-thirds of the Earth, our planet. Declining
penguin populations suggest a sick planet. In some areas, the declines are
caused by people, but in others, the problem is out of our hands. Two
species of penguin are affected by the rising sea surface temperatures
caused by El Niqo. El Niqo's warmer waters displace or kill the fish that
these penguins eat.

Dr. Tony Williams is a seabird specialist with the Cape Nature Conservation
in Cape Town, South Africa. Among his many other tasks, he de-oils penguins
who are victims of oil spills. Penguins in South Africa live near major
ocean shipping lanes, where accidental oil spills are an increasing threat.
The oil damages a penguin's feathers, reducing or destroying their
insulating, water-repellent quality. An oily penguin may freeze or starve
if it cannot swim to catch food. Tony's group has an incredible record.
"Some of our de-oiled birds have survived 20+ years after cleaning, and 80%
of the adult penguins de-oiled in 1994 have been sighted alive at the
breeding islands where most have successfully started breeding again," said

Balancing eco-tourism with penguin safety is the job of Dr. Robert Crawford
of the Sea Fisheries Research Institute in Rogge Bay, South Africa. One
objective of Rob's research is to determine the impact of tourism on
penguins. "Until now, monitoring has shown that tourism to penguin colonies
has had little impact on reproductive success. However, penguins are
becoming increasingly popular for tourists. We need to promote tourism, but
manage it in a sustainable way," said Rob. A juggling act, I'm sure.

As with many tales of environmental conservation, this one has many more
chapters. Each species of penguin in trouble struggles in a different way
to survive. Only by learning more about penguins can we make informed
choices to help them.

Droplet: Penguins identify each other by their voices. Parents returning
from the sea with food find their chicks by the sounds the chicks make, and
also identify their mates. Not being quite as keen of hearing ourselves, at
the Aquarium we use colored bracelets to identify individuals.

----- PUFFIN POPS UP  -----------------------------------------------------
Puffin eggs, pickled puffin and frozen puffin are considered delicacies in
some parts of the world, and are still available in Greenland and some
European supermarkets. (Order now for the holidays!) Puffin pot pies
probably never made it big in this country for the simple reason that we
pretty much decimated our wild puffin populations by around 1908, when one
nesting pair on Matinicus Rock, Maine was all that was left.

World population estimates of puffins are between 15-24 million, with the
largest concentrations around Iceland, Norway, the British Isles, the
Faeroe Islands (part of Denmark) and eastern Canada. In the U.S., thanks to
the efforts of Project Puffin, our population is now up to almost 2000
breeding pairs.

Puffins are sometimes confused with their southern hemisphere counterparts,
the penguins, because they are both seagoing birds with black backs and
white bellies. Puffins, however, are found strictly in the northern
hemisphere, and, unlike penguins, can fly. Their coloring, called
"countershading," is a common camouflage strategy seen among ocean-going
animals of all kinds. From a shark's point of view, the white belly blends
in with the water surface, while from above, the dark backs get lost in the

Puffins imprint on their birth site and return to that site, or some
reasonable proximity thereto, to breed. In 1973, ornithologist Steven Kress
decided to try to bring puffins back to the deserted sites of Eastern Egg
Rock, Western Egg Rock, and Seal Island in the Gulf of Maine. Project
Puffin began by transferring 100 pufflings (chicks) each year for 10 years
to these sites. After leaving their burrows and taking to the open ocean
for two years, would they return to Eastern Egg Rock?

To lure them back, Dr. Kress installed wooden puffin decoys and mirrors so
it would look to the juveniles like lots of adult puffins were hanging
around having a great social experience on this really cool rock. It
worked. In 1981, the first puffin with fish in its mouth was seen on
Eastern Egg Rock, which meant it had a chick. By 1985, 20 pairs of puffins
were nesting there. This past year, two New England Aquarium aquarists
joined Project Puffin for a few weeks and helped count birds and band,
measure and weigh the pufflings on Matinicus Rock and Seal Rock in Maine.

Though no longer hunted in the U.S., puffins are far from home free. Oil
spills, coastal development, overfishing of their prey species, and
gillnetting are the major human obstacles pufflings face on their way to
breeding adulthood.

As part of our Coastal Rhythms: Creatures on the Edge exhibit, the New
England Aquarium acquired seven puffins from the Biodome in Montreal,
Canada last year. The seven puffins have settled in well, according to the
aquarists, and are showing themselves to be curious and playful creatures.
Come by the Aquarium and greet Yellow Yellow, Blue Green, Blue Yellow,
Green, Pink Green, Pink Yellow and Blue White (called by their band

Droplet Guinness Book: The record number of fish held at one time by a
puffin in Canada is 62. How can puffins hold so many fish in their beaks?
Puffins have a series of backward-pointing spines that project from the top
of the mouth and tongue. These spines hold the food in place while more is
being caught.

