New Tricks

Menacing yet living peacefully with so many fish

Menacing yet living peacefully with so many fish

The Secret Reef display at the Tennessee Aquarium is yet another place where one can easily lose track of time.  The tank extends from the top to the bottom of the Ocean Journey building with ramps that lead visitors deeper and deeper until you end on the ground floor with the reef over your head.

This provides ample viewing opportunities to see animals at all depths of the tank.  If the sea turtle happens to be surfacing for air, you can see it at the top.  If it happens to be eating, you’ll see it a couple floors down, and if it decides to take a nap, you might also see it on the bottom.  If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to see it at all the levels.

The sharks seem to float through the center of the tank, mostly.  They are the most ferocious looking of the creatures in the tank, yet they float docilely by the rest of the members of the community.  I have to imagine that they don’t eat their neighbors–the aquarium couldn’t afford to keep replacing them.  My theory is that even a species that’s been around since the time of the dinosaurs can learn new tricks when its well fed.

My other favorite residents are the two green sea turtles.  Stewie is a giant–or at least he looks giant compared to the size of the rest of the inhabitants.  Every time he floats into view I think of the Disc World series by Terry Pratchett.  For those of you who are not geeks, this is a sci-fi/fantasy series of books that take place on a planet that rides on the backs of 4 elephants who are, in turn, riding on the back of a giant sea turtle who swims through space.  Presumably he’s much larger than Stewie.

Stewie swims out of the shadows, giving us a clear view of his stout tail

Stewie swims out of the shadows, giving us a clear view of his stout tail

Doesn't Stewie look like he could carry a planet through space?

Doesn’t Stewie look like he could carry a planet through space?

When I see Stewie, I find myself thinking perhaps it is not completely preposterous that a planet might be propelled through space on the back of a sea turtle.  Although, the books are, of course, tongue-in-cheek.

Stewie poses briefly

Stewie poses briefly

The other sea turtle bopping about in the secret reef tank is Oscar.  Oscar has a bit of a story.  The first time we ever saw Oscar, he was wedged under a rock at the bottom of the tank and appeared to be dead.  Apparently visitors report a dead sea turtle in the tank every time Oscar takes a nap (which is a daily occurrence).

In reality, Oscar was rescued following a collision with a boat.  He lost most of his back flippers and ended up with air trapped under his shell.  As a result, he floats abnormally for a sea turtle.  So, he wedges his head under a rock and his rear-end floats toward the top, looking very odd indeed.  Fortunately for Oscar, he’s doing quite well at the Tennessee Aquarium and has quite the fan club.

Who says you can’t teach an old turtle new tricks?

Stewie turns slowly having noticed food

Stewie turns slowly having noticed food

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