At the Aquarium
'The Twelve Days
Maris Wicks is an accomplished writer and illustrator of science comics. Back in 2014, she traveled with the New England Aquarium dive team for a Bahamas expedition.
Spending time with all those beautiful fish inspired her to create a series of festive illustrations featuring some of the animals from our Caribbean coral reef Giant Ocean Tank. Aren’t we lucky that she’s sharing them with us here on the blog!
Greetings, humans! It’s me, Maris.
I was feeling quite festive, and I thought that I would share with you one of my favorite carols, “The Twelve Days of Fishmas.” You heard me correctly: FISHMAS. This song celebrates just a few of the inhabitants of the New England Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank (aka the “GOT”)—past and present.
Enjoy—and please feel free to sing along!
The coral reef habitat inside the GOT is actually made of fiberglass! Even though it’s not real coral, it still provides shelter and a place to rest for many of the tank’s residents, including six different species of parrotfish.
There are actually three sea turtles in the GOT: one green sea turtle (Myrtle), and two loggerhead sea turtles (Carolina and Retread).
Oh, and I would also like to mention that turtles are NOT fish; they are reptiles.
French grunts are often found schooling in the middle of the water column (and obviously not in the above formation … they usually swim together in a group, but not for any fancy Olympic-style synchronized swimming moves). Many of the grunts were hatched and raised by the New England Aquarium!
You kind of have to sing this one “Flooooouuunnnder” to make it work with the song. While there are no flounder in the Giant Ocean Tank right now, you can find these flatfish in the Gulf of Maine exhibits and the Edge of the sea touch tank!
What would the GOT be without its divers? They go into the tank five times a day to feed hundreds of animals that call this Caribbean reef habitat home, and to clean and maintain the 200,000-gallon tank.
Oh, and divers are NOT fish; they are mammals.
The moray eels are some of the largest fish in the GOT. There are three green morays and one spotted. If you see one, it already looks likes it’s caroling on account of the way they open and close their mouths. They are not actually singing; they are getting more water to pass over their gills via their mouth.
Snappers are another schooling fish. There 12 different species of snapper in the tank right now! Look for them hanging out with the French grunts.
There is barracuda patrolling the top of the reef. Look for the black spots on its back. If you’re lucky, you might see the diver team feeding this fish using its target! Oh, and same with the flounder, sing this one “Barr-a-cuda” to make it work with the song.
This is a rather utopian portrayal of damselfish, considering how territorial they tend to be. The defense of their habitat is not unjustified; damselfish are often protecting a clutch of eggs!
Yet another schooling fish, lookdowns are often found swimming higher up in the GOT (hence the whole “lookdown” part of their name). These fish were also raised here at the Aquarium!
Pufferfish, balloonfish, porcupinefish … they all have the ability to inflate when threatened by gulping water. There are five species of puffer in the GOT now: porcupinefish, balloonfish, striped burrfish, webbed burrfish, and a spotfin burrfish!
The Giant Ocean Tank is home to one big black drum that likes to hang out on the bottom. Black drums have little fish-beards (ok, the correct term is BARBELS) that help them sense prey. But that’s not even the coolest thing about them. They actually DRUM! Well, they make a noise like a drum with the help of a specialized organ called a swim bladder. Normally, the swim bladder is used for controlling buoyancy, but in some species of fish, it also makes sounds.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my stirring rendition of “The Twelve Days of Fishmas.” May your holidays be filled with cocoa (damelsfish) and candy cane (shrimps) on a snowy (grouper) night!