Takeover Tuesday: World of The Octopus Edition

It’s #TakeoverTuesday! Thanks for joining me, I’m Ty. I’ve been working here at Newport Aquarium for about 3 years. I moved here from Texas where I worked at the San Antonio Zoo as an aquarist. My favorite aspect of this job is propagation and culturing. I enjoy watching things grow and see something that was once nothing, grow into something.

Jellyfish nursery

Behind-the-scenes with our jellyfish nursery.

 

Octopuses have been known to form attachments and bonds with their keepers. We try to spend as much time as we can with Simon. He can taste with his suction cups. Octopuses have as many 240 suction cups in each arm.

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All GPOs (Giant Pacific Octopuses) are different and have different characteristics and personalities, so forming these relationships helps us understand the specific needs and behaviors of the individual. Also, it’s fun!

suction cups

Octopuses have as many 240 suction cups on each arm.

Octopuses have many well-adapted senses. One unique way they sense is through taste, but octopuses don’t use a tongue to taste, instead they use suction cups. Each suction cup on an octopus arm has taste receptors that allow the animal to taste its surroundings. This helps to not only identify food, but also understand his surroundings, and to identify objects. They can even tell the difference between people using this adaptation, and can tell who they are interacting with based on that persons individual taste.

 

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GPOs are extremely intelligent animals so providing daily stimulus and activities is critical to the animal’s health. We provide different forms of enrichment, all are in the effort to bring out the animal’s natural behaviors as well as to keep the animal entertained and healthy.  We introduce things like common tools used to clean the exhibit, offering him a chance to feel different textures and get used to recognizing the different items we use on the exhibit. This helps him to recognize these tools and learn that they are not a threat. We also use toys, and puzzles to keep the GPO’s mind occupied and stimulated. We use things like hamster balls with food inside and allow the octopus a chance to figure out how to get to the food. This gives the octopus a chance to problem solve, with the end reward of a nice treat.

baster in water

Giant Pacific Octopuses are not the only thing you can see in this exhibit. Other invertebrates such as anemones and sea stars can also be found in the #WorldOfTheOctopus. We hand feed these animals chopped shrimp or fish. Sometimes we use turkey baster to feed smaller food items like krill or brine shrimp, by simply squirting the food in front of them and watch them collect them with their out reached arms.

GPO and not a pumpkin

Here’s a closeup of Simon, the octopus, and what looks like a pumpkin at the bottom of the tank. But that’s a plumose anemone.

plumose anemone

The hamster ball is a form of enrichment, it has a piece of shrimp inside it.

Sometimes you will see what looks like a pumpkin on exhibit. These are not pumpkins, but anemones. The plumose anemones on exhibit will look like giant pluming flowers when open with their arms extending to collecting any passing food. Once they collect the food, they will retract their arms and bring that food to their mouths and start to digest. That’s when they stop looking like flowers and more like a pumpkin. They will also retreat into this ball form when agitated as a way to protect themselves.

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When you’re not looking at the octopus, you might notice several species of sea star crawling around the tank. Using what are called ‘tube feet,’ they slowly crawl around looking for any food items that might be hiding around. Like the octopus, these tube like feet have suction cups at the end of them that allow them to taste their surroundings and stick to objects.

Simon the Giant Pacific Octopus

Simon like to move across the front of the tank. Octopuses are nocturnal, but he’s active in the morning, after he’s fed.

Another fun fact… The way you can tell a male from a female octopus is by looking at its arms. With male octopuses, the 3rd arm on the left side of body is smaller and has no suction cups at the end.

Thanks for joining me for this #TakeoverTuesday #WorldOfTheOctopus 🐙 edition!

Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of Ring of Fire

The team at Newport Aquarium is counting down the days to the launch of the newest exhibit – Ring of Fire, opening soon in March 2018. The exhibit provides guests a chance to experience the animals and amazing stories of the Ring of Fire, one of the most seismically active areas in the world and home to some fascinating animals including the Giant Pacific Octopus, Moon Jellyfish and more.

We recently sat down with Jeff Gibula, Zoological Operations & Exhibit Design Manager at Newport Aquarium, who is busy coordinating the construction of the habitat for the Giant Pacific Octopus.

Did you know? Instead of bringing in construction crews, biologists at the aquarium are the ones influencing the design and constructing the new exhibit, the benefits of which are far reaching.

