Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Find the nearest octopus

The hot and steamy days of summer are upon us, and those uber-cool cold-water superstars in our brand new octopus exhibit are the hottest sea creatures in the city.

You may have seen these eight-armed brainiacs and their tentacled cousins on light posts, subway billboards, and towering over Kenmore Square.

Tentacles Take Hold in Park Street
And soon you'll see them squirt across your small screen.

So. It's about time that you get to the Aquarium and see these mind-boggling tentacled animals in person. Here are some tips to help maximize your tentacle time during the busy summer season:
  • Arrive before 10:30 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. to avoid peak times.
  • Take advantage of our summer hours and carouse with the cuttlefish even later in the afternoon — until 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays.
  • Save on parking fees (and live blue) by using public transportation. 
  • And save paper by buying tickets online and showing them on your smart device (also a great way to skip the line).  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Anaconda Checkups

This week, the New England Aquarium pulled the anacondas from one of its Amazon exhibits for their annual physical exams. The largest of them measured in at 14 feet, the other two measured 12 feet 7 inches and 12 feet 4 inches in length.

Wilson, a 12 foot, 55 pound anaconda, just underwent her annual physical exam at the New England Aquarium
Wilson is the smallest of the group. She weighs only 55 pounds while her tank mates Marion and Kathleen are a more robust 77 and 90 pounds each.

So what is a done during an anaconda physical? Many of the same things that are conducted in a thorough exam for people with some slight variations:
  • Weight
  • Length versus height
  • Vital Signs: Resting pulse for an adult anaconda is 32 versus 72 for people. Respirations are just a reptilian 3 per minute versus 12–20 breaths for humans because of higher metabolisms
  • Blood draw
  • Echocardiogram
  • Ultrasound for pregnancy or to be able to better see soft tissues
  • X-rays, if needed
  • Cloacal wash, which is the equivalent to providing a stool sample
And of course, the major question is HOW. Beyond the schoolyard response of “very carefully,” slight sedation works wonders in anxious patients of whatever species! Get a gander at these behind-the-scenes pictures to see what anaconda exams look like.

Everyone checked out just fine and were returned to their exhibit. Here's a video of their homecoming!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Announcing the new Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium

On World Oceans Day, the New England Aquarium celebrated the launch of its new Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life in Boston, a scientific endeavor focusing on fisheries conservation and aquaculture solutions, marine mammal research and conservation, habitat and ecosystem health, and marine animal health – a major new initiative for the Aquarium.

“The New England Aquarium has done excellent research and conservation work for 40 years,” said Nigella Hillgarth, the Aquarium’s President and CEO, who marked her second anniversary in late May and sees the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life as the culmination of her work to date to raise the profile and public understanding of the Aquarium’s vital marine science work internationally.

A scuba diver swims over corals | Photo: B. Skerry

“The idea of combining our strengths to create a center of excellence that can focus on solving some of the anthropogenic problems of the oceans was the right thing to do,” particularly around climate change, said Hillgarth who lead the creation of the Anderson Cabot Center so scientific research can help shape international conservation policy.

Matthew A. Beaton, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nigella Hillgarth, President and CEO, New England Aquarium, Donna Hazard, Chair, Board of Trustees, New England Aquarium, and Carl Spector, Commissioner of the Environmental Department, City of Boston, at launch event for Anderson Cabot Center.

Hillgarth and the Aquarium’s Board of Directors joined Massachusetts Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, National Geographic underwater photographer and Aquarium Explorer in Residence Brian Skerry along with other dignitaries on Wed. June 8 to celebrate the launch at the Aquarium’s Simons IMAX Theatre.

Brian Skerry, New England Aquarium Trustee and National Geographic Photographer, Linda Cabot, New England Aquarium Trustee, and Ed Anderson at launch event for Anderson Cabot Center.

Linda Cabot and Ed Anderson of Westwood are the lead donors of the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life. Longtime sailors and founders of North Bridge Venture Partners, they have devoted their lives to the ocean and feel that the ocean is vulnerable and in need of more critical scientific understanding and protection.

“The ocean is the earth’s life force in many ways, in terms of providing nearly half the oxygen we breathe, protein for most of humankind, and in determining our weather,” said Cabot who has been on the Aquarium’s board of trustees since 2014. “There are tipping points. There is a time to take action. There is a necessity to try to address these issues. We feel now a sense of urgency like never before.”

Anderson Cabot Center scientists collect a sample of expiration, or blow, from a North Atlantic right whale.

