We've been happily busy since our grand opening and our animals (not to mention our workers) are comfortably settling into their temporary homes. Our juvenile Wolf eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) curiously ventures out of her barnacle den during the late afternoon in search of food, the Decorator crabs (Naxia tumida) happily place sea lettuce and fucus onto their backs in attempts to camouflage themselves against possible predators and our lovely giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) Barbara puts on quite a show chasing red rock crabs around the tank in preparation for a delicious meal.
Things are becoming so comfortable, in fact, that we are already noticing several new non-human additions to our aquarium; not only can you often find crabs clutching onto one another in a pre-mating holdfast (leading several visitors to ask the question, ‘what exactly are they doing?!), but looking through the glass in our tidepool tank reveals several Perch (kelp, shiner, and striped) that are looking a little larger in the middle than normal. Are these gals pigging out on krill?
Doubtful. They're pregnant!
Perch have a complex mating ritual where the males perform a courtship dance for attractive females. If their moves are seductive enough the female will let the males mate with them. Sound familiar? Five to six months later anywhere from 3 to 40 babies are born. Within a few weeks the expecting females will look about ready to explode with their little babies. In preparation for the mass birthing, we're planning to relocate our mothers from any potential baby eaters, such as black rockfish, predators capable of turning the miracle of life into a smorgasbord! Of course, such is the way of life in the ocean and we can't protect all our newborns from the wonders of natural selection. The babies, 1 ¼” miniature version of their parents, are born so well developed that they practically swim out of their mothers. The males are also born reproductively mature with females maturing only a few weeks later. Cool, hey!
Just recently we’ve also found some Opalescent squid (Loligo opalescens) eggs which look about ready to hatch. The mating ritual of these fast swimming cephalods is not quite as romantic as that of the perch; instead, the male will aggressively grab the female and deposit his sperm packet (using his hectocotylized third right arm) inside the mantle of the female. The female then lays dozens of large egg capsules shaped like gelatinous cigars, each containing 180-300 eggs! The eggs develop directly and, after about three to five weeks, hatch, but the adults die shortly after spawning. These little squidlets aren’t left entirely unprotected though; the egg capsules have no taste or odor, so they are not perceived by food as predators! We’re looking forward to having a tank full of swimming squids soon.
Spawning is almost a weekly event in the aquarium with various species releasing mass amounts of sperm and eggs into the surrounding water. Come visit the aquarium for answers about where babies come from and to check out the progress on our animals!