National Aquarium in Baltimore

The National Aquarium in Baltimore, otherwise known as the Baltimore Aquarium is the area’s most popular attraction. The National Aquarium Institute runs the organization as a non-profit group and vows to inspire people to enjoy, respect, and protect the aquatic world. They do this through pioneering science, conservation, and educational programming as they delve into the issues facing the global aquatic habitats of the world.

The National Aquarium can easily fill a day with fun activities and can in fact probably fill a couple days as there are literally hundreds of exhibits featuring more than 16,500 animals. The current premier exhibits include a 4D Immersion Theater which brings you closer to the sights, sounds and smells of the action, a totally new theater experience. Another premiere exhibit is the Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes where the exciting environment of Australia is replicated by the Animal Planet to give you an exciting adventure like no other. And there’s nothing quite like the Baltimore Aquarium’s premier exhibit, Play! The Dolphin Show. View the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins as they frolic and play or purchase a separate ticket to get the full dolphin experience.

Of the many, many animals at the Baltimore Aquarium a few of them are routinely featured, the current highlights are the chambered nautilus and the giant pacific octopus. These creatures are similar in that they’re all cephalopods, meaning head-foot, because their feet or tentacles are attached to their heads.

In addition to being related to the octopus, the chambered nautilus is also related to the squid, clam and snail, but it is the only cephalopod with a fully developed shell that it uses for protection. Using its more than ninety tentacles to grip their prey and bring it up to their firm beak, the chambered nautilus feeds on shrimp, crab, fish, and they even scavenge for dead animals. Although no one knows for sure it is believed that the chambered nautilus uses its sense of smell to find food.

The chambered nautilus is born with only four chambers in their shell and they occupy the outermost chamber, but as they nautilus grows they develop more chambers, most have about thirty of them. The chambers are usually filled with a combination of water and air to give them the buoyancy they want.

A chambered nautilus is considered a living fossil as they are basically the same as they were more than 400 million years ago, that’s about 265 million years before the first dinosaur appeared on the planet.

DolphinThe chambered nautilus’s cousin, the great pacific octopus is another featured animal at the Baltimore Aquarium and he’s just as exciting and easier to see. This cephalopod has a big sack like body which is called a mantle from which the tentacles extend; underneath the mantle is the beak. Octopuses actually have a pretty developed brain and very sharp eyesight, so as you’re watching the octopus don’t be surprised if he’s watching you too.

If you’re lucky you’ll get to see the aquarium staff inviting the octopus to participate in an enrichment exercise. A Tupperware container with food inside is given to the octopus and he then uses his 1,800 suction cups to open the container to get at the food inside. Typically this cephalopod will feed on crabs, clams, snails, small fish and sometimes even other octopuses.

The great pacific octopus is the largest octopus in the world. Some reports have claimed that the largest ones were up to 30 feet long and weighed 600 pounds, but experts believe that’s a bit of an exaggeration and something more along the range of 25 feet and 400 pounds is more probable.

In addition to the two featured animals the National Aquarium of Baltimore has tens of thousands more, you can find Australian animals, amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles.

In addition to all the wonderful animal exhibits at the Baltimore Aquarium there are also many special events throughout the year which are meant to give guests a deeper understanding of the world around them in which they and the animals housed at the aquarium live.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is not only committed to connecting its guests with the world inside the aquarium, but they’re also very concerned with extending the knowledge and resources gained through their daily operations to help Mother Nature. The conservation efforts have taken on a life of their own and include a large variety of activities. If you’re interested in becoming involved in some of the conservation events, peruse the website as there are many different activities you can participate in and ways to get involved in helping preserve the natural environment around  you.

If you’re looking for an even more personal and educational experience in the aquarium, check out the National Aquarium’s Immersion Tours. These tours are guided by experts in the field who will help you get a behind the scenes view of these animals in an up close and personal way. Currently the available Immersion Tours include the following: Dolphin Encounter, Little Explorers Tour: Stripes and Polka Dots, Breakfast with the Dolphins, Gallery Tour, Sharks! Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Rain Forest Sleepover, Sleepover with the Sharks, Wild Extremes Sleepover, and the Guest Diver Program. Definitely something for everyone and at least one experience that will be a once in a life time memory.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore recommends that if you’re planning a trip to their facility, whether you are from out of town or a local, begin your planning online at their online trip planner. It’s easier than ever to purchase your tickets, decide which exhibits you’re most interested in, what times the events occur and if there are any special programs going on on that day. Because the aquarium can get quite busy during peak hours and weekends it is recommended that you purchase your tickets online so you’re sure to gain entrance at your preferred time.

Tickets are sold daily beginning at 10:00 am and run until 4:00 pm on Mondays through Thursdays, 5:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays and Fridays have extended hours until 8:00 pm. The aquarium is open for an hour and a half after the tickets sales have ended for the day. As mentioned above, if the Baltimore Aquarium is particularly busy your ticket may not allow you entrance until a couple hours after it’s purchased, so it’s best to come with tickets in hand.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Lyndi&Jason, Creative Commons License photo credit: jessicafm