The Anderson Cabot Vice President is Dr. John Mandelman, a respected researcher of sharks, cod, haddock, cusk, and thorny skates at the New England Aquarium for 17 years and the previous Director of Research. Mandelman looks forward to offering “solutions-based science” with this new initiative. The goal is to be enterprising and problem solving with the research that is gathered by the scientific team which has longtime expertise in North Atlantic right whales, bycatch, aquaculture, sea turtles, lobsters, coral reefs, marine protected areas, and other marine animals.

“Ultimately we want to unite two traditionally distinct, yet powerful programs to support the mission of the Aquarium and increase our capacity to mitigate human impact on our oceans through rigorous science,” Mandelman said. “The Anderson Cabot Center can set itself apart as an urban research institution by leveraging the Aquarium’s reach, its reputation, educational resources, and respect within the greater community in order to conduct important research to protect our oceans.”

Dr. Nigella Hillgarth, President and CEO, New England Aquarium and Dr. Mark Abbott, President and Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, at launch event for Anderson Cabot Center.

Key to the Anderson Cabot Center work will be to continue to collaborate with fishermen, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, engineers, and other scientists. In the field of bycatch research, for example, Aquarium scientists have been working with fishermen to come up with fishing gear adaptations to help mitigate entanglement and overfishing problems.

For 35 years, the Aquarium has been a leader in North Atlantic right whale research, discovering that the numbers of endangered whales were depleting due to ship strikes and entanglement problems. The Aquarium’s right whale researchers convinced policymakers to move international shipping lanes to lesser-used areas of the whales’ habitats, and the result has been a reduction in ship strikes by at least two a year.

The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life will build on the Aquarium’s clinical research on cold-stunned sea turtles, shell disease in lobsters, and emerging endocrinology research in marine species, helping to discover the cause of the problems and then offer solutions. The Aquarium’s enterprising work in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and the Marine Conservation Action Fund will also continue as part of the work.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shark Carcass Spotted in Boston Harbor

Aquarium biologists and rescuers reported to Boston Harbor this morning to identify a large marine animal carcass floating near Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. The decaying animal turned out to be a 24-foot basking shark, a harmless plankton feeder that had been pushed into the harbor on the bow of a container ship more than two weeks ago.

Adam Kennedy and other members of the rescue team examine the shark carcass from a police boat.
Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

Only a small portion was accessible at the surface with most of the body descending vertically into the Reserve Channel’s thirty-foot depth. While the animal was very decayed, it was easily identified by its size, the cartilaginous fins, and the array of gill rakers, which help the sharks filter plankton from the water. The biologists were unable to determine a cause of death. It's possible the animal was dead before it was struck by the ship.

File photo of a basking shark photographed on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch in 2014.

Knowing that the carcass was a shark and given its length, there was only one local shark species that it could be, not the great white, but the plankton feeding basking shark. Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world and a frequent visitor to New England waters in the summer months. They migrate to this region in early April to feed on plankton. Passengers of New England Aquarium Whale Watches can sometimes see these sharks gliding along the surface of the water gulping the nutrient-rich water. Many times, their dorsal fin breaks the surface and causes a stir —shark! But here's a quick resource to help tell the difference between a harmless basking shark and their relatives the great white shark.

The submerged carcass was allowed to exit the Reserve Channel into the harbor where it will likely settle on the bottom shortly creating a feasting oasis for all kinds of marine animals.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Help Protect Seal Pups This Memorial Day Weekend

With summer-like weather having arrived, this Memorial Day weekend promises to bring massive crowds of people to the region’s beaches, but there will also be other much more quiet and vulnerable visitors on the sand as recently weaned harbor seal pups will naïvely come ashore to rest on busy beaches that have been largely empty during most of their brief lives.

One- to two-month-old recently-weaned harbor seal pups often haul out of the water 
to rest on a rocky shores, seaweed mats or gravelly beaches.

These incredibly beautiful young animals often draw a concerned and well-meaning crowd. But, ironically, close human presence will cause massive stress in these pups that badly need their rest and are struggling to survive. This first unofficial weekend of the summer, the New England Aquarium is asking for the public’s help in protecting these seals from unintended and unnecessary human harassment.

