It’s easy to spot animals from across the globe on a walk through the Tennessee Aquarium. On Sunday, we are partnering with La Paz Chattanooga for Semana Latina – a week-long celebration of Latino culture in Chattanooga.
You might be surprised to learn how much Latin America and our own Southeastern US region have in common. We often talk about how the southeast is a biodiversity hotspot for aquatic species within the US - with over half of U.S. fish, two-thirds of turtles, and over 90% of mussels and salamanders living right here in our waterways. Similarly, on a global scale, Latin America is considered to be home to some of the richest ecosystems on Earth. Twenty-seven percent of the world’s mammal species, over 40% of reptile, bird and amphibian species and 34% of flowering plants are found in Central and South America.
Here are just a few of those creatures you can see on your next Aquarium visit.
1) Poison Dart Frogs
In the wild, the brightly colored markings of poison dart frogs serve as a warning of their toxicity to predators. All wild dart frogs secrete toxins through their skin. However, since the toxin is caused by a natural diet of poisonous insects, frogs that have been hatched in zoos and aquariums or individuals living in human care for an extended time are not toxic. This group of frog species’ wild survival strategy has worked so well that several species of non-poisonous frogs evolved with similar coloring to avoid being eaten.
Being the largest fish found strictly in freshwater isn’t the only thing that makes this species unique. Did you know that Arapaima can breathe air? A very primitive lung provides this species with the ability to supplement the air taken in through its gills – a very helpful advantage to a fish native to oxygen-poor waterways.
Arapaima are known to be very intelligent fish. Our aquarists are even working on training them.
3) Caiman Lizard
Caiman Lizards spend most of the day sleeping on branches that hang over water. This reptile loves to eat snails and has modified teeth that allow it to crack the shell and remove the soft parts of the snail.
4) Electric Eel
The Electric Eel – actually a type of knife fish, rather than a true eel - is capable of generating over 800 volts of electricity! In the wild, it uses that large electrical discharge for navigation, defense and to stun prey. The Aquarium’s resident Electric Eel, Miguel Wattson, also uses that power to trigger tweets as @EelectricMiguel on Twitter.
5) Hyacinth Macaw
The Hyacinth Macaw is the largest member of the parrot family. It is a very social species and generally lives in pairs or small groups. Its beak is the most powerful of all birds and is used to crack hard palm nuts - a main food source. (Note: While our Hyacinth Macaws do not live permanently on exhibit, they will be featured in our Semana Latina program schedule.)
Want to learn more? Join us this Sunday, April 30 for our special Semana Latina themed animal programs:
10:00 am – Hyacinth Macaw Presentation
Tropical Cove in the Ocean Journey building
2:30 pm – Butterfly Release
Butterfly Garden in the Ocean Journey building
3:00 pm – Animals of Latin America
Auditorium in the River Journey building
4:00 pm – Electric Eel Feeding
Rivers of the World gallery in the River Journey building