----- On Thin Ice  --------------------------------------------------------
by Taunya Orlando, Intrepid Arctic Explorer

The polar bear is walking on thinner and thinner ice these days. Polar
bears live in the frozen north where their lives are virtually untouched by
humans and you would think they would be out of harm's way. It seems our
activities reach them even in the Arctic circle. Though there is some
debate about how and if humans contributed to global warming, most agree
there has been a global warming trend and that massive amounts of CO2
emissions from cars and heat sources are not helping matters. Whatever the
cause, it is not good news for polar bears.

The earth's average temperature has gone up one degree F since the
Industrial Revolution began more than 100 years ago. If global warming
continues at this pace, some scientists are predicting that the earth could
warm 1.8 to 6.3 degrees F (1 to 3.5 degrees C) by 2100. The frigid Arctic
is a hot spot for scientists because some global climate models predict
that doubling of carbon dioxide over the next century could lead to winter
warming of up to 15 degrees C in the far north, compared to 2-3 degrees C
elsewhere. For each degree Celsius that the climate warms, the temperature
zones shift 100 miles north or 500 feet in elevation, says the
Environmental Protection Agency.

Arctic animals, such as polar bears, walruses, Arctic foxes, collared
lemmings, narwhals, tundra hares, muskoxen, bowhead whales and some species
of seals are all adapted to live in this freezing climate. Their breeding,
hunting and migrating schedules are based on temperatures. Thanks to global
warming, the Arctic is experiencing warmer temperatures, unusual weather
events and changes in the timing of seasons. The animals are having a hard
time keeping up with the climate change.

The polar bear is one of these unique Arctic animals that relies on the
frigid temperatures. The female polar bear makes her den out of the dense
snow drifts to shelter her young. An unusual warming mid-season could lead
to unstable dens which would collapse, leaving the young out in the cold
before they are ready.

Exposure is not the only problem, however. Polar bears depend on pack ice
for hunting. As carnivores, they seek out seal and walrus pups resting on
pack ice (though they are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost
anything from bird eggs to berries). Polar bears do most of their hunting
on ice floes, where seals are abundant. The timing of the returning ice is
critical to the bears, who fast all summer and during the early fall, until
the pack ice returns. When the ice returns, the bears immediately move out
to begin the winter of hunting. Any delay in the return of the ice or
decrease in the time pack ice is around would mean that polar bears would
have to do without food for longer periods of time.

Polar bear females typically weigh up to 660 pounds, while the males range
between 1100 and 1320 pounds. The largest adult male polar bear on record
weighed in at 2200 pounds. To maintain these weights requires a lot of
seals. In recent years, scientists have noticed a drop in the average
weight of adults and a decline in birth rates.

If global warming continues as predicted, polar bears are going to have a
tough time. It may be that the only polar bears our grandkids see will be
in zoos and aquariums.

Come see these amazing animals in person! The New England Aquarium's Travel
Program will be running a trip to Churchill, Manitoba from October 17-23,
1999 to see polar bears. Please call Jeanne Rankin at (671) 973-6562 or
email <> for more details.

Droplet: Female polar bears hibernate, males do not. The females leave the
ice in the early spring to den on land, fasting up to eight months of the
year. While the mother is sleeping, her cubs are born. Blind, toothless,
hairless and about the size of a chipmunk, they find their way to her milk
and drink while she sleeps. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up!

=-=-= 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.



Polar Bears

=-=-= AQUARIUM HOME TO FAMOUS AUTHOR =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Our own very talented Ken Mallory, manager of the Publishing and Special
Programs Department here at the New England, is now officially famous in
the world at large. His recent book "A Home By The Sea: Protecting Coastal
Wildlife" was chosen by the editors at Smithsonian Magazine as a "1998
Notable Book For Children." The book profiles three successful conservation
efforts in New Zealand, showing field scientists and wildlife
rehabilitators at work. The book is recommended for ages 10 and up, and is
available in time for the holidays at, you guessed it, the New England
Aquarium Gift Shop.

