Tennessee Aquarium opens new permanent gallery
Tenn. (Jan. 2, 2002) - Explore an underwater world where vibrantly
colored sunfish float like jewels, or take a peek into a swamp
nursery where baby alligators bask. Reach out and touch an ancient-looking
lake sturgeon while you learn more about this "king of
Be one of the first to meet and greet some of the most unusual
creatures in the Southeast when the Tennessee Aquarium opens
its newest permanent gallery, Discovery Hall, March 16,
new gallery, located on the Aquarium's third floor, will showcase
some of this region's most bizarre and beautiful creatures. From
the strange spatula-shaped snout of the paddlefish to the huge
claws of the painted river prawn, Discovery Hall will give guests
an up-close look at the animals' remarkable adaptations.
of the most unique features of the gallery will be the lake sturgeon
touch station - an area where guests can actually have a hands-on
encounter with these prehistoric-looking fish that once ruled
the rivers of Tennessee.
the "king of fishes," by the poet Henry Longfellow,
these charismatic creatures can reach lengths of nearly 8 feet
and weigh more than 300 pounds. Sturgeon have largely disappeared
from the South due to water pollution and habitat alteration,
but visitors to Discovery Hall can learn more about efforts being
made to reintroduce these fish to the wild. The sturgeon touch
station will be the only one of its kind in North America.
addition to the sturgeon encounter, the gallery will also take
guests to a swamp nursery where they can get eye-to-eye with adorable
baby alligators. When they hatch, baby alligators are only 8 inches
long, but males may grow to lengths of more than 15 feet.
found in coastal areas from the Carolinas all the way down to
Florida and Louisiana, baby alligators have many challenges to
overcome, even before they hatch. Predators, like raccoons, find
alligator eggs an easy meal. Even after they hatch, life for these
young reptiles is not easy. Eighty percent or more become victims
of wading birds, raccoons, bobcats, otters, snakes, large bass
and even larger alligators. However, once an alligator exceeds
4 feet in length, it is relatively safe from predators.
Hall will also feature the unusual paddlefish. Closely related
to the sturgeon, paddlefish resemble sharks not only by shape,
but by their skeletons as well. Both paddlefish and sharks have
skeletons made of cartilage and not bone. Paddlefish have no teeth
and eat by swimming through the water with their mouths held wide
open, filtering tiny plants and animals, called plankton, from
of the most peculiar residents of Discovery Hall will be the enormous
hellbender salamander - the largest salamander in North America.
Also known as the Allegheny alligator or the devil dog, hellbenders
can reach lengths of up to 29 inches. Although hellbenders have
lungs, these are used to help the animal float in the water and
not for breathing. They actually breathe through their moist,
baggy skin. Hellbenders are found in various drainage systems
and fast flowing streams in New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri,
Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and
exhibits planned for this gallery include a lushly planted Pascagoula
bayou, a southern spring, and a captivating tree frog exhibit.