With the beginning of our summer hours come additional opportunities throughout the day to get a sneak peek of some live Aquarium animals that live behind the scenes.

At 10:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1:45 p.m., and 3:15 p.m. in the Blue Planet Action Center, the Aquarium’s Visitor Education team will discuss some of the amazing animals at the Aquarium as well as actions we can take to help them and their diverse habitats stay healthy.

Some of the animals you will be able to get closeup views of are a Blanding’s turtle, red-bellied cooter, box turtle, snapping turtle, Pac-Man frog, cane toad, axolotl, and American lobster.

Blanding’s turtles

These turtles – like Skip, seen here – have bright yellow chins and long, yellow necks. Blanding’s turtles live throughout the eastern and central parts of the United States and Canada. Along a good portion of their habitats, Blanding’s turtles are considered an endangered species. At the New England Aquarium, Blanding’s turtles are one of the species that are part of a headstart program, which allows them to grow all winter. This program gives turtles a better chance of survival once they are released back into the wild.

red-bellied cooter

Red-bellied cooters

As their name suggests, red-bellied cooters are known for the reddish color of their plastrons (the underside of their shells). These animals are considered an endangered species, so it is important that we be mindful of their habitats. A few ways we can support healthy populations of turtles are supporting conservation areas in our communities, keeping an eye out for turtles in our yards before we use lawnmowers or recreational vehicles, and watching for turtles in the road. If a turtle is spotted in a roadway, we can lend them a hand (or two) across, being sure to carry them the way they are facing.

snapping turtle

Snapping turtles

Snapping turtles have notoriously strong jaws and hard beaks. Although they can grow to be quite large (over 20 pounds), these turtles can’t withdraw into their shells, so they rely on their snapping abilities to protect themselves, as well as to catch food. The temperature of snapping turtle nests determines whether a male or female will be born. A colder nest temperature will result in a male while a warmer temperature results in a female. We can make sure there is a balanced population of male and female snapping turtles by remaining conscientious of climate change and making choices that limit our fossil fuel usage. Carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere not only affects our air, it impacts turtles.   

Pac-Man frogs

Argentine horned frogs are colloquially known asPac-Man frogs because of their hefty appetites and tendency to eat whatever they can fit in their mouths. Pac-Man frogs are ambush predators, which means they burrow themselves into their surroundings and surprise prey as it goes by. They can eat anything from large bugs to small birds. The native habitat for Pac-Man frogs is the Amazon Rainforest, so they often face challenges like deforestation, which is an issue that also impact humans. Trees take excess carbon dioxide out of the air and release oxygen that we readily use. We can help protect forested habitats by making sure we know the source of the products we use in our everyday lives. It’s also important to support the conservation of habitats like forests so animals (like the Pac-Man frog), as well as humans, have healthy homes.  

Box turtles

A distinguishing feature of box turtles is (no surprise!) their boxy shells. These shells have a hinge on the underside, so box turtles can pull their head and legs inside and shut the door behind them. This ability gives the turtles extra protection when faced with predators. Despite the advantage, box turtles are still considered a threatened species. One of the reasons for this is habitat fragmentation (their native home areas are split into pieces). Habitat fragmentation occurs when developments such as housing complexes and roads divide areas such as nest sites and food sources. We can give the turtle population a helping hand by leaving certain areas undeveloped as wildlife conservation areas. We can also work within our communities to install natural corridors, which are bridges above or tunnels below roadways, granting wildlife easier access to all of their habitat areas.

cane toad

Cane toads

Michael is a representative for cane toads. Michael, the canetoad. Get it? We love puns. Cane toads produce a poisonous liquid in the glands of their shoulders that helps protect them in the wild. While they play an important role as predators in Central America and South America, cane toads are an invasive species everywhere else. Even though they are fascinating, it’s important to prevent populations of invasive species from booming since they can out-compete local species for food and habitat. One way to limit the number of invasive species in the wild is by making sure we research animals thoroughly before we acquire them as pets. If a pet is not working out as anticipated, it should be returned or given to the proper authorities rather than be let loose outside, especially if the surrounding area is not a habitat to which it is native.

axolotl

Axolotls

These incredible amphibians spend their entire lives in the water with the help of frilly gills that stick out on the tops of their heads. Oh, and they can regenerate certain percentages of any part of their bodies! Unfortunately, axolotls are almost extinct in the wild due to water pollution and the introduction of invasive species. While there are a lot of axolotls in human care, it’s important to support the health of all amphibians in the wild. Since amphibians spend a lot of time near water sources (and in them) and can absorb oils and toxins directly through their skin, one way we can protect them is by making sure we keep water sources and surrounding areas clean.

american lobster

American lobsters

These crustaceans are probably best known for their large claws, which they use to help them get food. The larger of the two is called the crusher claw, and the skinnier one is the pincer claw. American lobsterscan be an assortment of colors, including rusty brown, blue, or even a half-and-half split of two different colors! Aside from their cool claws and colors, lobsters are popular because of their place on seafood menus. It’s crucial then that we help support healthy populations of lobster by making sustainable seafood choices. Eating sustainably means leaving enough animals in the wild to support a species. It also means respecting the habitats from which we get our food options. Actions like asking how seafood was caught as well as supporting laws and practices that support sustainability are easy ways to keep lobster populations afloat.  

moon jellies holding jelly tube

The animals listed above aren’t the only ones we bring out from behind the scenes for summer. As you make your way around the Aquarium, you might even be lucky enough to run into an educator carrying a jelly tube. Inside the tubes are young moon jellies. Since their bodies are made up mostly of water, it would be pretty tough to see them without a little help from the glow of our flashlights. In the wild, moon jellies are a favorite treat of sea turtles. Floating around in the water, however, items such as plastic bags can look very similar to a tasty jelly. Not only are the jellies amazing (making their way through life, somehow, with zero brains and four stomachs), they are a great reminder that we need to keep our oceans clean so the diverse species, including humans, that rely on them can thrive.