=-=-= HERE A SEAL, THERE A SEAL, EVERYWHERE A SEAL ...  =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Contributed by Greg Early, Seal Tracker Extraordinaire

Providing all of the transmitters, batteries, glue and seals continue to
work, and providing none of the Leonid meteors have whacked any of the
tracking satellites silly (you know, if anyone would have told me that
while I was tracking seals I would have to worry about meteor showers I
would have thought them a bit cracked), by December we should be tracking a
total of five seals at sea. This is the most we have had "on line " at one
time. Joining the two hooded seals we have been tracking since July and
October, is a harbor seal (released by our own rescue and rehabilitation
program on October 22), a gray seal released by the National Aquarium in
Baltimore, from Chatham, Massachusetts on November 23, and a second harbor
seal from our own rescue and rehabilitation program to be released in

As of the middle of November, the most recent tagee, female harbor seal #19
had been tracked for over three weeks from her release point in Chatham,
Mass. The release point is located within a few miles of the largest winter
harbor seal haul out on the East Coast. You would think that this is where
a released seal would be likely to go. Think again. So far #19 has traveled
along the coast of the Cape, visiting nearly every marsh, river and bog.
She also appears to have taken short trips off shore, but not for long and
never more than a mile or so from the beach. Her tag, if all goes well,
should continue to transmit for several months giving us valuable
information about how an orphaned seal pup re-integrates into the wild. One
thing we know from #19: we can point them where WE think they should go,
but once they are released they will go where THEY want to go.

You can follow the travels of the various seals and find out information
about our tagging projects at the NEAq and WhaleNet web sites.

=-=-= DECEMBER CALENDAR =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Wednesday, December 2, 5 - 8 P.M.
Take advantage of our new $5 off after 5:00 P.M. special! The Aquarium will
stay open late on December 2, and will admit people until 7:45 P.M. for $5
off the normal admission price.

Friday, December 4, 1:30 - 5 P.M.
FREE Penguin Forum:  Wild penguin populations are in trouble! More than
half of the 17 species of penguin are now considered endangered or
threatened. The New England Aquarium has gathered penguin experts, field
researchers and conservation enthusiasts from around the globe to share
their tales of penguin research and encourage a better understanding of
these waddling wonders. Join us in the Aquarium's Conference Center to
learn from the experts. RSVP required. Call Taunya at (617) 973-5223 or
email <>.

Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6, 9 A.M. - 6 P.M.
Planet of the Penguins: These two days are purely penguin with live animal
interviews, educational programs and craft activities. This program is
included with admission and seeks to increase awareness and understanding
of penguins and the issues facing them in the wild.

Saturday, December 5, 9 A.M.
Birdwatching and Nature Cruise: Join New England Aquarium naturalists along
with penguin experts for a three-hour birdwatching and nature cruise around
Boston Harbor aboard the well-heated Voyager II. For ticket fees and
reservation information, please call Jeanne Rankin at (617) 973-6562 or
email <>.

Sunday, December 6, 9:15 A.M.
Breakfast with the Trainers gives you an opportunity to catch the sea lion
training session and enjoy a private breakfast with the trainers aboard the
Discovery.  Continental breakfast follows the session. Recommended for all
ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Doors to the Discovery open
at 9:00 a.m. $10.00 per person for members; $15.00 plus admission fee per
person for nonmembers. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Wednesday, December 9, 6:30 - 8:30 P.M.
Clear-Cutting the Sea: Bottom Trawling Challenges and Solutions, a
presentation by Elliot Norse, Ph.D., President, Marine Conservation Biology
Institute and 1997 Pew Fellow. This free lecture is open to the public, and
will be held in the New England Aquarium's Conference Center. Presented by
the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation. To RSVP or for more
information, contact Debie Meck at (617) 720-5101 or email

Saturday, December 12, 9:30 A.M.
Tidepool Explorer Class:  Investigate animals and habitats with hands-on
aquatic activities and enjoy personal attention from Aquarium educators.
Recommended for ages 6-9.  Children must be accompanied by an adult.  $4.00
per person for members, $8.00 plus admission per person for nonmembers.
Aquarium admission, but no fee, is charged for adults accompanying
children. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Wednesday, December 16, 6:30 P.M.
Dive Club Meeting at New England Aquarium. Guests and new members always
welcome. Call (617) 973-0240 for details.

Saturday, December 19, 7:30 A.M. - 3:30 P.M.
Join the Audubon Society on their annual bird count aboard the well-heated
Voyager II. Come speak with our naturalists and members of the Audubon
Society to learn more about our feathered friends. Cost: $40.00 per person.
Call (617) 973-5281 for advance reservations.

=-=-= HOLIDAY HOURS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Friday, December 25: CLOSED
Friday, January 1: Open at noon.

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=-=-= CONTACT US =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Content questions and comments? Contact Jennifer Goebel at

Technical questions and comments? Contact Bruce Wyman at <>.

=-=-= THAT'S ALL FOLKS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
The answer to the riddle is WHITE, which most of you probably already knew
since that riddle was circulating when I was in 4th grade, and we will
avoid saying how long ago THAT was. May your holiday season be peaceful,
joyful, and involve minimal time in parking lots, malls, checkout lines,
train stations, and airports. -Jen Goebel