The California sheephead, a wrasse native to the eastern Pacific Ocean, begins life as a female with pink coloration. When it grows to a length of about 18 inches, it transforms into a male. Their protruding canine teeth, which give them their menacing appearance, are adapted for prying hard-shelled animals from rocks. The California sheephead uses its powerful jaws and sharp teeth to crush the prey, and modified throat bones to grind the shells into small pieces. See this fish in the Kelp Forest exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore.
Albino American alligator
Just in time for Halloween! The National Aquarium’s Washington, DC, venue unveiled an extremely rare albino American alligator this month in a temporary exhibit, Secrets of the Swamp. This 4-foot-long snow-white beauty is one of fewer than 100 albino alligators in the entire world, and she's only here through February. Don't miss your chance to catch a glimpse of this ghost of the swamp! Generally, alligators with albinism cannot survive in the wild; their inability to blend in with their surroundings not only makes them unable to ambush prey, but also draws the unwanted attention of predators. Albinism is a genetic condition in which an animal lacks melanin, or coloration pigment, in the eyes and skin, resulting in this alligator’s unusual translucent scales and pink eyes.
Grey-headed flying fox
The aptly-named flying fox looks very much like the canine creature for which it is named. The grey-headed flying fox, otherwise known as a fruit bat, makes its home in the tall trees of the tropical rain forests in northeastern Australia and the Southeast Asian islands. The grey-headed flying fox is the largest of the flying foxes, growing to up to one kilogram in weight, with a wingspan of up to one meter. They live in large colonies which can contain up to a million individuals, and the colony sizes keep increasing as the flying foxes’ habitat is destroyed, limiting roosting sites. The next time you visit the Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, be sure to look up to the ceiling for a glimpse at a small colony of these amazing winged creatures.
Black ghost knifefish
- Black ghost knifefish
This mysterious-looking tropical fish is known as the black ghost knifefish. It is a weakly electric fish that uses an electric organ and receptors distributed over the length of its body to locate insect larvae.
Grass shrimp This unworldly-looking creature is a grass shrimp, common in estuarine waters along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Their bodies are nearly transparent, except for orange or yellow pigment in the eyestalks. Grass shrimp also have a well-developed rostrum (horn) with teeth along the edges, four spines on the telson (the pointed structure in the middle of the tail fan), and heads that are longer than the rest of the body.
Phyllobates terribilis, the golden poison frog
Even though you won't see one of these at the National Aquarium, how could we not include an animal with a name like Phyllobates terribilis
on this list? This tiny frog is found in the Amazonian rain forest along the Pacific coast of Colombia, and it certainly lives up to its name! Considered to be one of the most toxic animals on Earth, golden poison dart frogs have enough venom to kill 10 grown humans. Their bright yellow skin is saturated in an alkaloid poison that contains batrachotoxins, which prevent nerves from transmitting nerve impulses and ultimately result in muscle paralysis. The bright-yellow frog on view in the Hidden Life exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore is a Panamanian golden frog—which is actually a toad! This beautifully colored toad may not be lethal like P. terribilis
, but seeing one is certainly a rare opportunity. This species is critically endangered. The Panamanian golden frog is under pressure from habitat destruction, illegal poaching (collection), and the Chytrid fungus. The Chytrid fungus is probably the leading cause of amphibian decline in the world. The National Aquarium, Baltimore, is one of several organizations participating in Project Golden Frog, a conservation project involving scientific, educational and zoological institutions in the Republic of Panama and the United States that aims to understand this species through husbandry (breeding), research and education programs.