The number one rule is that people and their pets should stay 150 feet away from any seal. Adult seals are experienced enough to not haul out and rest in prominent public locations. However, the end of May holiday weekend coincides with when many harbor seal pups are weaned and cut loose by their mothers. Other later born pups that are still nursing are hidden on beaches while their mothers are off foraging. If people are around the youngster, the mother will not come ashore to retrieve it. These completely inexperienced and naïve juveniles might have used a particular beach as a resting or hiding spot over the past week only to find it transformed and invaded overnight by humans for this three day warm weather celebration. Come next Tuesday, that same resting spot will be a good choice for that pup, but the seal world has yet to get dialed into Microsoft or Google calendars!

These irresistibly cute pups need their space.

That is why we need the public’s aid in helping to protect these vulnerable seal pups as they learn the ropes. Maintaining a quiet, large perimeter around the seal pup is the top priority. Watching a seal pup from a safe distance is likely to be the highlight of anyone’s weekend. Explaining to other beach-goers what is going on is helpful. If there are lifeguards or other staff on the beach, notify them as they might be able to set up a do not cross line.

In this era of social media, if someone is taking a selfie or a picture of their kids near a seal on a beach, they are breaking the law and are potentially contributing to the demise of these magnificent creatures. Great selfies with seals are available 24/7 at no cost at the Aquarium’s raised harbor seal exhibit on its front plaza in downtown Boston.

Harbor seal pups need rest.

The overwhelming majority of seal pups on the beach are doing OK, if left alone. If the animal has obvious injury, signs of ill health, or a crowd of people who refuse to disperse, contact your local police department or animal control officer. They can then contact the marine animal rescue group in your region.

A last resort for marine animal rescue groups is to move the seal pup to a quieter location, but that exercise is also inherently stressful to the animal and not preferred. By later in the summer, most of these seal pups will know better. In the meantime, learning how to share the beach appropriately is a better option that will enrich the lives of both people and seal pups.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Celebrate World Oceans Day with the Aquarium!

World Oceans Day is a time to celebrate the efforts of our entire community in protecting the blue planet. The New England Aquarium is inviting the public to a family-friendly festival that showcases the conservation efforts of community groups and organizations.

Sunday, June 5
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Central Wharf, Boston
Enjoy hands-on, family-friendly activities, seafood cooking demos, tastings and more. And learn how you can help protect the oceans, too!

We hope that our visitors will be inspired by the variety of solutions already at work in our community and find new ways to join in.

Free and Open to the Public
The best part of World Oceans Day: All activities are free, open to the public and do not require Aquarium admission! NOTE: Aquarium admission is not included in the free activities.

Some of the fun activities include:

  • Polar Beverages will be here with a recycling activity. Visitors will have the opportunity to make a planter out of a recycled soda can—complete with soil and seed.
  • NOAA will offer a number of whale activities, focusing on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Learn how to eat like whale, or try on the blubber glove to discover more about these charismatic megafauna.
  • W2O will be discussing/raising awareness about Cashes Ledge and Sea Mounts, and the importance of protecting these rare marine habitats.
  • Salem State University's Cat Cove Laboratory will be showcasing and discussing mussel aquaculture. Explore how these bivalves can provide good eats while also improving the water quality of our coastline.
  • USCG Auxiliary will host a number of water safety activities—just in time for summer boating and beach going!
  • Magic 106.7 will be blasting tunes and helping to promote Finding Dory, the newest in Disney's Finding Nemo series.
  • Charles River Watershed Association will be showcasing their "watershed in a box" activity. Every wonder where all that rain, those streams and rivers run to? Find out the power of soil filtration as watersheds are discussed

We hope to see you here on Central Wharf June 5!

Duck Tour Contest Details
Our Duck Tour giveaway on Instagram is over. We've reached out to the winners via Instagram. The lucky winners will roll out this Sunday, June 5, at 10:40 am, 11:00 am, and 11:20 am. These shortened tours will start and end at the Aquarium plaza, so they'll be poised to take part in the engaging and educational activities lined up for our Oceans Day festivities.

Thanks to everyone who participated, love seeing how many people love the oceans!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Penguin Chicks!

With spring, mothers across the animal world give life to new young, including penguin chicks at the New England Aquarium. Behind the scenes, four new little blue penguin chicks have emerged from their eggs. Little blue penguins are from Australia and are the smallest penguin species in the world. Visitors at the Aquarium often think that the adult little blues are baby penguins.

These two chicks are 27 days old, weigh 27 ounces and are grapefruit-sized bunches of grayish blue down. The unnamed chicks are siblings. Their mother is Carmac, a nine year old female who was also hatched here in Boston. She is an experienced mother as these are her fourth and fifth chicks. These chicks will remain behind the scenes with mom and dad for several more weeks, until they're big and strong enough to feed, swim, and preen on their own.

