Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 4.1 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Fri, 31 Dec 1999 21:36:25 -0500 (EST)

Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 17:12:05 -0500
From: Bruce Wyman <>
To: Seabits <>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 4.1

S E A B I T S 
New England Aquarium Monthly email Newsletter 
Volume 4, Issue 1, January 2000 
Copyright, New England Aquarium 2000
Happy New Year, New Decade, New Century, and if you like, New Millennium!
We have an exciting year ahead of us - a new exhibit on East Africa's Lake
Victoria opens in April, treating us to sights rare in Boston, such as Nile
crocodiles, golden orb spiders, air-breathing lungfish, kingfishers and
weaver birds, walking catfish, electric elephant-nosed fish and an
incredible variety of other exotic creatures. We also look forward to
hosting WinterFest 2000, a February festival complete with ice sculpture
and marshmallow igloos, and celebrating Turtle-Palooza in March.

Speaking of turtles, in this issue, we bring you the latest on Cape Cod's
stranded sea turtles, some interesting tidbits about rare species of sea
dragons (fish) and jellyfish (not fish), and an update on what's new with
Boston Harbor.

In this issue:
  Watery Words 
    - Turtle Tally
    - Bringing Up Jelly
    - The Millennium's Best Dressed 
    - Flushing in a New Century
  Out on the Net
    - Vacation Week Camps and Summer Camps
    - Adult Members' Night
    - Admission Price Change
  January Calendar
  Contact Us

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

   "We used to think that life was fragile, but wherever liquid 
    water and chemical energy are found, there is life. There is 
    no exception. Life may be a cosmic imperative."
                      -- Dr. Wesley Huntress,
                         NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science
***** STORIES *************************************************************
This month's stories
  1) Turtle Tally
  2) Bringing Up Jelly
  3) The Millennium's Best Dressed
  4) Flushing in a New Century
----- TURTLE TALLY --------------------------------------------------------
November's turtle deluge caught us all by surprise, and surprised us even
more by continuing into December. In the last issue of Seabits, the count
was up to 113 stranded sea turtles. The numbers have since doubled. A total
of around 221 sea turtles stranded on the beaches of Cape Cod Bay between
November 15 and December 30, a number higher than anything we have ever
seen. Of these, around 203 were Kemp's ridley, 14 were loggerheads and 4
were green sea turtles.

Approximately half of them either washed up dead, killed by our cold snaps,
or died within the first 24 hours. The other hundred or so were rushed
first to Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary and then to the New England
Aquarium for medical treatment. Because we simply did not have the room or
the staff to take care of all of these turtles, the more stabilized animals
were sent to various other institutions for treatment, rehabilitation and
eventual release. 

We thank the Coast Guard and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for
supplying and paying for airplanes to ferry our charges around the country.
We also thank the following institutions for stepping up to the plate to
care for some turtles:
- Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida
- Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida
- Epcot's Living Seas in Orlando, Florida
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida
- Marine Life Center in Juno Beach, Florida
- Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida
- Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut
- Topsail Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail, North Carolina 
- Virginia Marine Science Center in Virginia

And of course, enormous thanks are due to the beachwalkers, rescuers,
animal caretakers, vets and volunteers in Massachusetts and around the
country who have all played a part in saving the lives of these threatened
and endangered sea creatures.

Recuperating in our Aquarium Medical Center currently are 9 Kemp's ridleys,
2 greens and 10 loggerheads. We hope to send them all back to tropical
waters in the spring.

Droplet: The Topsail Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail, North Carolina reports
that their Boston imports, 7 ridleys they have named Uno, Dos, Tres,
Quatro, Cinco, Seis and Siete, as well as a loggerhead they named Andy
after our vet Andy Stamper, are doing great and eating well.  

----- BRINGING UP JELLY ---------------------------------------------------
by Sue Knapp, Roving Reporter

Above the public exhibit space, on the fifth floor of the New England
Aquarium, lies the Edgerton Research Laboratory. And tucked into a corner
of the lab, is a small room lined with wide shelves holding large, deep,
water-filled boxes of live jellies, a.k.a. jellyfish. This magical (if
crowded) place is known as the "Jelly Room," short for the Jelly Culture
Laboratory. Officially, its inhabitants and their caretakers belong to the
fishes department, but they share space with the research folks who don't
seem to mind. 

