Tennessee Aquarium Myth Busters
Challenge the “killer” reputations
of the world’s deadliest creatures
Tenn. (August 14, 2006) -- Tennessee Aquarium Myth Busters take
on the "killer" reputations of some of the world's
deadliest, scariest and slimiest creatures.
nothing inspires terror like gigantic, man-eating creatures.
Biologists at the Aquarium want to set the record straight:
Are these animals predators or pushovers? During “Thrills
& Gills” in October, visitors will uncover the real
facts about the Aquarium’s most notorious animals -- like
sharks, moray eels, stingrays, piranha, barracuda, alligators,
anacondas and even those stinging ghouls of slime: the jellyfish.
& Gills page visitors can register to win a behind-the-scenes
tour to watch biologists feed some of the Aquarium’s most
just a sample:
Stingrays seek out unsuspecting swimmers and
impale them with their spines.
Stingrays are generally gentle, non-aggressive
creatures that swim away from humans and only use their stinger
when they feel threatened. A neurotoxin on the barb can cause
swelling and severe pain, but very rarely death. To keep divers
and visitors sting-free, Aquarium biologists “snip”
off the barbs of the rays much like a fingernail.
MYTH: Sharks are regarded as the essence of
maritime horror, eternally hungry, ready and willing to devour
any living creature in their path.
Shark attacks against humans are uncommon,
and fatal attacks are very rare. People are more likely to be
killed by lightning than by a shark. Humans kill millions of
sharks each year.
If an alligator is chasing you, you should
run “zigzag” away from it.
First, it is rare for an alligator to chase
a human because you're much too big to be suitable prey. (Probably
your're too near a nest.) However, if an alligator does
charge, run fast and straight (away from the alligator,
of course). They can get up to 10mph, but they can't run very
Known for their razor sharp teeth, moray eels
have a reputation for being able to snap the hand off an unsuspecting
diver who ventures too close to an eel’s rocky lair. They
constantly open and close their mouths in a menacing manner.
In reality the eel is simply breathing. The
opening/closing mouth action pulls oxygenated water over its
gills. Eels are near-sighted, generally shy and avoid contact
Saber-toothed piranhas devour unsuspecting
Amazonians year round.
Although their sharp teeth and lightning speed make piranha
well equipped for their carnivorous diet, they are relatively
timid and rarely bite humans. During the dry season,
piranha may attack a wounded creature and reportedly can strip
a 140-pound animal down to bones in just a few minutes. Piranha
attacks on humans during the rainy season are extremely rare.
"Crocodile tears" originated from the belief
that these remorseless reptilians wept only to lure their prey,
or that they lacked tear ducts completely.
While crocs can and do generate tears through
lachrymal glands the same way humans do, crocs do not weep or
cry for remorse. The idiom, “crying crocodile tears,” usually
means insincere weeping.
Called the “wolf of the sea,” the barracuda
cruises the oceans seeking to make a meal of a swimmer using
its mouthful of menacing-looking teeth.
Barracuda are curious fish that follow divers
and snorkelers through the water just to check out what they’re
doing. Although the long, cylinder-shaped barracuda has been
known to mistakenly bite humans on rare occasions, their intended
target is usually the catch dangling from the belts of spear
With its venomous ink and snake-like tentacles the Giant
Pacific Octopus is one of the deadliest creatures of
Although old pirate lore would say otherwise, the Giant
Pacific Octopus is actually harmless (to humans) and
quite intelligent – requiring constant enrichment to feed its
brain functions. “Inking” is a defense mechanism. The giant
part is true, though. Octopi can reach an astounding 30 feet
You can tell a rattlesnake’s age by the number
of segments in the rattles.
Nope! A segment is added every time the snake sheds its skin.
If the weather is warm and food is plentiful, several rattler
segments can be added in just one year.
Sharks have ESP – Extrasensory perception –
to assist them when they’re moving in for the final attack.
Close, but no cigar. Sharks possess one sense
that humans do not: Electroreception is the ability to
detect electrical fields created by muscle movement (including
the beating of hearts).
Just stinging balls of slime, jellyfish are
“out to get you” with every ounce of their stinging being.
Heartless, brainless and sightless, fragile jellies
are 97 percent water. Jellies "accidentally" sting you as they
drift along. While most jellies are harmless (only 70 out of
200 species sting), at least one can be deadly. The Australian
box jelly is probably the deadliest animal in the ocean?more
dangerous to humans than any shark. People have died within
three minutes of being stung.
Anacondas are slithery villains that are supernaturally
gifted critters that can swallow a man whole and reach lengths
of over 60 feet.
Anacondas ARE one of the largest snakes in
the world – up to 30 feet long and more than 550 pounds. Although
they frequently appear on the Big Screen squeezing away at some
of Hollywood’s top stars, anacondas are not man-eaters.
Sand tiger sharks are named for their teeth
– thin and needle-like with a wicked backward curve that helps
the shark grab and hold anything it comes in contact with.
Nope. Not a man-eater, but a cannibal! Female sand tiger sharks
have two uteri. After fertilization, the largest embryo in each
uterus is nourished by eating its smaller siblings, along with
any additional eggs produced by the mother.
If a frog urinates on you, you'll get warts.
Everybody knows warts are caused by viruses. But did you know
that frogs have teeth and toads don’t? Frogs
have a ridge of very small cone-shaped teeth around the upper
edge of their jaws to hold their prey in place.
the IMAX 3D Theater you can face off with a wolf
eel, hunt with hungry sand tiger sharks or dodge hundreds
of voracious Humboldt squids in an inky black sea in “Deep
Sea 3D.” Or if you never got your fill of “Jaws,”
dive to the depths of the sea to swim with the biggest fish
on earth and overcome your greatest fear when you encounter
a great white shark in “Sharks 3D.”
27 -- “Phantom of the Aqua” Halloween Party --
Dress to impress in your Halloween costume, and celebrate
the spooky night with the Aquarium’s bizarre seahorses,
squirming octopus and electrifying jellyfish. You’ll
see mystical creatures ranging from dragon-like fish to menacing,
toothy sharks and peculiar, hovering cuttlefish. Watch in
fascination as divers feed the beasts of prey in the deep
sea, journey through the galleries for some trick or treat
goodies, play games to win prizes and listen to storytellers
share spooky tales.
Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the
natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 per child,
ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation
programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium.
Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX
combo tickets are $22.95 for adults and $13.50 for children.
Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or
by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks
of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization.
Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium
and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members
enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to