Under the sea: Science Center offers up-close look at fish, rays & sharks

By Jordan Carey
Times-News correspondent 

A Cownose Stingray swims by in the "touch tank" of the Hands On Harbor at the Greensboro Science Center's SciQuarium. Anna Katherine Carey, Special to the Times-News

GREENSBORO — Besides being a museum and a zoo, the Greensboro Science Center also is an aquarium. Within the last few years, the Science Center has added its SciQuarium wing, next to the museum section. All the animals, with the exception of the two fisher cats and the otter families, are native to the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the most popular exhibits in the aquarium is Shark Reef, but “the penguins are pretty funny, too,” said Jennifer Larsen, who is an educator for some of the tours behind the scenes. Her job as an educator is “to show people what the job actually entails.”
There are six exhibits in the SciQuarium: Shark Reef, Fishing Cat Cove, Penguin Point, Otter Lagoon, Amazon Edge and Hands On Harbor.
The largest of them, Shark Reef, holds 90,000 gallons of water behind six-inch-thick acrylic walls. Unlike glass, the acrylic walls are less likely to fracture under the pressure of so much water. There are many species of rays, fish and sharks. Because there are several sharks in the tank, the aquarists usually know who the culprit is when a fish goes missing.
   Fishing Cat Cove is one of the only exhibits that is mostly dry land. The two fishing cats, which are native to southern Asia, are one of two species of animals on exhibit which are not found near the Atlantic ocean. The cats are one of the smaller species of predatory cats, and resemble housecats because they are small.
      Penguin Point is the home to the African Penguins. The Science Center helps the conservation of the birds by participating in breeding programs with other aquariums, as well as holding fundraisers for organizations which help protect the penguins. African Penguins are sometimes confused with puffins, as they are a warm climate species of penguins
  The Asian Small-Clawed Otters of Otter Lagoon are the only other non-Atlantic species. The SciQuarium has three adult otters, and six who are not quite mature. Their home is a habitat of a rock outcrop, hollowed logs for hiding in, and a small pond, which allows them to swim. Many of the otters enjoy playing with metal objects, but on occasion, they have been known to scratch the glass on their enclosed exhibit.
   About half of the Amazon Edge exhibit consists of dry land. Because the exhibit has a few Golden Lion Tamarins, the tank is only partially in water; trees and ropes behind the water’s edge are where the small monkeys live. The only exhibit to have reptiles, the Amazon Edge is home to mata-mata turtles, an anaconda, as well as many species of fish.
    The last exhibit, Hands On Harbor, is in the center of the aquarium. As its name suggests, the harbor is a touch tank. Two species, the cow-nose stingray and the bamboo shark, live in the tank. Touch tanks are always a favorite of kids, and the Hands On Harbor is no exception.
Right now, the aquarium is undergoing an expansion, which will add tanks that will hold Pacific sea life. Since many fish eat coral, all of the rocks and hiding places in the Atlantic tanks are manmade. In the expansion, one of the new tanks will have live coral in it. Several other sea creatures, including sea jellies, will be added.

   To plan a trip to the Greensboro Science Center’s SciQuarium or any part of the Science Center, visit their website at www.greensboroscience.org or call the number 336-288-3769.

Jordan Carey is a ninth-grade home-schooler and a Teens & 20s writer.

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