Behind the scenes in most aquariums, you'll find animals waiting to go on
exhibit, perhaps some sick or injured critters receiving treatment, in
quarantine or maybe some recently hatched babies that would be vulnerable
to hungry tankmates. Our Jelly Room is a more than a nursery, it is a
culturing facility; we grow jellies for display at zoos and aquariums
around the world, including for our two traveling Jellies exhibits.  

In this business of helping out our colleagues, we buy, sell and trade
jellies. This past summer, after a trade with Japan's Osaka Aquarium, we
began taking care of about 200 polyps (the embryonic or sessile phase) of
Sanderia malayensis or Malaysian jellies. Prior to the arrival of the
jellies, our husbandry staff excitedly rushed to the library, the internet,
the bookstore, etc. to brush up on their Sanderia knowledge. Alas, not much
is out there, and what they did find was in Japanese. As luck would have
it, a Japanese-speaking student happened to be volunteering at the
Aquarium. He translated a short article, but the information was not
extremely helpful.

"I can usually get on the internet and find articles about anything I'm
working on," said aquarist Kelly Rakow. "But these jellies are very
mysterious." Kelly explained that the New England Aquarium was the first in
the U.S. to have and rear Sanderia. They arrived in July via two-day
delivery packed in a sealed jar. The polyps were about the size of a grain
of rice. The tiny, infant, bright red jellies are born when they
"strobilate" or flake off the top of the stalks. Right now, at 6 months
old, their bells are about 1 inch in diameter with tentacles about 8 inches
long. Their color has mellowed to a pale, reddish brown with small, dark
red spots. We are feeding them the regular jelly diet of fortified brine
shrimp, and they seem to thrive on it. We're not sure how big they'll get
-- or exactly how extensive their range is beyond the Malaysian archipelago
where they are found in the wild -- or much of anything else. That just
adds to the mystery. 

Kelly is sure information is out there somewhere. A lot comes to us
anecdotally. "I found a Japanese article from ten years ago about how the
Toba Aquarium in Japan found these jellies in their nautilus tank. But I
haven't heard if anyone has ever seen them in the wild. I also heard there
is a man at the Weymouth Sea Life Centre in England who cultures Sanderia.
I just need to track him down." In the meantime, Kelly enjoys being on the
cutting edge of jelly rearing. "I am excited to share what I'm learning
with other aquarium colleagues and aquarium visitors." Right now, you can
see some New England Aquarium-reared Sanderia at the Virginia Marine
Science Museum. Soon you will be able to see them here in Boston, too.

Droplet: Sea jellies, contrary to popular belief, are not just floating,
stinging lumps of slime. Mistakenly called jellyfish, sea jellies are not
fish at all. Jellies have no backbone, no brain, no heart and they are
composed of 95% water. They're related to corals and sea anemones. Out of
their aquatic element, they are the shapeless gelatinous blobs often found
on the beach after a rough storm. Underwater, however, they are the most
graceful swimmers in the ocean. Jellies are found in all the earth's
oceans. A few species are also found in freshwater rivers and lakes. Sea
jellies have lived on the planet for millions of years. Fossilized jellies
have been found off the coasts of England, South Africa and Australia.
----- THE MILLENNIUM'S BEST DRESSED ---------------------------------------
by Bonnie Davis, Sea Sorcerer

They look as though they just came from a millennium masquerade ball. Their
graceful beauty is not a special show for the millennial celebrations,
however; they are always decked out in high fashion. The two types of sea
dragons, leafy (Phycodurus equus) and weedy (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus),
blend in with their seaweed homes so well it is hard to tell where their
graceful, flowing appendages end and the seaweed begins. These masters of
camouflage are relatives of sea horses (Sygnathidae) and are extremely
difficult to spot in their natural habitat.

Leafy sea dragons, the rarer of the two species, are unique to Australia
and make their homes in inshore areas of seagrass in western and southern
Australian waters. These sprightly hunters blend in with the seaweeds,
making it easy nab their favorite snack, tiny mysid shrimps. 

The biggest threats to sea dragons are humans. Pollution and excessive
fertilizer runoff contaminates their habitats, making them unhealthy and
unproductive. Another threat to the sea dragons is their beauty. Sea
dragons are sought after by private collectors. Without expert care few of
these delicate creatures survive in captivity. 

The diminishing numbers of sea dragons finally led Fisheries Western
Australia, the government agency responsible for the management of the
region's marine resources, to take action to protect these rare beauties.
In 1991 sea dragons were declared a totally protected species. Sea dragons
are a conservation symbol in Australia. Marine biologists are doing
research to understand more about sea dragons in order to help protect

The New England Aquarium is one of a handful of aquariums in the U.S.
authorized to exhibit these amazing animals. The sea dragons will be on
display until February 27, 2000 in our Coastal Rhythms: Creatures on the
Edge exhibit. 

