Under the Sea: 7 Fun, Fishy Facts From Our Favorite Aquariums

Life is the bubbles on an aquarium scavenger hunt

Few places are more fun—and soothing during a summer heat wave—than an aquarium. There’s a reason we love to run aquarium scavenger hunts in your local fish palace: It’s all cool creatures, chill temps, and calming blue tones. Oh, and crazy fish facts! Here are seven of the coolest, weirdest things we’ve learned about (mostly) marine life at aquariums all over America.

Sharks Smell

And we don’t mean they stink (although they do have a fishy musk about them). At the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, you can learn all about sharks’ incredible super senses, including their sense of smell. Turns out, certain sharks can smell a single drop of blood among a million drops of water, as much as a thousand feet away. That is one powerful shark-schnoz!

Oh Snap

One of the loudest beasts in the sea is not a singing whale or a roaring lionfish.* It’s a wee crustacean! The Caribbean Snapping Shrimp boasts asymmetrical claws, the larger of which it snaps to create a special kind of high-pressure bubble. The bubble is so loud—its 218 decibels is louder than a space-shuttle launch or a battleship firing all its guns at once—that it can kill nearby fish from the shock of the sound alone. You can learn about the Snapping Shrimp at Boston’s New England Aquarium. There you’ll also learn that dolphins have to adjust their echolocation frequency when they’re around these snappy shrimp, otherwise the loud snaps disrupt their ability to do basically anything!

*Lionfish most definitely do not roar. That was just a joke.

When You Wish Upon a Star

At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, you can meet Pisaster ochraceus, or the Ochre Sea Star. This bright, lumpy starfish seems harmless enough…but looks can be deceiving. The Ochre Sea Star is a ravenous creature that can rip open shells and push its stomach out through its own mouth to smother and digest its prey. Even against mussels, which can clamp themselves tight, this starfish needs only the smallest opening to squish its stomach into and start dissolving the mussel with its deadly digestive juices.

The Moo-tion of the Ocean

Meet the Cownose Ray, a cute fella that lives all over the Atlantic and Caribbean, around Australia, and at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J. You can find a few at this fun venue just outside of Philadelphia, but in the wild it’s a whole other story. Cownose Rays travel in schools as large as an incredible 10,000 strong. And given that they can reach 3 feet wide and 25 pounds each, that’s one beefy stampede.

Just Look at This Thing

Yikes! That’s the Sarcastic Fringehead, a viciously territorial little fish you’ll see at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The thing looks like the Predator, and it sure acts like one too. It will defend its home from an invader of any size, no matter how laughable the match-up might be. And should that invader be another Sarcastic Fringehead, the two lock their hideous flappy lips together and engage in a bout or two of mouth wrestling.

Shedding Light on Dolphins

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is famous in part for its Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, a rarely studied dolphin that looks like it saw a penguin once and wanted to be just as dapper. They prefer cold climes, living as far north as the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska. Appropriately, the Shedd’s dolphins are all named in Tlingit, the endangered language of the First Nations tribe of the Pacific Northwest—but they all have names in Dolphinese too! Like some other marine life that live in tight-knit communities, each Pacific White-Sided Dolphin has a unique “name-whistle” it uses to identify itself to its pals.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Meerkats! These African cuties most definitely are not aquatic, but they’re still among the most popular animals at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut. As cuddly as they are, Meerkats enjoy a decidedly un-cuddly snack: scorpions. But no worries—Meerkats are immune to scorpion venom, meaning they can eat the creepy crawlies to their hearts’, and tummies’, content. Hakuna matata!

Photo courtesy of Glenn Haertlein via Unsplash.