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Species Highlight: The Argentine Tegu

Commonly known as the giant tegu, the Argentine black-and-white tegu is the largest species of tegu lizard. We are going to take a closer look at one of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s newest residents and learn about its habitat, diet and even a unique characteristic with aquarist Brenton Maille.

Adaptability is Key

Did you know the Argentine tegu can survive in a range of habitats? From rainforest to scrubland, these tegus utilize the habitats available to them. Because tegus are very adaptable, they have resisted deforestation, which is a very common threat to species in the rainforest. “Tegus utilize different habitats and different areas of those habitats as well,” says Maille.

Many people know of this tegu species because it’s considered an invasive species in Florida, meaning it is not native to that area. According to Brenton, it is believed that the Argentine black-and-white tegu may have become invasive to Florida due to the pet trade. While the tegu is tiny and pretty adorable when young, they can eventually reach lengths of up to 4 feet which can be more than some pet owners are ready to handle. “Once a tegu started to get too large for a home environment people would release them into the wild, making them invasive species,” Maille says.

Maintaining a Balanced Diet

So what does a tegu eat? “In the wild, their diet changes throughout their life,” Maille says. When born, they are predators, eating mostly birds’ eggs and small insects. Once tegus get older and grow they switch to mostly omnivorous lifestyles, although they may still occasionally catch small rodents. They are generally good hunters and scavengers in the wild.

The Aquarium’s animal care staff works hard to make the diet balanced and reflect similarities of the wild. According to Maille, the Aquarium tegu receives “eggs, fish, rats and a mix of apples, bananas, pears and greens.”

Competitive Edge

Most people know that cold-blooded animals rely on outside temperatures to determine their body temperature. While the tegu is an ectotherm, it has the rare ability to raise its own body temperature by about five degrees in certain circumstance. While this is interesting and unique, there must be a reason . . . right? That reason is for breeding season. “Males compete better and females can produce and lay eggs faster,” Maille says.

Nature. It’s a curious thing. Learn more about the Argentine black and white tegu and other reptiles on your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

– Tori Pishkula

10 Holiday Things to do with your Family in Northeast Ohio

The holiday season is officially here! From cookie baking to movie marathons and more, it’s a very exciting time of the year and a great time to spend with loved ones. This winter, don’t miss out on the opportunity to start a new family tradition, continue an old one or treat your family to a festive surprise. Here are 10 family-friendly seasonal adventures happening in your own backyard!

 

Glow  

Glow is an indoor showcase of decorated trees, gingerbread houses and other beloved holiday traditions. Cleveland Botanical Garden is located at 11030 East Boulevard in Cleveland’s University Circle.

 

Castle Noel

You can visit Castle Noel any time because this Christmas attraction filled with Christmas movie costumes and props, vintage toys, store holiday window displays and even indoor snow is open year-round. Castle Noel is located at 260 South Court Street in downtown Medina.

Photo by: Nevit Dilmen 

Ice Skating Outdoors

Lace up your skates and bundle up for the great outdoors! The Ice Rink at Wade Oval is located at 10820 East Boulevard in Cleveland’s University Circle.

 

Tobogganing   

Looking for an “outdoorsy” adventure?  The Cleveland Metroparks 700-foot twin toboggan chutes located at the Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation (16200 Valley Parkway, Strongsville, Ohio) are open throughout the winter.

 

Kringle’s Inventionasium

This inventive and interactive theatrical experience is your opportunity to help Mr. Kringle and his team prepare for the holidays. Kringle’s Inventionasium Experience is located in downtown Cleveland’s Tower City Center.

 

Scuba Claus & the Seas’N of Play at Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Expend your seasonal spirit while completing activities about movement and learn about some pretty amazing animal traits along the way. On Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays (1 – 2pm) you can snap a selfie with Scuba Claus underwater in a 230,000-gallon shark exhibit while he visits the sandtigers, stingrays, eels, pufferfish (and guests!) on his nice list.  An activity book, temporary tattoo, scavenger hunt and Scuba Claus visit is included with general Aquarium admission during the Seas’N of Play. The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is located on the West Bank of the Flats in downtown Cleveland at 2000 Sycamore Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

Magic of Lights

Enjoy magical lights in a mile-long display that includes Candy Cane Lane, Reindeer Crossing, the Enchanting Tunnel of Lights and more. The Magic of Lights is in a new location this year at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, 19201 E. Bagley Road, Middleburg Heights, Ohio.