If you need another of penguin chicks, meet some of last year's bundles of fluff on the Penguin Blog.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there — whether their children are fluffy youngsters or have flown the coop.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Aquarium Autopsies Young Humpback Whale in Duxbury

The fresh carcass of a thin, twenty-seven foot long, humpback whale yearling washed up on to Duxbury Beach about 35 miles south of Boston late Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, the young whale was moved by heavy equipment to higher ground on the peninsula. Then a New England Aquarium team of veterinarians and biologists conducted an animal autopsy of the black-colored whale with its enormous white side fins.

Heavy earth-moving equipment was used to move the carcass to higher ground.

This female whale was noticeably thin. The body did not have marine gear on it or significant entanglement scars. The Aquarium staff and volunteers methodically dissected the whale, removing tons of blubber and tissue to look for clues that might indicate what contributed to its death. The whale’s stomach and GI tract were largely empty of food. The necropsy team examined the head area closely to look for evidence of some kind of injury that might have impeded the whale from feeding properly. They also took dozens of tissue samples for further testing to see if there was underlying disease or health conditions that contributed to the animal’s demise.

Aquarium staff took measurements and painstakingly dissected the animal for
clues as to what caused its death.

This juvenile animal was most likely 14–16 months old, but also could have been a two year old if its growth had been compromised by chronic illness, injury, or poor nutrition. It was probably born from December of 2014 to February of 2015 off the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, the preferred calving waters for humpback mothers from New England. As a newborn, it would have been 14–15 feet long and weighed two tons! Mother and calf would have spent the winter nursing in the blue waters of the Caribbean. Early last spring, they would have swum up the East Coast, and the mother would have started voraciously feeding on small schooling fish, primarily in Massachusetts waters. Last summer, there was a bumper crop of their favorite food, sand lance, at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, about 25 miles east of Boston and just north of the tip of Cape Cod. Like most mammals, the mother would have started slowly weaning this yearling in the late summer and early autumn. Eventually, by late autumn or early winter, they would have drifted apart, and this yearling would have been on its own. For most wild animals, the first year of independent life is a highly vulnerable one with increased mortality. If this yearling had survived to adulthood, it could have reached 40 to 50 feet in length and weighed 40 tons.

The actual name or ID number of this juvenile whale might be able to be discerned. Pictures of its tail fluke will be sent to the Center for Coastal Studies, which will attempt to match its unique markings to a known animal in its humpback catalog.

The Aquarium would like to thank the Duxbury Beach Association for its great and efficient logistical support and to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) for sending experienced staff from Cape Cod to assist.

Humpback whales are the stars of local whale watches, noted for being the acrobats of the whale world for their athletic leaps from the water. Population estimates for the region are around 800. NOAA, the federal oceans agency, recently proposed to remove humpbacks from the Endangered Species List as they have been a conservation success story. That proposal is still under review, but all whales would still remain protected in U.S. waters under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Friday, April 22, 2016

6 year old makes Earth Day donation to turtle rescue

When Jasper Rose of Watertown, Mass., turned 6 years old earlier this month, the kindergartner decided he didn’t need any birthday gifts. Instead, he asked for money that he could donate to the Aquarium’s sea turtle rescue program. He raised $550!

Jasper holds his check collection in honor of his birthday — and in lieu of birthday gifts!

Jasper presents his check to the Aquarium's president and CEO Nigella Hillgarth

Jasper's hand-written envelope with the check for the Aquarium's turtle rescue program

Nigella thanked Jasper and talked about the importance of his support 

Jasper's check presentation came with a treat — for him and for Myrtle the turtle.

Jasper got to feed Myrtle her morning meal!

Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts were on the menu.

For the past three years, the Roses have been Aquarium members. Now, Jasper knows all of the turtles’ names and stories. Over the winter, a family friend gave the family a tour of the sea turtle hospital in Quincy. That visit solidified Jasper’s obsession with sea turtles. He even wrote and illustrated his own 10-page book about a sea turtle’s adventure.

Alongside his mom, Jasper shows off the book
he wrote about a sea turtle named Shield

Jasper's shirt featured Myrtle the turtle, especially appropriate today!

Thank you to Jasper for his generous donation to our sea turtle rescue program. Even more, we appreciate his passion for sea turtle rescue and this opportunity to raise awareness for sea turtle rescue! Happy Earth Day, all.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Octopus is in the Building

It's been several months in the making, but the brand new Olympic Coast exhibit is now open and its star resident has arrived! The debut of the octopus and her new home is just one part of the exciting Tentacles Take Hold program that will officially launch throughout the Aquarium tomorrow, April 15 — just in time for April school vacation.

