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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Aquaria

When visiting a place that has a reportedly good aquarium, I can't not go and check it out for myself.  For someone born and raised in Kansas, I have a strange thing for deep water and its inhabitants.  Going to visit the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta on a Sunday which also happens to be Halloween might not have been the best idea, but it does allow for the opportunity to get a lot of photos like this:

This aquarium is large and has much to look at, but is also a little too Disney-esque for me.  Yes, yes, I know..children are the life-blood of aquariums, zoos, and any other place where there are animals to be seen.  They have to be kid-friendly, or families just won't come.  But I could really do without the loud music, flashing fluorescent lights, and announcers on loud speakers.   The main hall is like a movie theater, casino, and kid's museum all rolled into one.  That's not to say that the place wasn't impressive in other respects, though-- it's reportedly the largest aquarium in the world in terms of sheer gallonage: "more than 8.5 million gallons of marine and fresh water housing more than 100,000 animals of 500 different species." 

The majority of that is in their 6.3 million gallon salt water tank, which houses four whale sharks and four manta rays along with hammerheads, tiger sharks, and all kinds of other fish.
Giving TV a run for its money
Another tank houses two beluga whales, which I was happy and disappointed to see all at once-- happy because belugas are just amazing creatures...they look like muscular slabs of marble.  Disappointed because their tank really did not look big enough.  I'm not actually sure what "big enough" would be-- no tank at all, probably, because I really think it's better for sea mammals not to live in captivity.  The whale sharks don't bother me so much, partly because they have a lot more room, partly because these specific sharks were taken from Taiwan's fishing quota and apparently would've been eaten if they weren't sent to the aquarium, and partly because I perhaps incorrectly assume that as fish they are not as intelligent as the beluga whales are and therefore not as likely to feel frustration about their limited surroundings.  The two belugas seemed to me to be pacing restlessly in their tank, accompanied by a few seals who zipped around on their backs. 

Highlights for me included a big tank of cichlids from Lake Malawi in African Great Rift Valley, beautiful and colorful and numerous, and a tank containing weedy sea dragons, a relative of seahorses native to the southern coast of Australia who, like their cousin the leafy sea dragon in my profile photo, are classified as "near threatened."  The Dallas World Aquarium has a few of the leafy variety, which is how I discovered them and later found out that they have their own festival in South Australia.  How cool is that?

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