 

A Christmas Story House

Many know and love A Christmas Story and consider watching the coming-of-age movie an annual holiday tradition. Fans can make a pilgrimmage to the A Christmas Story House and Museum where the movie was filmed. This pop culture destination open year-round is very near the Aquarium (so make it a two-fer) at 3159 W. 11th Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

 

A Classic Christmas Play at Playhouse Square

Playhouse Square has performances of A Christmas Story and A Christmas Carol happening through December 23. Cleveland’s theatre district (festooned with a massive outdoor chandelier) is located at 1501 Euclid Avenue.

 

Cleveland Orchestra Christmas Concert  

Join the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus for a holiday concert, perfect for families. The holiday concerts include guest choruses and sing-alongs. Severance Hall is located at 11001 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo by: Erik Drost

 

Happy holidays!

– Tori Pishkula

Mistaken Monsters

Many of the aquatic species we know and love today were once believed to be sea monsters. Stories were told and retold through many generations about “sea monsters” that threatened sailors who dared to enter the dangerous, unknown waters. While the tales still live on as spooky stories, today we know these animals are not monsters at all… Let’s take a closer look at some of these “monster-ous” and intriguing animals!

A Multi-Armed, Transparent Monster AKA a Jellyfish

Jellyfish have some decidedly un-human traits. For example, they function without a heart or brain. They also have the ability to clone themselves. And, in a zombie-like twist, it’s even been discovered that the Turritpsis dohrnii jellyfish are biologically immortal. Luckily we know now that jellyfish do not intend to hurt humans and their uniqueness is more intriguing than frightening. (Pictured: an upside-down jellyfish)

A Creature unlike Any Other AKA a Giant Pacific Octopus

A Giant Pacific Octopus’s eight large arms made them easy targets for folklore and scary tales. It is well known today that octopus have DNA unlike any other species on this planet. We also know that octopuses have three hearts, blue blood, a keratin beak and the ability to squeeze into extremely small spaces. It’s pretty easy to imagine how an octopus’s alien appearance could have scared sailors who had never seen one before. Now these highly intelligent creatures are much better understood and appreciated.

A Scaleless Fish AKA an Oyster Toadfish

It seems silly that a moderately sized fish would seem scary, but people generally become frightened by the unusual or unknown, not what is actually threatening and the oyster toadfish is different. For example, it can survive out of water for a lengthy period of time. If that wasn’t startling enough, oyster toadfish flattened heads are scaleless and they have fleshy flaps on their cheeks and jaws.

Sharp Toothed Creatures AKA Sharks

Sharks’ size and sharp teeth earned them the nickname “man-eaters” and made them the basis of many horror stories. In truth, sharks are not interested in preying on humans. People are a bigger threat to sharks than sharks are to us by a long shot. In fact, while people kill an estimated 100 million sharks every year there were only 5 shark-related human deaths in 2017. From their sandpaper-like dermal denticle skin (designed to protect and reduce friction) to their flouride-coated teeth, there’s a lot more to revere than fear when it comes to sharks.

Named Like a Fire-Breathing Fairy Tale Monster AKA Seadragons

While old legends of dragons swimming across the Mediterranean to countries like Italy and Greece might have sent chills down a few spines, clearly these seadragons are not dangerous monsters. The weedy seadragons pictured below are well camouflaged because they are poor swimmers that lack stomachs or teeth.

We’ve come a long way from believing that every unfamiliar underwater animal is a monster ready to cause harm. While so much of the ocean is still to be explored, any discoveries we will make promise to be more fascinating than frightening. Discover these and other curious creatures on your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.