Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Mote Aquarium

Finally!  We have internet in our condo once again.  I’m ready to start posting again -- we’ve done so many cool things over the past week and I have lots of questions for you!
Yesterday we went to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, but I’ll share that adventure with you tomorrow.  Today we went north 75 miles to Sarasota and the Mote Aquarium.  The Mote Aquarium is a research laboratory, rehabilitation site, and education center near Siesta Key.  Mote has been doing research and rehab since 1955, but opened the aquarium to the public in 1980.  Mote is unlike any aquarium I have ever been to.  Its buildings have no walls, just ceilings, so you flow back and forth between shelter and open area.  The result is a very natural environment.  Also, it was not busy so it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
My favorite sea creatures!

Our first stop was the Immersion Theater.  We played an interactive game against each other as food on the food chain.  Our goal was to eat our prey but not be eaten by our predators.  The winner of the game would be the great white shark.  Evan was the winner and was high-score for all the aquarium.
We walked to another building and saw the sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees.  When these sea animals are injured, by boats for example, they are brought to the Mote for rehabilitation.  One turtle, named Hang Tough, came to the Mote with severe head injuries in 1992.  The turtle is now blind and is fed by hand.  There are two dolphins who are permanent residents at the aquarium as well.  Both dolphins are unable to return to their natural habitats and will spend the rest of their days at the Mote.  These animals were fascinating, but our favorite animals to watch were the manatees.
This green turtle, named Hang Tough, is blind

There are two manatees that call Mote Aquarium home, Hugh and Buffett.  When we arrived, they had just been ‘fed’ -- this means there were 72 bundles of romaine lettuce floating on the surface.  We watched them maneuver their giant bodies gracefully around the tank, grab the bunches with their flippers, and munch them down.  Today’s trivia questions have to do with manatees, or 'sea cows', so I won’t say too much.
This is Hugh
Other highlights of the aquarium were:
•The Touch Tank  (Have you ever touched a sea cucumber?  Aidan has!)
•The Shark Zone (Home to six kinds of sharks, rays, grouper, and barracuda)
We could watch the sharks from above and below
•Sting Ray Pool (Rays are very soft!)
•Sea Horse Nursery (Most aquariums around the country get their sea horses from the Mote Aquarium!)
These sea horses are two months old
The final highlight of the day was panning for shark teeth.  For a mere $6 we could sift through a bucket of sand and keep any shark teeth we found.  All said, we came away with about 60 teeth.
Sifting for shark tooth treasures
Looking for teeth
We plan to return next week so it made sense for us to purchase a membership.  The deal clincher is the fact that John Ball Zoo and Shedd Aquarium offer full reciprocal benefits, so these places are free to us for a whole year.  Yeah!!
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming....

So are you ready for some questions?  Here they are:

21.  The closest land animal to the manatee is  a) hippo  b) cow  c) elephant

22.  True or False: The manatee was actually the inspiration for the legendary mermaid many years ago.

23.  Which statement is not true?  (2 points)
       a)  Manatees expel a large amount of flatulence.
       b)  Manatees breathe through nostrils, not a blow hole.
       c)  Manatees have no defense mechanisms.
       d)  All manatees live in salt water.

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