The giant Pacific octopus immediately started exploring the exhibit.
This video captures the very moment the octopus makes her grand entrance to her new exhibit. After aquarist Bill Murphy gently opens the lid to her transport barrel, she slides out to a round of applause!

Visitors and staff alike were lined up to witness the moment. She then explored all corners of the exhibit and finally settled down into a nook up front to rest after all her travels!

The aquarists believe that the new arrival is a female, they will carefully observe the octopus in the next couple days to make a final determination. They can tell by the number of suckers on one of the arms whether it is male or female.

Do you know how many suckers a giant Pacific octopus has on its body? Have you met their tiny cousins, the red octopus? Have you ever seen a cuttlefish snap its tentacles around a snack for a quick meal? These are just some of the things you can explore, learn, and see when you visit the Tentacles Take Hold program at the Aquarium. Buy your tickets today.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mystery of the Charles River Seal - Partially Solved!

The mystery of the seal galavanting about the lower basin of the Charles River over the past ten days has been partially solved as an adult harbor seal popped up in one the locks of the Charles River Dam early Monday afternoon. The DCR dam and lock complex below the Zakim Bridge allows for the passage of boats between the differing water levels of the freshwater Charles River and saltwater of inner Boston Harbor. Dam operators noticed the plump, gray-spotted seal swimming at the water’s surface, took some pictures and called the Aquarium. Aquarium staff identified the species, its approximate age and good body condition and then asked DCR to open the harbor-side gate to release it.

Adult harbor seal cruising the locks on Charles River
Photo: Bill Gode, Mass. DCR

First spotted by staff at the Museum of Science on April 1, he was seen in the lower basin of the Charles over several more afternoons. Last week, it adventured further up river and was seen among the docked yachts on the Cambridge side of the Charles and later all the way to the BU Bridge. At the time, all of the images were from a long distance, and the seal’s species or approximate age could not be discerned. Among the likely suspects was a yearling harp seal visiting from Canada for the winter or a juvenile grey seal from Cape Cod. Young, inexperienced marine mammals are often prone to wrong way adventures, but the images of a relaxed adult harbor seal might change that story line in an unexpected way.

Plump harbor seal after an easy meal?
Photo: Bill Gode, Mass. DCR

This seal most likely entered the Charles in a school of spawning fish that swam through the locks. It would have later discovered that large freshwater fish like carp, bass and perch were easy pickings as they would normally have no fear of a larger predator in the river. A seal can remain healthy in freshwater for a couple of weeks or more, but with a prolonged stay its blood chemistry could go out of balance as it would lack the salts that it passively ingests from sea water.

To add to the mystery is that another unidentified seal was believed to have passed through the locks from the Charles to the harbor on Saturday. There could have been two seals, but with Monday’s animal being an adult, a local resident species and acting quite relaxed while caught in the lock, Aquarium staff speculate that this seal might have figured out that there is a regular, good food source on the other side of the dam. Just the way humans queue up in their cars on the overhead Zakim Bridge to make their living in Boston, it is possible that this harbor seal is willing to wait for the locks of the Charles River dam to open so that it can make a better, easier living  as well.

For walkers, joggers and boaters along Boston’s Esplanade or Cambridge’s Memorial Drive, spotting a seal in the Charles need not lead them to question either their eyesight or sanity.

Aquarium officials would like to express their gratitude for the alertness and skill of the DCR dam operators in spotting the animal and successfully moving him through the dam complex. They had done the same for a fat, adult, male harbor seal in October of 2010.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April School Vacation Visiting Tips

Getting to know the mysterious and mesmerizing tentacled animals at the Aquarium is a great way to add some family fun to your school vacation. Here are the ultimate insider tips to help make the most of your visit:

The giant Pacific octopus will return
just in time for school vacation!
1. Buy your tickets online
Buying your tickets online means you can skip the line! Simply print them at home or show your e-ticket on your smartphone in the Main Lobby.

2. Avoid peak times
The middle of the day is our busiest time. If you want plenty of face time with the new red octopuses or cuttlefish, plan to arrive when we open a 9 a.m. or later in the afternoon after 3:00 p.m. Be sure to check the website for any last minute changes to our schedule.

