Spiny Lobster, NC Aquarium

This interesting fellow is a spiny lobster.  He’s probably the largest lobster I’ve ever seen.

There are a couple things that set a spiny lobster apart from true lobsters.  First, they spiny lobsters have very long antennae- this lobster’s antennae were probably two feet across.  The antennae are sometimes used as a defense.  The lobster rubs the antennae against a hard surface to create a rasping sound which apparently sounds like Air Supply because the predators can’t stand the sound.

Another difference between spiny lobsters and true lobsters is that spiny lobsters don’t have the large claws associated with true lobsters.  In fact, they don’t usually have claws at all.  Despite not having the large, and tasty, claws associated with true lobsters, spiny lobsters are still a popular food source.  The spiny lobster industry in Vietnam is a major source of revenue and spiny lobster are the largest food export of the Bahamas.

Lobster

Moray Eel, NC Aquarium

We recently paid a visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  It’s a nice aquarium with a focus on animals that inhabit the North Carolina coastal region but they do have a few non-native species.

This photo is of a moray eel doing what moray eels do- lying in wait to ambush a passing fish.  Morays have very small eyes and cannot see well, so they depend on their sense of smell to tell them when a potential meal is approaching.

One interesting thing about moray eels is they sometimes team with roving coral groupers to help them hunt.  The eels can flush small prey from niches and crevices where the larger groupers can’t go.

Moray Eel

Plastic Maverick, NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher

There are two things that the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher does well.  The first is educate people about the various kinds of animals- land, sea and air- that inhabit North Carolina’s coastal region.  The second thing they do well is educate people about the effects of pollution, especially trash and chemicals, on the wildlife.

Meet Plastic Maverick.  This sculpture, by teen volunteer Adilene Trujillo Garcia, is made entirely out of trash found on the local beach during  beach sweeps and cleanups.  The feathers are made of discarded plastic water bottles and cigarette butts.  Plastic Maverick is also entangled in plastic twine and is surrounded by trash.

There’s been a lot of news lately about plastic found in the stomachs of whales and about animals who have become entangled in discarded trash.  The stories and videos are quite heartbreaking but usually end well, with a passing human saving the animal.  Here’s the deal, though.  For each of these videos or stories that end well, there are many more where the animal isn’t so lucky.

We can help by NOT discarding of our trash on the beach, the river or the woods, but holding onto it until we have access to trash can.  Also, you can opt for paper bags rather than plastic or, even better, you can use a reusable cloth bag.

When I was a child, the Bald Eagle was virtually extinct.  Conservation efforts have brought this magnificent bird back from the brink and we now have the opportunity to see the bird outside of zoos.  I’ve seen several in North Carolina and Virginia over the last few years and it’s always a thrill.  I would urge you to help in the conservation and protection of all wildlife by not polluting their environment.

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Now, for those interested, here’s the real Maverick.  He was found injured alongside a Wisconsin road in 2013.  Despite medical attention and rehabilitation, Maverick’s wing was too badly damaged and he would never fly again.  He found a permanent home at the aquarium and is a great ambassador for wildlife conservation.  He’s about six years old.

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Quite handsome, isn’t he?