Droplet: Mr. Mom. It is the male of the sea dragon species who gets
pregnant and gives birth. During the August to March mating season, the
female lays 100-250 eggs that are attached to and fertilized in the males'
brood pouch. The eggs remain in the blood-rich tissue, receiving vital
oxygen for the duration of the pregnancy. Four to six weeks after
conception, the males give birth to tiny sea dragons. 
----- FLUSHING IN A NEW CENTURY -------------------------------------------
January 1, 2000 is the perfect time for all kinds of millennial
stock-taking. How are we doing with the world? In general, I would say, we
humans have not been exemplary caretakers of our planet. We have polluted,
built on, destroyed, filled, mined, paved, hunted and fished our natural
resources into sorry states. But, it's not all gloom and doom. There are
pockets of optimism here and there, as we learn about our environment, its
inhabitants and how to be good stewards.One pocket of optimism is right
here in Boston's harbor. 

In the early 1980s, barely treated sewage was being directly discharged
into Boston Harbor, which had the unenviable reputation of being the
filthiest harbor in the country. From the time of the early colonists, our
rivers and coasts were used for dumping human wastes of all kinds. In the
mid 1800s, cholera epidemics were blamed on Boston's sewage problems.
Underground sewers and wastewater drains were finished in 1884, and the
Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) was established in 1919 to oversee
water and sewer operations. Yet, a Special Legislative Commission still
called Boston Harbor "revolting" in 1939. The MDC finished state-of-the-art
primary sewage treatment facilities in 1968, but without necessary funding,
the facilities quickly fell into disrepair.

Going into the harbor on a daily basis were tons of sludge (the solid
material that settles out of sewage), barely-treated effluent (the
wastewater) and scum (oils, plastics and other floating materials). The
sludge accumulated on the harbor floor, making it uninhabitable for marine
life, and the scum washed up onto the beaches and islands. Another problem
for Boston was the combined sewerage overflows or CSOs. During heavy rains,
the same pipes that drain sewage from homes and businesses also drain
stormwaters. To prevent flooding, the CSOs have release valves that dump
excess flows into the nearest harbor or river. This means that, during
storms, raw sewage is discharged directly into waterways. Lovely. Until
recently, a CSO under the New England Aquarium was frequently spewing
toilet bowl contents right into the water.

In 1982, William Golden, a solicitor for the town of Quincy, noticed that
on his morning run along Wollaston Beach, he was literally up to his
sneakers in, well, it wasn't doggie poo. He, joined by the Conservation Law
Foundation, sued the MDC, the Environmental Protection Agency and others
for violating the 1972 Clean Water Act. In 1985, Boston was ordered to
improve its sewage treatment, and the Massachusetts Water Resources
Authority (MWRA) was created to take over management of water and sewer
services for 43 communities. Driven by court-mandated schedules, the MWRA
launched the Boston Harbor Project, an 11-year, $3.6 billion project. At
this point, the project is 94% complete.

Thanks to this ambitious project, Boston Harbor looks better than it has in
decades. Some remarkable changes have occurred in Boston Harbor since
sludge dumping ended in 1991.

Mixing by tides and waves has increased the oxygen in the bottom sediments,
and small organisms began to grow. These small organisms mix more oxygen
into the sediments, allowing larger animals to inhabit the sea floor.
Mussels, kelp, sea urchins and anemones have begun to recolonize the areas
near former sludge outfalls. After 1995, when the new Deer Island treatment
facility was completed, water clarity has increased and surface pollution
has decreased. Scum has almost completely been eliminated. Beach closings
due to high bacteria counts have been greatly reduced. Harbor porpoises and
seals have again been seen in the harbor, and increased numbers of
migratory fish, such as herring, have been spotted in the harbor. Toxic
contamination of fish, such as liver lesions and tumors, has also declined.
Bluefish, striped bass and cod, fish that prefer healthy, clean water, are
returning to the harbor. 

Droplet: Key features of the Boston Harbor Project include building an
entirely new sewage treatment facility, building two tunnels to disperse
treated effluent discharge farther offshore and into deeper water,
processing sludge from primary treatment and converting it to pellet
fertilizer, and reducing CSO volumes by 84%, reducing untreated discharges
to 4 or fewer per year and treating 95% of the remaining flow.

