- Exhibits & Animals
- IMAX Movies
- Visit the Aquarium
- Fun & Learning
- Long Island Sound
The re-energized focus on Long Island Sound's story is obvious in the colorfully redesigned main hall, which has been renamed Newman's Own Hall in celebration of a $1.2 million grant from Newman's Own Foundation."
– The Norwalk Citizen
Octopuses – along with squid and cuttlefish – are cephalopods (SEFF-a-lo-pods), a class of animals within the mollusk phylum that (among other things) demonstrate the ability to reason.
In The Maritime Aquarium, our giant Pacific octopuses have enjoyed being given puzzles and toys, especially when there is food within. These “enrichments” keep the octopus busy by allowing it to utilize some of the skills that octopuses have developed for survival. Sometimes the enrichments merely are unfamiliar objects that the octopus can feel and explore. Items with different textures, such as Legos® and infant toys that snap together, seem to be especially interesting. Sometimes the item will have a tasty prize inside – usually a piece of fish or a crab. These might be a big pretzel jar with a lid that must be unscrewed. Or a Mr. Potato Head® doll that must have its back end opened to give up its reward. The popular Kong® dog toys, which can hold treats, also are a hit. Sometimes, several days go by before the octopus is ready to let go of its latest toy.
During your Aquarium visits, be sure to visit the octopus (near "Jiggle A Jelly"; opposite the entrance to "Meerkats") and see if it is busy with an “enrichment.”
Yes, there are sharks in Long Island Sound and this is the biggest of four native species. (The other three are brown sharks and two species of dogfish sharks. Certainly, even more species of sharks visit the Sound; they just aren’t considered native to it.)
Don’t worry about dipping your toes in the Sound, though. The last recorded shark attack in the Sound was a non-fatal nip in 1961 by an undetermined species, off of Long Island’s north shore. Don't believe us ... that sharks aren't blood-thirsty marauders? Then watch as our volunteer dive team goes in with the sharks most Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays at 12:15 & 2:15 p.m. (See latest schedule under Public Programs.)
Sand tiger sharks can grow to 10 to 11 feet long but that’s rare. The 7-footers displayed in the Aquarium are a common mature length.
The Maritime Aquarium displays a loggerhead sea turtle and two green sea turtles. None are suitable for release into the ocean.
The two green sea turtles – named Righty & Lefty – were hatched in December 2004 in the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys as part of a research project conducted in conjunction with Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. They came to The Maritime Aquarium in 2008. They're still young (for sea turtles) and, when fully grown, may reach 500 pounds. (Bigger than the loggerhead.)
The loggerhead came to The Maritime Aquarium from Adventure Aquarium (New Jersey State Aquarium) in Camden, N.J.
Because their populations have been drastically reduced, all species of sea turtles are federally protected. Several species make occasional summer appearances in Long Island Sound – green, loggerhead, leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley – then migrate to warmer southern waters in the fall.
Keeping sea turtles here at The Maritime Aquarium represents a long-term commitment. Green sea turtles take 20 to 50 years to reach maturity, and they can live for 80 to 100 years.
With their dog-like faces, the harbor seals stir perhaps the most emotion and empathy from Aquarium visitors. Thus, the seals may be the most effective tool in inspiring visitors to do their part in protecting and conserving Long Island Sound.
Harbor seals are the main species of seal that visits Long Island Sound each winter. (Our Seal Spotting Cruises offer the chance to see them. Details ...) These federally protected animals spend the summer in the Gulf of Maine at their pupping and breeding grounds. But in the winter, they prefer a little space, so a large number of them migrate down into the Sound.
The Maritime Aquarium displays seven females. Their names are Ariel, Leila, Orange, Polly, Rasal, Susie and Tillie. Come see the seals being fed at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 & 3:45 p.m. daily. We don’t ask them to do tricks but we do reward them for entertaining natural behaviors.
Sort of like a 3-year-old human, river otters are constantly in motion … until the need for a quick nap. They’re cute and very fun to watch, but good luck getting them to stay still for a photo!
River otters are common in Connecticut; even in busy Fairfield County. But note that our otters are displayed in the Aquarium's Watershed Gallery. Unlike sea otters of the Pacific coast, river otters do not venture into the salty Sound. Their habitat is a broad area that contains a variety of freshwater feeding opportunities. (River otters are also smaller than sea otters.)
Our River Otter habitat is completely behind glass because, as members of the weasel family, river otters have a musk gland they use to mark their territories. Smelling that would diminish your enjoyment! (You may see one rubbing its neck on a rock or branch depositing its musky fluid.)
We have two river otters on display. They're both male.
Top photo: this is Levi. He was born in February 2014 in Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo as part of their river otter breeding program. He came to The Maritime Aquarium in November 2014 and, after a period of introduction, was added to the exhibit the following month.
And left: this is Lew. He was born in 2003 in Clearwater Florida and was an injured "rescue animal." He came to The Maritime Aquarium shortly after.
How to tell them apart: Levi is slightly smaller and his throat fur is creamier in color and thicker. He also – like an annoying little brother – sometimes tests the patience of Lew.
Actually we want you to call them “jellies,” because they’re not fish. Jellies are fascinating and soothing to watch; in The Maritime Aquarium’s display, they’re like a living lava lamp.
Of course it's often NOT soothing to encounter a jelly in the water. In our “Sting” Gallery, the Aquarium presents several native species of jellies. You’ll find moon jellies in our largest display and usually sea nettles or lion’s mane jellies in smaller tanks. Plus, you can safely touch moon jellies in our "Jiggle A Jelly" exhibit – open on weekends & school holidays Sept.-June and daily in July & August. It's safe because the sting of moon jellies is benign to humans.
Exhibiting jellies is no easy feat. They’re such poor swimmers that they would be sucked into the filtration system of most normal aquarium displays. So we have them in special tanks with gentle water circulation. Be sure to visit our Marine Lab too, to see how we raise a year-round supply.
Often, the best learning experience occurs by touch. At our Intertidal Touch Tank, we offer “hands-on” learning with guided introductions to a variety of animals commonly found on the Long Island Sound shoreline.
You’ll feel the tickly feet of sea stars, the smooth hard surface of horseshoe crabs, the protective single foot of the whelk and lots more.
It’s all safely and capably presented by members of the Aquarium’s trained volunteer staff. (Look for them in their green shirts at other key locations in the Aquarium!)
Though it may seem like you need to drum up your nerve to touch the animals in the new "Shark & Ray Touch Pool," there’s no danger in it at all. The several species of sharks in the "okay to touch end" of the pool are docile and the rays’ stinging barbs have been removed.
A side window, plus an underwater viewing window for kids, offer cool perspectives as the rays cut through the water.
When you're ready, just roll up your sleeves and use two fingers gently please!