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10/16/14

Fall is Here!

Fall has arrived in New England and with it comes cool, crisp days, pumpkin-flavored everything and the leaves changing from green to vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. At the Aquarium, we take the tradition of looking at fall foliage in a whole new, watery direction!

Leaves of a different sort
What's a good place to start looking at fall foliage in the exhibit space? Take a look at the leafy seadragons! The leafy extensions on their body help them camouflage into their environment, and their exhibit! By moving slowly within the gently swaying seaweed, these animals seamlessly blend in to their surroundings. (For another take on camouflage, check out this post on countershading!)

A tree with leaves? Nope—a scarlet psolus feeding!

In other parts of the Aquarium, bright fall colors are on display. Oranges, rusty reds, vibrant yellows all work together to create a seasonal tableau that signals, for many, the favorite New England season. So where to look for these amazing colors?

Orange and red sea anemones peek out at the tide pool

Want to see some orange on display? There are lots of animals to choose from. Take a look at the sea anemones in the Edge of the Sea tidepool touch tank. These jelly relatives range in color from browns to reds in New England, but the ones on exhibit here are bright orange. (The springy green variety is found in our Northern Waters gallery. Check out the video here...wait for it...)

Another favorite orange resident is the rare orange colored lobster in our Isle of Shoals exhibit. While lobsters can change their color depending on their diet, this lobster's color is due to genetics. This makes it pretty rare specimen: it's estimated that 1 out of 30 million lobsters are this color! Rare or not, it's the perfect coloration for the fall!

Orange-colored shell for the fall? Check!

Is yellow more your color? Not to worry. Look no further than our salt marsh exhibit. Having been replanted with live vegetation from a local salt marsh just recently, the grasses and other plants are in full bloom. Mustard yellow flowers are at the front of the space, giving the exhibit a fall season feel.

New England salt marsh colors

Not to be limited to the colder climates, the tropics have its share of yellow inhabitants. Vibrant yellow tanks can be found tropical Pacific Reef exhibit. Tangs do come in many different colors and patterns. This diversity helps them blend into their coral reef home.

Vibrant yellows from the tropics

And while these animals highlight predominantly one fall color, we have animals on exhibit that manage to combine these fall colors into amazing displays, much like the woods of New England. The Asian arowana, located in the Ancient Fishes exhibit, demonstrates this perfectly! Large scales on their body fade from brown to orange to gold. And while it only has two main colors, the bi-colored goatfish in the West Wing brings some yellow and red to the party.

Fall colors on every scale
Bi-colored goatfish is ready for the season

So if you finding yourself craving some fall foliage and are looking for the colors of fall, you can certainly head to the woods of New England. Want to stay a closer to Boston? Come and visit the New England Aquarium and take in the many colors of the season. You can even wear your comfy sweater.

Blackbelly Rose Fish doing some leaf peeping?

9/11/14

Countershading Camouflage!

Many people are familiar with the “tuxedo” coloration of our African penguins. The white belly and black backs are distinctive and well known. But ever wonder why they have this coloration? Believe it or not, it’s a form of camouflage called countershading. And it's not just for penguins—many aquatic animals have this special coloration.

Formal dress is always in style in the penguin exhibit



Countershading refers to an animal as having dark coloration on the upper side of the body and a lighter color on the underside. If a predator swims above a prey item, like a penguin, and looks down, the dark back coloration blends in with the shadows or the dark ocean bottom. On the flip side, if a predator is underneath and looks up, the white or light colored underside of the prey blends in to the lighter colored sky/top of the water.

You can find examples of countershading throughout the Aquarium. And it’s not just for prey items—countershading works for predators too! Just as it allows prey animals to hide, predators take advantage of their countershading and become stealthy, blending into their surroundings. Take a close look at our sharks and their stingray cousins—lots of countershading examples here! Our leopard whiptail stingray even adds some fashionable spots, some disruptive camouflage, to the mix.

Blacknose shark cruising in the Giant Ocean Tank

Dark leopard spots add to the effect-very fashionable!

Want to take a nap undisturbed? Not a problem if you are a green turtle. The mottled color on their carapace blends in to their coral reef surroundings, while their light colored plastron protects from predators below while they are swimming. Even Myrtle can camouflage into the reef! Can you find her in her favorite napping spot?

Even Myrtle is countershaded!

The turtle version of hide-and-go-seek!

Green anacondas may grow to be over 25 feet long, but they still use countershading! When small, dark olive spots help juveniles blend in with tree bark and light belly spots blend in with the dappled sunlight and leaves. Once they move into their aquatic homes, anacondas benefit from this coloration as well. Dark backs blend in with dark riverbeds and light colors blend in with sunlight from surface of the water.

Olive and yellow spots-a perfect outfit for an anaconda

Countershading isn’t just for animals with backbones-some of our cephalopods are countershaded. Check out the nautilus and the cuttlefish in the Tropical Gallery! Nautiluses have dark stripes on the top curve of their shell to blend in with the dark ocean bottom. And while cuttlefish can instantly c
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