Komodo dragons are the world's largest and heaviest lizards, weighing up to 300 pounds and growing up to 10 feet in length. It is one of the world's ultimate predators. While the komodo has the speed to chase down its prey, its hunting strategy is based on stealth and power. Patiently, it will lie and wait, sometimes for hours, for a suitable meal to approach. When the komodo attacks, it aims for the feet of its prey first, to knock it off balance. Once the prey is down, the komodo will use its razor sharp claws and dagger-like teeth to devour its kill.
If the prey somehow manages to escape this attack, its good fortune does not last long. Over 50 different bacteria strains have been found in komodo saliva, with at least seven strains being deadly. Any animal bitten by a komodo dragon faces a fierce infection that would typically kill them within a week. The komodo will then stalk the wounded prey patiently until it dies. Once one komodo begins to feed, the aroma of the kill will attract even more komodos, and a frenzy ensues. Only about 12% of the prey remains uneaten. By comparison, lions leave nearly 30% of the carcass of their prey behind.
The Golden Crocodiles at Shark Reef Aquarium are a hybrid of Saltwater and Siamese Crocodiles. These animals have less pigment than other crocodiles, giving them their unique golden color. They are typically found in swamps, lakes, rivers, streams, and brackish water, although they have been known to travel long distances by sea.
Golden crocodiles can reach up to 20 feet in length and weigh close to one ton, making them one of the largest reptiles on Earth. They are also one of the fiercest hunters, ambushing their prey and using their powerful jaws equipped with 60 teeth to clamp down and drag it to its demise. Our crocodiles are fed a diet of chicken, fish, and rats. They are fed 2 or 3 times a week, depending on the season.
Although these crocodiles are natural predators, about 35 years ago every species of crocodile, alligator, caiman, and gharial were endangered or threatened. Today, groups such as the Crocodile Specialist Group and the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) have developed conservation programs that have led to an increase in the populations of many crocodilian species.
While similar in appearance, there are 2 quick ways to tell a crocodile from an alligator. Crocodiles have a pointy "V" shaped snout, and when the mouth is closed, both the top and bottom teeth are visible. Alligators have a rounder "U" shaped snout, and when the mouth is closed, only the top teeth are visible.
The Green Sea Turtle is one of seven species of sea turtles that live in the world's oceans, and can live to be up to 100 years old. While they have no teeth, their jaws are still quite powerful and can inflict damage. The Green Sea Turtle can grow up to 5 feet in length and weigh up to 400 pounds. They get their name from the green layer of fat that surrounds their body, not the color of their shell.
Adult green sea turtles are mainly herbivores, eating algae and sea grass. They also will munch on jellyfish, crabs, snails, worms, and fish. At Shark Reef Aquarium, our sea turtles eat broccoli, capelin, romaine lettuce, green peppers, squid, and prawn six days per week.
All species of sea turtles are endangered. Population declines are due to many factors, including pollution, turtles drowning in fishing nets, loss of nesting sites, coastal development, human consumption of turtle meat and eggs, and natural threats such as raccoons, crabs, birds, and fish. Only 1 out of 1000 sea turtles will ever survive to adulthood.
FRESH WATER FISH
The African Cichlids swimming in this exhibit all come from Lake Tanganyika, located in east-central Africa. The lake is about 400 miles long and 50 miles wide, making it the world's longest freshwater lake and the second deepest. Its length is a bit longer than the distance from Chicago to Pittsburgh. At more than 4700 feet deep (~1 mile), it's considered the second deepest lake in the world. Almost 1/6 of the world's freshwater is contained in Lake Tanganyika. The temperature of the entire lake varies only about 6 degrees Fahrenheit from the surface to 3000 feet deep and it experiences no yearly turnover like many lakes.
Lake Tanganyika is home to over 350 species of fish. Almost 200 different species of cichlids have been described from Lake Tanganyika and more discoveries are being made each year. The lake also contains freshwater jellyfish, numerous mollusks, sponges, and aquatic snakes.
Arapaima are among the largest of the exclusively freshwater fish, with giants growing to an astounding 15 feet in length and weighing up to 400 pounds. Typically, the Arapaima will grow to around 8 feet in length and weigh 250 pounds. Their diet consists of fish and birds, and they can even leap out of the water to catch their prey. As adults, Arapaimas are air breathers and take a breath about every 2-3 minutes. Their scales are so rough that they can be used like sandpaper.
Pacus can reach lengths of up to 3.5 feet and weigh up to 65 pounds. An omnivore, the Pacu's diet ranges from plants and fruits to insects and snails. When they eat fallen fruit, the undigested seeds are dispersed in their fish droppings, helping to reseed the rainforest.
