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That's Cool! Summer Fun at the Tennessee Aquarium

5/25/2010 9:49:50 AM

A macaroni penguin extends its flippers to cool off.

That’s Cool! Summer Fun at the Tennessee Aquarium

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

Chattanooga, Tenn. (May 25, 2010) - Have you ever wondered how animals beat the heat? Thermoregulation is the big, scientific word for keeping comfortable when summer sizzles.

Aquarium visitors might walk right past several examples of thermoregulation without even knowing it. One is displayed by animals one wouldn’t think could ever be hot. “We get asked why the penguins often stand on the rocks with one or both flippers extended,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “They’re simply keeping cool.” Even though the air and water inside Penguins’ Rock is kept at a chilly 42 degrees, the gentoos and macaronis can still generate plenty of body heat while swimming. “Penguins can’t sweat,” said aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich. “The blood vessels in their flippers carry their body heat away from their bodies. If they are too cold, they’ll hold their flippers close to their bodies. So they are regulating their body temperature all the time.”
Visitors can view a very different thermoregulation display on the steamier end of the scale. The American alligators in the Aquarium’s Delta Swamp exhibit are ectothermic, meaning they rely on outside sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. “On a chilly day, you’ll see the alligators up out of the water basking in the sun,” said Dave Collins, the Aquarium’s curator of forests. “But when it’s hot, they head into the water to cool off.”  But look closely at the young alligators. They remain motionless while waiting for prey, yet their posture in the water is helping regulate their temperature. “They warm up by keeping more of their body close to the water’s surface. To cool off, their hind legs and tails are angled downward into deeper water. They do this without much movement. It’s interesting behavior,” said Collins.

The water temperature inside the Lake Nickajack exhibit is kept within a comfortable range around 70 degrees from top to bottom. So visitors won’t observe the behavior trophy-sized bass and monster catfish use to keep cool in the real Lake Nickajack. “Fish like to hang out near the thermocline,” said senior aquarist Rob Mottice. “This is the layer separating the warmer water on top from the colder water below. It’s that refreshing chill you feel below the surface layer when swimming in a pond or lake.” Mottice explains that most fish don’t truly thermoregulate, but they’ll move into comfort zones at different times of the year. “Right now there’s still some relatively shallow activity, but in another month or so the fish will head into the colder, deeper pockets where they can keep cool,” said Mottice.

Tennessee Aquarium guests will say, “That’s Cool!” this summer when they chat with animal keepers, SCUBA divers and animal encounter specialists while discovering the many ways creatures keep their cool.

Cool new Backstage Pass!
Many visitors think the Aquarium’s keepers have the coolest jobs on Earth. This summer, guests will have the chance to find out what it’s like to care for sharks, sea turtles and other critters with the Aquarium’s NEW Backstage Pass. Guests will have VIP access like never before, to get up-close, feed, and in some cases, actually touch Aquarium animals.  Two NEW 45-minute Backstage Pass options will give you access to keeper-only areas while you and your family get up-close and personal with the Aquarium’s most amazing animals.

Six-stories of Coolness!
The summer season at IMAX gets off to a super-cool start with the Academy-award winning special effects of AVATAR 3D on the giant screen. Or, relax in the air-conditioned comfort of the IMAX 3D Theater and zoom through the cosmos while watching Hubble 3D. If you’re a fearless adventurer, you might prefer the frenzied action of Wild Ocean 3D.

Coolest excursion around!
Experience the wonders of Tennessee’s Grand Canyon aboard the coolest excursion around. Passengers aboard the River Gorge Explorer can save some cold cash by cruising the Early Bird Special or enjoy an extra hour of the Captain’s hospitality by booking the three-hour Sunset Special.

Cool New Market to Explore!
Adding to the Aquarium’s cool factor this summer is a new outdoor market. Beginning June 5th, visitors can enhance their trip by exploring the NEW Chattanooga River Market. The Aquarium plaza will fill with music and some of the area’s finest arts and crafts each Saturday all summer long.

Staying the weekend? Check out the Chattanooga Market on the city’s Southside on Sunday. Both markets enhance the already culturally-rich tourism experience that Chattanooga has become known for.

The Water’s Always Cool!
The water is always cool in the stream on the Aquarium Plaza, the water flowing through the Passage next to Ocean Journey or the refreshing Coolidge Park fountain located a short walk across the famous Walnut Street Bridge. So bring your bathing suit to cool off while you’re in Chattanooga. We invite guests to make a splash while they’re here. Now that’s cool!


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