June 12, 2012
Guests can now engage with more animals at Georgia Aquarium’s touch pool! Recently, horseshoe crabs and cownose rays were reintroduced to the touch pool outside of our SunTrust Georgia Explorer gallery to join the bonnethead sharks. Don’t worry - they don’t bite!
The cownose ray is one of the most abundant and commonly observed rays in coastal waters ranging from New England to Florida throughout the Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil. They are also found off the northwest coast of Africa. The ray’s common name is derived from the appearance of its head, which resembles that of a cow’s nose. Cownose rays forage along the bottom of shallow waters for all sorts of bivalves, small crustaceans and other items that live in sandy or muddy habitats. This species of ray is itself a prey item for a variety of sharks. In fact, recent population growth among cownose rays may be linked to the demise of coastal sharks due to overfishing. Cownose rays are often used in touch tank presentations because of their calm demeanor and presence near the water surface, making them easy to gently touch.
One of the most primitive and interesting of all aquatic species is the horseshoe crab. They, too, are found in coastal waters from Maine to Mexico. Horseshoe crabs are actually not crabs, but arthropods, a group which includes scorpions and spiders. Horseshoe crabs crawl along the shallow sea bottom feeding on smaller invertebrates such as worms, tiny crabs, etc. In addition to the fact that they have been present in our nearby ocean for millions of years, horseshoe crabs are famous for their blood. The presence of copper – rather than iron in human blood – yields a light blue color. This particular blood is utilized worldwide in medical research as an agent to test drug purity or for the presence of dangerous bacteria in processed foods. So, even though horseshoe crabs have two sets of eyes, a hard shell and an ancient appearance, they are a harmless and important species.
Guests of all ages can enjoy our touch pool with a general admission ticket. Georgia Aquarium offers many other interactive programs that are available on our website. Come see what’s waiting for you at Georgia Aquarium and let your imagination come to play!
Written by: Stephanie Sorensen, Digital Media Team