With their upturned mouth, the Arrowana tends to eat food at the surface of the water. They enjoy fish, insects and birds, and have been known to leap over 6 feet above water to grab their meal. The forked barbells that extend from their lower jaw are used to detect the struggling movements of prey at the surface of the water.
A well-known predator, the Piranha makes its home in the streams and lakes of South America. Different species range in size from 6 inches up to 2 feet in length. All Piranhas have a single row of razor sharp teeth, which are actually even sharper than shark teeth! The word piranha in the Tupi language means "toothed fish".
In the wild, Piranhas will eat other fish, mammals, birds and reptiles. At Shark Reef Aquarium, they are fed chicken, capelin, trout and herring. Humans are major predators of the fish and the people who live along the Amazon River use the Piranha as a food source. Currently, Piranhas are not considered threatened.
While this river stingray is not endangered, very little is known about its history. Their diet consists mainly of crustaceans, mollusks, worms and small fish. They can reach lengths of up to 20 inches, with a width of about 12 inches across and weigh around 8-10 pounds. They will shed and re-grow their stinging barb three times a year.
There are over 75 species of tangs. Tangs are also called "surgeonfish" because of their scalpel-like appendage on each side of their tail. This scalpel is razor sharp, and can be used in defense or for aggression. Most tangs enjoy a diet of seaweed, algae, and other vegetable matter, and they have an unusually long digestive tract to help digest the plants that they eat.
There are about 81 species of angelfish, with most species found near coral reefs. Many angelfish undergo a dramatic color change from the juvenile to the adult stage of their life. Despite their beauty, angelfish can be aggressive and territorial.
There are about 120 species of butterflyfish. Many species have color patterns such as false eyespots and eye-masks to confuse potential predators.
Parrotfish get their name from their beak-shaped mouth and beautiful colors. These fish often surround themselves in a cocoon made from their own body mucus to help them hide when they sleep at night.
There are about 120 species of pufferfish. They are also called blowfish, swellfish, and globefish, and all have the amazing ability to inflate their bodies to protect themselves from predators.
Triggerfish get their name from their ability to use their dorsal spine as a "trigger". Triggerfish normally swim with this spine down. However, when the triggerfish is threatened, it will withdraw into a narrow crevice where it will erect this spine and lock it into an upright position. This will wedge the triggerfish tightly into the crevice for protection.
Lionfish are brightly colored fish that inhabit lagoons and reefs of the Indo-Pacific. The spines are equipped with potent venom that can deliver a painful sting. Lionfish use the sting for defense, and actually are peaceful towards other fish (as long as they don't fit into their mouth). Lionfish hunt small fish, shrimp and crabs. At Shark Reef, they are fed prawns and capelin. The bright colors of the lionfish serve as a warning to "stay away". The stripes of a lionfish are as unique as human fingerprints, with no two fish having identical stripes.
Sawfish are actually a large species of ray with a shark-like body and an elongated, tooth-studded snout. The snout also has electroreceptors to detect the heartbeats of prey buried underneath the sand.
The snout has 24-28 pairs of razor sharp teeth and is used to impale small fish and dig up buried crabs and snails. At Shark Reef Aquarium, we feed our sawfish five days per week a combination of mackerel, squid, sardines, and herring.
The Green Sawfish is listed as endangered by the IUCN. The main threats are from accidental capture in fishing nets, deliberate capture for sale of their rostrum and fins, and habitat loss and degradation.
Southern Stingrays are found on sandy beaches, lagoons, and grassy seabeds of the Atlantic Ocean, from New Jersey all the way down to Brazil. They are particularly abundant in Florida and the Bahamas.
Southern Stingrays can reach up to 6 feet across, with females tending to be larger than the males. They typically feed on crabs, shrimp, worms and small bottom-dwelling fish. At Shark Reef, they are fed a combination of sardines, mackerel, squid, capelin and herring up to six times a week.
Southern Stingrays can sting humans, and are considered dangerous. Most stings are caused by an unsuspecting beachgoer stepping on a stingray camouflaged in the sand. When stepped upon, the ray whips its tail up sending its serrated stinging barb into an unsuspecting victim. The barb easily cuts skin and also injects venom. Although painful, the sting is usually not life threatening. More injuries are caused by stingray stings than any others species of fish.
Sandtiger Sharks are found in the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean, western Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean in shallow bays, sandy coastal waters and along tropical reefs. They can grow up to 10.5 feet in length and feed on large and small bony fishes, smaller sharks, rays, squid and crustaceans. Sandtiger Sharks have so many teeth they cannot fully close their mouth.