3. Take public transportation
Find tentacles all over the Aquarium starting April 15
— from jellies to cuttlefish to nautilus and more.
Taking public transportation is the blue thing to do! The Aquarium stop on the MBTA's Blue Line is just a few steps from our Front Plaza. If you're driving, check out nearby parking options,—prices vary. Here's some more information about accessibility at the Aquarium.

4. Get even closer with our Animal Encounter programs
Perch on top of the four-story Giant Ocean Tank to feed the animals. Touch a seal. Go behind the scenes of your favorite exhibits. The New England Aquarium's immersive Animal Encounter programs take your visit to a whole new level. Who knows, you might even get to see cuttlefish growing up behind the scenes!

Galapagos 3D: Nature's Wonderland is our most popular
IMAX movie right now. Find out why!
5. See the world in IMAX 
Galapagos 3D: Nature's Wonderland continues to wow audiences with stunning footage of penguins, marine iguana, whale sharks, and more! But you can also find epic IMAX footage in the massive splashes in Humpback Whales 3D and the intimate moments in Secret Ocean 3D. See a tremendous variety of ocean animals — large and small — on New England's largest screen at the Simons IMAX Theatre.

Still have questions, like: Can I leave and return to the Aquarium during my visit? Is photography allowed? What about food options in and around Central Wharf? Poke through our FAQs for answers to these questions and more.

After you visit, don't be strangers! When you get home or even from your phone, there are plenty of ways that you can connect with the Aquarium online. Follow our blogs for more about the Giant Ocean Tankmarine mammals, exhibits throughout the Aquarium and more. 

Share your pictures with us on FacebookTwitterTumblrGoogle+Instagram and Pinterest.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seals Belong on the Beach!

People Moving and Approaching a South Shore Seal Pup Stresses It Out

A healthy, three month old grey seal pup resting on a Marshfield beach Friday had to be moved by the New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Team to a more secluded location after well-intentioned but ill-informed beach-goers tried moving it back into the water.

A stressed-out three-month-old grey seal pup tries to rest on a Marshfield, MA, beach after people tried moving it back into the water and repeatedly approached much too close. It was relocated by New England Aquarium staff to a secluded beach.

The approximately 40 pound female had also been closely approached by many other people and dogs. When Aquarium biologists arrived, the young seal was shivering with fear, had labored breathing and showed signs of major stress from all of the unwanted and unneeded human interactions. Aquarium staff relocated the weaned pup to a quiet, private beach in the area where it can rest and not be disturbed.

A three month old grey seal pup is released and relocated by New England Aquarium staff on a secluded South Shore beach after it was unwittingly harassed by well-intentioned but ill-informed people. The green dye on its head and tail will allow biologists to easily identify the pup over the next few days as it is monitored.

This grey seal pup was most likely born in January on a small offshore island south of Cape Cod. Its mother would only have nursed her for three to four weeks and then left on its own. This post-weaning period when the pup is learning how to forage and find its own food is a critical period when the animal’s health is highly vulnerable, and it needs lots of rest. Unlike other marine mammals like dolphins or whales, seals regularly haul out of the water to sleep and soak up the sun. When first seen in the morning, the pup was alert and bright. By the afternoon with continuous and too close human interaction, it was completely stressed out. For a wild animal on the edge of survival, this kind of event can directly lead to its demise.

Grey seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Harassing them intentionally or unwittingly is a violation of federal law.

More importantly, seeing seals at the shore is a relatively recent occurance and a great opportunity for a life-long memory. People can easily share the beaches with seals by knowing a few rules.

  1. Stay 150 feet from resting seals.
  2. Be quiet.
  3. Leash your dogs. 
  4. If concerned about the health of the animal, call the Aquarium’s stranding hotline at 617-973-5247 or call your local animal control officer which can contact the Aquarium or the local stranding group.

In the spring and summer, the vast majority of seals in prominent public locations are pups newly weaned and just learning to be on their own. They mostly need to be left alone. Getting too close has real health consequences for the seal pups. Enjoy one of nature’s wonders from a safe distance for both you and the animal.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Members-Exclusive Deal for Kurios by Cirque du Soleil

Special offer for members: $30 kids ticket with purchase of full price adult ticket!  

Share the experience today with $30 kids tickets. Don’t miss the show that was declared a Critic’s Choice by the Los Angeles Times. Delve into the world of Kurios, where seeing is disbelieving. Kurios is now playing under the iconic blue and yellow big top at Suffolk Downs through July 10.

CLICK HERE to take take advantage of this offer.