***** 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.

Sea Turtles


Sea Dragons

Boston Harbor

***** Announcements *******************************************************
This month's announcements 
  1) Vacation Week Camps and Summer Camps
  2) Adult Members' Night
  3) Admission Price Change

----- VACATION WEEK CAMPS AND SUMMER CAMPS --------------------------------
The February and April BreakAway Camps begin accepting reservations today!
Harbor Discoveries Summer Camp reservation can be made beginning January 17
for Aquarium members and February 15 for non-members. They sell out quick,
so call (617) 973-5206 to sign up.

----- ADULT MEMBERS' NIGHT ------------------------------------------------
Our adult members are invited to our African Aquatic Adventures night on
Tuesday, February 8, 2000, from 6-9 p.m. Join us for an evening exploring
East Africa's lakes and wildlife. Enjoy a display of wildlife photography
from East Africa by Ron Magill of the Miami MetroZoo. Get the inside scoop
on our upcoming Nyanja! Africa's Inland Sea exhibit. For more information,
or to reserve your space, please contact the Membership Office at (617)
973-6564 or (617) 973-6555 or e-mail <>.

----- ADMISSION PRICE CHANGE ----------------------------------------------
As of January 1, 2000, admission prices at the New England Aquarium are:
General, $12.50 (ages 12-59); Junior (ages 3-11), $6.50; Senior Citizens,
$10.50 (ages 60+). As always, members and children under the age of 3 are
admitted free. This gives me a great opportunity to make my annual
shameless membership plug: Membership is a better deal than ever, since
membership prices are not increasing in 2000. Membership offers unlimited
free express admission (no lines for you!), discounts on parking, boat
programs, Cafe items and Gift Shop items, invitations to special
members-only events and a subscription to our paper publication, the
quarterly Aqualog. To find out more about membership, call (617) 973-6564
or e-mail <>.

***** JANUARY CALENDAR ***************************************************
Saturday, January 8 and 9, There's an Ocean in Your Backyard Preschool
Explorers Class, 9:30 - 10:30 a.m.
Recommended for ages 3 to 5. This program combines a story, a hands-on
activity, and a take-home art project or closer look at live animals. Meet
in the Exploration Center across the plaza from the main building. Classes
are limited to 20 children. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Younger siblings are welcome free of charge, but we ask that you include
them in your reservation for an accurate head-count. Fees are $4 for
members, $8 for non-members. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and

Monday, January 10 - Monday, May 22, Sea-niority, 12 noon - 4:30 p.m.
New England Aquarium awards sea-niority to senior citizens (age 60+) with
FREE admission on Monday afternoons from 12 noon - 4:30 p.m. Simply present
valid identification to explore the world of water, from the mysterious
Amazon River to the depths of the Caribbean to the rocky coast of Maine.

Saturday, January 15, Sounds of the Sea Guided Tour, 9:15 a.m.
It's noisy down there! Animals, wind, waves, earthquakes, ice, rain, ships
and other human devices make all kinds of sounds underwater. During this
tour you will learn about sound underwater and how human-produced noises
may be affecting marine animals. Recommended for ages 5 and over. $4 for
members, $8 plus admission for non-members. Call (617) 973-5206 for
reservations and information.

Wednesday, January 19, 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. Meeting location: Conference

Saturday, January 29, Fierce Fishes Guided Tour, 9:15 a.m.
Piranhas and eels and sharks, oh my! There are many ferocious fish living
at New England Aquarium. Or are there? Come tour through the galleries and
get the real scoop on these and other "dangerous animals." Guided exhibit
tours are a unique opportunity to see the Aquarium's hidden treasures.
Recommended for ages 5 and over.  $4 for members, $8 plus admission for
non-members. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and information.

Saturday, January 22 and 23, There's an Ocean in Your Backyard Preschool
Explorers Class, 9:30 - 10:30 a.m.
Recommended for ages 3 to 5. This program combines a story, a hands-on
activity, and a take-home art project or closer look at live animals. Meet
in the Exploration Center across the plaza from the main building. Children
must be accompanied by an adult. Younger siblings are welcome free of
charge, but we ask that you include them in your reservation for an
accurate head-count. Fees are $4 for members, $8 for non-members. Call
(617) 973-5206 for reservations and information.

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

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

***** CONTACT US **********************************************************
Content questions and comments? Contact Jennifer Goebel at

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

***** THAT'S ALL FOLKS ****************************************************
That's it for this month! Hope you enjoyed the century!