Sandbar Sharks are found in the temperate and tropical zones of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. They are bottom-dwelling sharks found in shallow coastal waters. In nature, they eat a variety of bony fishes, eels, flatfish, other smaller sharks, skates, octopus, squid, and crustaceans. At Shark Reef Aquarium they are fed a combination of herring, mackerel, and squid three times a week.
Nurse Sharks are found near coral reefs of the eastern Pacific Ocean and the western Atlantic Ocean and can reach lengths of up to 14 feet. Nurse Sharks are commonly seen resting on the ocean bottom, dispelling the myth that a shark must be in constant motion to breathe.
Nurse Sharks eat invertebrates, crustaceans, clams, snails, stingrays, octopus, and squid. At Shark Reef Aquarium, they are fed a diet of mackerel, squid, sardines, capelin, and herring five days a week.
Whitetip Reef Sharks are found in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and the central and eastern Pacific Ocean and grow up to 7 feet in length. They feed on bottom-dwelling fishes, crustaceans, and cephalopods. At Shark Reef Aquarium, they are fed a diet of mackerel, herring, and squid three days a week.
The Galapagos Shark is found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, western Indian Ocean, and the western Pacific Ocean and can grow up to lengths of 12 feet. They feed on bony fishes, rays, squid, octopus, and crustaceans. At Shark Reef Aquarium, the Galapagos shark is fed a diet of mackerel, sardines, and herring three days a week.
The Grey Reef Shark can be found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and can grow up to 8 feet in length. They feed on reef fishes, squid, crab, lobster and octopus. At Shark Reef Aquarium, the Grey Reef Sharks are fed a diet of capelin, mackerel and herring three days a week.
The Zebra Shark is found near reef areas of the Indo-Pacific. They are often seen resting on the sand and can grow to lengths of up to 11 feet. In nature, they feed mainly on snails, mollusks, crabs, shrimp, and small fishes. At Shark Reef Aquarium, Zebra Sharks are fed capelin, herring, and mackerel three days a week.
A Zebra Shark pup has black and white stripes, like a zebra. As the shark matures into an adult, the stripes turn to spots, and the black turns to brown.
Blacktip Reef Sharks are found in the shallow reef areas of the Indo-Pacific Ocean and can grow up to 6.5 feet in length. Their name comes from the black color at the tip of their dorsal fin. They feed on other fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, and mollusks. At Shark Reef Aquarium, these sharks are fed capelin, herring, and mackerel three days a week.
This shark is regularly caught by inshore fisheries and has become vulnerable to depletion.
Epaulette Sharks are found in the shallow waters of New Guinea and Northern Australia near the Great Barrier Reef. They grow up to 3.5 feet in length and feature big black spots on the side of their body known as "false eye spots". These spots are meant to confuse predators into thinking the shark is larger than it actually is. This shark is often seen resting on the sandy ocean floor. Occasionally, this shark can move by "walking" on its pectoral fins.
The Epaulette Shark feeds on small bottom-dwelling fishes, worms, crabs, shrimp and small shellfish. At Shark Reef Aquarium, they are fed a diet of squid, mackerel, capelin and herring five days a week.
Port Jackson Sharks are found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and can grow up to 5 feet in length. They feed on invertebrates and small fish. They have a sharp spine in the front of each dorsal fin for protection that can be quite sharp if stepped on.
The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark is a bottom-dwelling shark found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The can grow up to 5 feet in length and feed mainly on invertebrates, shellfish, crustaceans and bony fish.
Jellyfish are not actually fish, but rather invertebrates (an animal without a backbone). They're made up of 96% water and do not have eyes, ears, or a brain. Moon Jellies are widespread and are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They eat small planktonic organisms such as mollusk larvae, crustaceans, protozoans, and diatoms. At Shark Reef Aquarium, our Moon Jellies are fed brine shrimp (also known as sea monkeys) twice each day.
The tentacles of the jellies contain stinging cells called cnidocytes. Each cnidocyte contains a tiny harpoon that will release venom into the prey. Depending on the species of jelly, the sting's effect can range from a mild tingling feeling (a Moon Jelly sting) to paralysis, heart attack, and even death (a Box Jelly sting). Dead jellies can still sting as long as the tentacles are wet.
This octopus is the largest species of octopus in the world, with a weight up to 100 pounds and tentacles reaching up to 16 feet long. Adult octopus feed on crabs, clams, snails, small fish and even other octopi. They typically reside in the cold waters of the Pacific from North America all the way to Japan.
The suckers on an octopus' tentacles give it incredible strength, and it will take 40 pounds of pull to release the grip of a three-pound octopus.
FRESH WATER FISH