OfferDisclaimers: Offer valid on select show dates and times while supplies last.  This offer may not be combined with other offers or applied to previously purchased tickets. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The New England Right Whale Festival

Join us!

Sunday, May 1, 2016
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The New England Right Whale Festival is a celebration of the current efforts to save North Atlantic right whales from extinction. The New England Aquarium is teaming up with the Adams School Calvineers, of Castine, Maine, to invite the public to learn from local scientists, researchers, and educators about the efforts taking place in our backyard to protect this highly endangered species.

There are fewer than 550 right whales alive today

The festival will take place at the Aquarium's Harbor View Terrace Tent from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., rain or shine. There will be opportunities to learn more about right whales, meet right whale scientists, and take part in family-friendly activities. The event is free; Aquarium admission is not included. 

Some of the organizations that will be joining us include:
  • The Adams School Calvineers of Castine, Maine
  • New England Aquarium Right Whale Research Team
  • New Bedford Whaling Museum
  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation
  • And many more with activities for everyone!

If your organization works for right whales and would like to participate, please fill out this registration form by April 8, 2016. Each organization is asked to provide a hands-on activity to help engage families in the group's mission. But never fear, you do not need to have programming planned. The Education department at the New England Aquarium can work with you on how to present your work in a family-friendly way.

Feeling Green: Celebrating St. Patrick's Day Aquarium-style

St. Patrick's Day comes once a year, and it gives many Aquarium animals an opportunity to bask in the limelight a bit. These are our most St. Patrick's Day animals, the greenest of the green, the perfect animals to get you in the mood for all the soda bread and green-tinged milkshakes.

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Myrtle the green sea turtle always eats her greens | Photo: Esther Horvath
Seeing Myrtle the green sea turtle is a highlight of any visit to the Aquarium. And at 550 pounds, she's not hard to miss. Get more Myrtle on the Divers Blog.

Green Moray Eel (Gymnothorax funebris)

The divers are always careful when working with the moray eels, what with the eel's razor sharp teeth and all.

Green morays may look menacing, but they are fairly docile animals. We offer them food every day (though some eels will not eat for weeks on end), and because of that we are quick to notice any odd behavior or physical issues. See how a moray eel—with all those teeth—gets a check-up at the Aquarium.

Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Snakes to celebrate St. Patrick's Day — the irony is not lost on us
The adult green anacondas shed between five and eight times a year. Learn more about the process of shedding (think: sliding off a tube sock).

Green sea urchin (Strongylocentrus droebachiensis)

Find a green sea urchin in our Northern Waters gallery and our tidepool touch tank
The sea urchin shell is made of calcium carbonate, and its spherical body is protected by hundreds of spines. Between the spines are tiny suction cups, or tube feet, which are used for locomotion. Learn some more interesting tidbits about this local species.

Can you find even more green at the Aquarium? There is lots!

Maybe you can spot a green ID band on the wing of a penguin.

Look for penguins wearing a green bands!
Or how about the bold green and black poison dart frog. How about the emerald color of the six line wrasse? Find us on social and tell us what Aquarium animals is helping you add green to your month. We're on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and Google+!

Here at the Aquarium, it's easy being green. Come celebrate St. Patrick's Day with us at the New England Aquarium. Buy your tickets online and head inside to see the greenest of the green animals on our blue planet.

More Underwater Video of Nearly Unknown Whale Species

Nearly Twice as Many Omura’s Whales Sighted off Madagascar Than All Previous Years Combined

The mystery surrounding a nearly unknown whale species is slowly being revealed as a New England Aquarium scientist has released underwater video and new information from his November field season among the Omura’s whales of Madagascar. Dr. Salvatore Cerchio led a team of Malagasy and American whale biologists that found the largest aggregation of the 33-38 foot, tropical whales that has ever been seen.

Omura's whale mother and calf
Click here to download

Last October, Cerchio had released the first ever confirmed video of live Omura’s whales in the wild, and those first time images generated waves across the Internet and international mass media. The following month, the Cape Cod-based researcher returned to the isolated northwest coast of Madagascar to continue his study of these small, relatively slender, grey whales with uneven coloring around their heads.

Cerchio has been studying marine mammals around Madagascar since 2004, but this past trip was a whale jackpot. When he arrived, the local boat operators in Nosy Be reported unprecedented levels of “tiny shrimp” in the water. The shrimp were actually euphausiids, a tropical type of krill that will be identified to the species level with ongoing lab work.