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“Crafting exhibits is a fantastic artistic outlet for the team,” said Gibula. “Our team is very talented and jam packed with various skill sets, we share this knowledge with each other and teach new skills to develop and expand their tool belts.”

One of the most special aspects of the new exhibit is guests will feel like they are in the habitat of the Giant Pacific Octopus with the rock work spilling out from the exhibit and while exploring the rocky Octopus Den. So far, biologists have spent over 170 hours packing cement for the space surrounding the GPO.

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“Our guests frequently ask to see an octopus on display so we’re pleased to be adding this special animal,” said Gibula. “Octopi are nocturnal, however, and sort of shy, so featuring them in a big exhibit can be difficult. That is why the rock work and very special lighting become so important.”

The design consists of several walls of volcanic, basalt-like rock and fossils, giving guests the look and feel of actually being underwater inside an Octopus’s den. In addition, the viewing windows and push-and-play components have all been placed at a child-suitable height, increasing guest interaction.

Jeff Octo Dan

Gibula looks at the rock work in the Octo Den.

“Our mission is to bring families closer together,” said Gibula. “We make mom and dad the hero by providing information close-by, so they can guide their children through this fun, entertaining and educational experience.”

Stay tuned to learn more about the construction, features and animals of the new Ring of Fire exhibit coming soon! To learn more, visit us at NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-3474.

Ring of Fire image

 

NEW Ring of Fire Exhibit Coming to Newport Aquarium in March

NEWPORT, Ky.Ring of Fire, an all-new immersive exhibit will open this spring. The exhibit will highlight the mysterious creatures that make their home along The Ring of Fire where towering volcanoes and deep ocean trenches line the Pacific Ocean rim.

Guests will explore the new space filled with some of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean, the Giant Pacific Octopus, Moon Jellyfish and Japanese Spider Crabs. They will discover their amazing shape-shifting, color-changing, exoskeleton-shedding behaviors that all take place in this constantly changing ecosystem, where fire meets water.

“The ecology and the biology around the Ring of Fire is one of the most intriguing elements of the oceans,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium Executive Director. “It’s fascinating how awesome Mother Nature and the ocean are to have animals that thrive in that turbulent environment.”

The new exhibit will be unlike any that has come before, complete with unique light and sound effects. Inspired by the volcanoes and earthquakes that define the Ring of Fire, guests will experience a periodic display of glowing light and rumbling sound. The fun show element is a reminder for guests of the churning seismic activity that created the rippling sea floor, caves and other rock formations where amazing creatures like the Giant Pacific Octopus live.

Ring of Fire will feature three zones within the space where guests can explore each specific species:

Giant Pacific Octopus: After witnessing the unusual characteristics of the Giant Pacific Octopus, like their ability to camouflage and change shape, guests will get to explore the Octopus Den. An arched rock portal invites guests into this cave-like new space never before accessible to the public. There, they will learn more about this highly intelligent species through videos and interactives.

NAPQ_RingOfFire2018_GiantPacificOctopus

Moon Jellyfish: An all-new custom built display of Moon Jellyfish will showcase hundreds of the animals as they float and flutter. The picture window display starts just inches off the ground so both little kids and grownups can take in the mesmerizing view.

NAPQ_RingOfFire2018_MoonJellyfish

Japanese Spider Crabs: The spider crabs will be featured in a cylindrical tank where guests can watch them explore their surroundings with a 360-degree view. Wall graphics showing the full size of the species will serve as a fun photo op next to a man-size crab as they can reach up to 12 feet claw to claw in the wild.

NAPQ_RingOfFire2018_JapaneseSpiderCrabs

Annual Pass Deal:
From November 1 to December 31, Newport Aquarium is offering Annual Passes on a “Buy 3, Get 1 Free” sale. Annual Passes are valid for one year from the date of purchase, so guests can use them now to experience Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa and into next year, including a VIP Passholder-only preview party for the opening of Ring of Fire.

Ring of Fire Buy 3 Get 1 Free

The new exhibit will be open by Spring Break, so the first guests will be able to explore the Ring of Fire in March 2018. To learn more about The Ring of Fire exhibit and the animals, visit NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-FISH (3474).

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 Newport Aquarium, named one of the top 10 U.S. aquariums in 2017 by USA Today’s 10Best.com, one of the top U.S. aquariums in 2016 by Leisure Group Travel, and has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

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