From amorous turtles to seahorse courtship,
love is in the air at the Tennessee Aquarium
Tenn. (Jan. 10, 2003) - If you think your Valentine brings out
the animal in you, take a look at the mating game going on at
the Tennessee Aquarium. From the top of the Appalachian Cove Forest
to the depths of the seahorse gallery, it's love aquarium style
for many of the animals in Chattanooga's downtown aquarium.
It's an important question if you're a seahorse because it's the
males who carry the babies.
all begins with a slow, dance-like promenade through the sea grass.
The male, head bowed, performs an elaborate dance around the female,
often wrapping his tail around her or mimicking her movements.
The male often changes color, his body becoming lighter while
his spine area darkens. During this mysterious mating dance, the
male opens his empty pouch to the female. The female then raises
her head and intertwines her tail with his.
ritual can last up to nine hours and resembles a sort of ballet,"
said Thom Demas, Aquarium senior aquarist. "The seahorse
pair travel up the water column as she transfers eggs to the male
seahorse's pouch on his abdomen, where he fertilizes the eggs
and goes through the pregnancy."
seahorse pairs are monogamous - once a male and female form a
pair bond, they mate exclusively during the breeding season.
mine, you slimy Valentine
It's not Valentine's Day that gets the Aquarium's creatures cruising
on the love boat. Changes in temperature and light cycles, along
with some deeply ingrained instincts, can trigger an upsurge in
of the most interesting courtship rituals take place in the Aquarium's
Mississippi Delta Country, home to many freshwater turtles. Admittedly,
turtles may not be the first animals many associate with romance,
but they've survived thousands of years, so they must be doing
male red ear sliders and southern painted turtles go to great
lengths to express their intent. With Edward Scissorshands-like
appendages, the persistent male swims the backstroke in front
of or just above the female and waves his long nails in her face.
can see this behavior throughout the spring and summer, and sometimes
in the fall and winter if the turtles are bored, say aquarium
male map turtle is a little subtler in his display. With a head
bobbing routine, at varying speeds and occasionally with a little
cheek-to-cheek caressing, he turns the head of an interested female.
to go back to my place?
For the male longear sunfish, found in the Aquarium's Discovery
Hall, the female is most impressed by a nice "home."
Male sunfish spend a great deal of their time creating cozy nests,
and are very protective of this territory. Visitors can see male
sunfish guarding their turf by chasing away would-be trespassers.
takes a sharp and patient eye and good timing to see the Aquarium's
courtship displays. Some species may court for an hour or two
in the morning, then spend the rest of the afternoon searching
for food, basking on a log or just swimming around.
"finny" Valentine online coupon from the Tennessee Aquarium
-- Subscribe to the Aquarium's e-newsletter and get an online
coupon. firstname.lastname@example.org to
subscribe. Just print off the coupon and present it at the ticket
window to get $1 off an adult and .50 off a child's admission
(for up to 5 people). Offer expires March 15, 2003.