Omura's whale surfaces after feeding lunge
Click here to download

Lots of food anywhere in the animal kingdom usually attracts lots of animals to feed on it, and consequently the Omura’s whales were seen in record numbers. Over the previous four years, Cerchio and his team had documented 44 individual sightings of these extremely rare whales. Last November, they made 80 individual sightings in just a month or nearly double the combined entire research record.

There were other important scientific observations made. The Omura’s feeding behavior was seen frequently and videotaped. Five mother/calf pairs were counted, which is a record. A specific female was identified for the third time in four years which indicates that the population might be resident or at the least uses the same habitat annually. The team collected two weeks of continuous acoustic data from remote recorders including dense choruses of Omura’s songs. This is the start of the first long term passive acoustic monitoring for Omura’s or for any whale species in this region.

The new underwater video shows feeding, mother/calf pairs and the species’ distinct irregular marking and colorings around their head.

Click here to download [642 MB .mov]

VIDEO OF FEEDING: The large, round bulge below the jaw seen in some of the video is the Omura expanding its long throat pleats so that it can engorge a tremendous amount of water and krill, trap the food on its baleen, expel the water and then swallow it. These throat pleats are common to the rorqual family of whales which includes the giant blue whales and the acrobatic humpbacks.

VIDEO OF MOTHER/CALFS: The video with two whales is of mothers and calves A record five calves were sighted.

VIDEO OF UNUSUAL MARKINGS AND COLORING: Some of the video shot from the side and above clearly shows the uneven coloring and marking near the head that helps distinguishes this species. The only whale with a similar pattern are fin whales, but they are commonly 60-70 feet in length and primarily live in cold waters versus the diminutive Omura’s that are just 33 to 38 feet in length and make tropical seas their home. An alternative name for Omura’s whale is the dwarf fin whale.

Just last year was the first time these whales have been recorded in the wild. The video made waves across the internet when we shared it last year. This YouTube clip has garnered more than 790,000 views!

Dr. Cerchio will return to Madagascar in May, and his research was funded by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission.

For more information on Omura’s whales and Dr. Cerchio’s research, visit And for an in depth feel for his research in Madagascar, head over to the Explorers Blog for more pictures and dispatches from the field.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Just for Members: Big Apple Circus Discount!

Our members are important to us, and that's why we want to pass on an extra special discount to you. Our friends at the Big Apple Circus are offering Aquarium members 25 percent off tickets!

Big Apple Circus will be at City Hall Plaza for the company’s 38th season with their latest show — The Grand Tour — until May 8, 2016. Tickets start at $25, and the show runs under the Big Top at City Hall Plaza in Boston, MA. 

To purchase your discounted tickets or for more information, head over to the Big Apple Circus's website. Use promo code NEAQMBR to save 25 percent.*

See high-flying acrobats, lovable clowns, the Wheel of Wonder, ponies, puppies and more. All seats are less than 50 feet from the ring. The Grand Tour transports audiences to the advent of the modern travel era, when the most adventuresome began touring the world in ships, planes, trains, and automobiles. World-class entertainers perform breathtaking acts from the four corners of the globe. Clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and aerialists from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America set off on a whirlwind adventure, accompanied by the live, seven-piece Big Apple Circus Band at each performance.

*Limited availability. Offer good on select seats and shows. Other conditions apply. Children under 3 are free on the lap of a paid adult, one child per lap. Performers, dates, and times subject to change.

Big Apple Circus Savings!

We're so happy that you're part of the Aquarium community through your SeaMail subscription. So we want to let you in a sweet discount from our friends at the Big Apple Circus.

The Big Apple Circus is at City Hall Plaza for the company’s 38th season with the Boston Premiere of The Grand Tour! Tickets start at $25, and the show runs until May 8, 2016, under the Big Top at City Hall Plaza in Boston, MA. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the Big Apple Circus's website. Use promo code NEAQ16 to save up to $25 off.*

See high-flying acrobats, lovable clowns, the Wheel of Wonder, ponies, puppies, and more. All seats are less than 50 feet from the ring. The Grand Tour transports audiences to the advent of the modern travel era, when the most adventuresome began touring the world in ships, planes, trains, and automobiles. World-class entertainers perform breathtaking acts from the four corners of the globe. Clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and aerialists from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America set off on a whirlwind adventure, accompanied by the live, seven-piece Big Apple Circus Band at each performance.

*Limited availability. Offer good on select seats and shows. Other conditions apply. Children under 3 are free on the lap of a paid adult, one child per lap. Performers, dates, and times subject to change.