"Estuaries such as Long Island Sound are among the most valuable ecosystems in the world. The Sound supports diverse marine life, including most of the fish and shellfish we value as food ..."

– Connecticut Sea Grant

Conservation & Research

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Long Island Sound Fun Fact

Long Island Sound is 113 miles long, 21 miles wide (at its widest) and holds about 18 trillion gallons of water. Its average depth is 63 feet – which is just a little deeper than the height of our IMAX screen! Can you fathom that?!

gray tree frog

Common Name:  Gray Tree Frog

Latin Name:  Hyla veriscolor

Size/weight:  Small (1.5 to 2 inches)

Range:  Most of the eastern half of the U.S., and north into Canada.

Habitat:  Woods near swamps, ponds and rivers.

Diet:  They are nocturnal hunters of flies, moths, caterpillars, beetles, ants, spiders, crickets and other invertebrates.

Predators:  Birds, snakes, other larger frogs. (Fish eat the tadpoles.)

Description:  Usually blotchy gray but also shades of brown and green. They can change their color to match their surroundings. Few frogs can do this.  Whatever color a gray tree frog is at the moment, its inner thighs will always be yellowish-orange.  Backs are warty in appearance, although of course those aren't warts.

Conservation Note:  Not considered to be threatened or endangered. However, habitat destruction and human pollutants are contributing to the overall decline of amphibians.

See them in “Frogs!” on the second floor above the Sharks & Rays Gallery »

Download a fun frogs activity sheet:

pdfFrogs Activity Sheet

hermit crab copy

Common Name:  Flatclaw hermit Crab

Latin Name:  Pagurus pollicaris and p. longicarpus

Size/weight:  About 1⁄2 inch long & wide for P. longicarpus, one inch or more for P. pollicaris

Range: Gulf of Maine to Gulf of Mexico

Habitat:  Sandy and other bottom habitats in depths up to 150 feet.

Diet:  Food (detritus and algae) scavenged off the bottom and within the sand and mud.

Description:  The hermit crab is famous for borrowing the shells or snails or other animals as their own home.  Inside the shell, their hermit crab’s body is long, soft and roughly cylindrical with small appendages, antennae and prominent eye stalks.

Conservation Note:  Not listed as endangered or vulnerable.

See them in the Salt Marsh gallery and in the Touch Tank »

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Common Name: Horseshoe crab

Latin Name: Limulus polyphemus

Size/weight:  Up to 24 inches long and 12 inches wide;  3 or 4 pounds.

Range: Found from Maine to the Yucatan (Mexico).

Habitat: Estuaries to continental shelf

Diet:  Worms, bivalves and other bottom dwelling creatures.

Predators:  Migratory shorebirds, humans (fishing bait).

Description:  The horseshoe crab’s name is somewhat misleading. Although it is shaped like a horseshoe, it’s no crab.  The horseshoe crab is an arachnid, a class of arthropods that also includes scorpions, spiders, mites and ticks.  With two main eyes, two simple (light sensing only) eyes and a mouth on the bottom, the horseshoe crab is well suited to life on the bottom.  A brownish segmented shell offers protection and a pointed tail helps the animal right itself; it’s not used for attacking or even self-defense.

Conservation Note: After surviving on Earth for 300 million years, horseshoe crab numbers are declining. A local study, in which The Maritime Aquarium participates, is looking to find out the health and habits of the horseshoe crab population in Long Island Sound.

See them in the Depths of the Sound gallery (in the Touch Tank and nearby in their own Horseshoe Crabs exhibit) »

 

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Common Name: Lion’s mane jelly

Latin Name:  Cyanea capillata

Size/weight: locally, up to 12 inches in diameter. (But in the Arctic have been measured 7 feet across with tentacles 100 feet long – that’s longer than a blue whale! Thus lion’s manes are the largest known species of jelly ... and one of the world’s largest animals.)

Range:  northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans (including Long Island Sound, where they often are seen in July & August); Arctic Ocean.

Habitat: Floats near surface in offshore waters.

Diet: zooplankton, fish eggs, small shrimp, occasionally other developing jellies.

Predators: Sea turtles, sunfish, some sea birds.

Description: Translucent with an interior body (or bell) coloring that varies with size: smaller individuals skew to orange, while larger specimen reach a vivid crimson. Thick tangle of oral arms under the bell, within long thin tentacles. Their stings are painful but generally not fatal. Like all jellies, they cannot swim against currents and instead are carried by currents (thus, they are a type of plankton). For that reason, and for the fact that they have no eyes, lion’s manes (and all jellies) do not pursue and intentionally sting swimmers.

Conservation Note: An abundant, non-threatened species.

See them at times in the Aquarium’s Jellyfish Encounter exhibit.

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Common Name: American or Northern lobster

Latin Name: Homarus americanus

Size/weight: Extreme cases: up to 40 pounds and 3 feet long

Range: Labrador to Cape Hatteras; most common from Nova Scotia to New York

Habitat:  Crevices or burrows in rocky reefs and muddy bottom habitats

Diet:  Fish, mollusks and other crustaceans scavenged on or near the bottom.

Predators: Sharks, cod, wolfish, goosefish, striped bass, and people with bowls of melted butter.

Description: Most common coloration is greenish brown, but genetic and other factors can produce lobsters of a wide variety of colors.  Two large front claws, one for grabbing and crushing, the other for ripping and tearing.  Eight legs extend from the carapace, segmented abdomen and wide tail.

Conservation Note: Lobster populations have not rebounded since a devastating die-off in Long Island Sound in 1999.  Warming waters due to climate change threaten the lobster's long-term prospects in the Sound.

See them in several habitats in the Depths of the Sound gallery »