Animals & Beloved Children’s Tales
The upcoming Princess & Pirate Aquarium Adventure is an enchanted after-hours event that gives youngsters a chance to meet characters from their favorite fairytales. The Aquarium is the perfect “once upon a time” backdrop because so many of those classic childhood stories feature animals you can see in our galleries. But how many of those wildlife-centric tales are rooted in real behavior? Let’s look at a few:
Tortoise and the Hare
There once was a speedy hare who repeatedly bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, the tortoise challenged him to a race. Overconfident, the fast-moving hare stopped along the route to rest. The tortoise, although traveling at a much slower pace, kept moving. In the end the tortoise passed the napping hare and crossed the finish line first. The hare learned a valuable lesson: “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for slow and steady wins the race!”
Tortoises can take their time. Thick, protective shells mean they don’t have to outrun predators. They’re also plant eaters, so there’s no need to chase meals. Even so, guests frequently comment on how fast tortoises move when they see food.
Princess and the Frog / The Frog Prince
In this magical tale, a spoiled princess reluctantly befriends a frog she meets after dropping a gold ball into a pond. This frog eventually transforms into a handsome prince. Although in modern versions this transformation is triggered by the princess kissing the frog, in the Grimm version of the story the spell is broken when the princess throws the frog against a wall in disgust.
While the princess may have thought the frog was not attractive enough for her, she might have been drawn to his resourcefulness. In the wild frogs have to avoid many predators. Often their best defense is to stay hidden but because most predators prefer live prey, playing dead is another tactic some frogs employ. Intimidation can also scare their potential predators away. The tomato frog of Madagascar puffs itself up like a balloon, making itself appear too big to swallow. For some frogs, their number one tactic is poison. There are about 170 different kinds of poison dart frogs that are especially strong in the defense department. The most poisonous of these is the golden poison frog, each of which contains enough poison to kill eight people.
The King of Sharks
The King of Sharks saw a beautiful girl swimming near the shore and fell in love. To win her hand, he transformed himself into a handsome man, dressed in the feathered cape of a chief and followed her to her village. The villagers celebrated the visit of a foreign chief and the girl was delighted when he asked to marry with her.
When their child was born, a mark on her son’s back that resembled a shark’s mouth made her realize who she had wed. With his dad’s feathered cloak over his shoulders, Nanave would ask friendly fishermen where they were going to fish that day. When the responded, Nanave would disappear for hours. When the fishermen began having difficulties catching fish, they went in search of the god creating the problem for the villagers. Eventually they discovered Nanave’s identity and threw rocks at him in a pool of water. While Nanave manage to escape to join his father in the sea, fishermen stopped revealing their fishing spot for fear the sharks will hear and chase the fish away.
Sharks in the wild have to find their own food and most only eat three to four times a month at most. Our sharks are pole fed three times a week with menu items ranging from capelin to squid. The folktale highlights how humans believe sharks have ferocious appetites, a misconception that has been furthered by horror movies and the media. At the Aquarium, guests can learn about shark behavior and see firsthand how little they bother our divers or the other fish in the exhibit.
A Fisherman & a Golden Fish
A poor old man and woman live in a small hut. Every day the man goes out to fish. One day, he pulls out a golden fish. The fish pleads for its life, promising any wish in return for its freedom. Scared by the talking fish the man lets him go without a request.
When his wife finds out about the golden fish, she tells her husband to ask for a new trough to replace their broken one. The fish happily grants this small request. The next day, the wife asks for a new house, and the fish grants this also. Then, in succession, the wife asks for a palace, to become a noble lady, to become the ruler of her province and to become the tsarina. With each request the sea grows stormier. When the old man finally asks that his wife be made the Ruler of the Sea, the fish cures her greed by returning her to the old hut with its broken trough.
If fish could grant wishes, what a world that would be, right? The golden fish begged to be returned to its natural habitat. The most important aspect of rehoming a fish is putting it back where it belongs. Catching and releasing animals into unfamiliar or unnatural environments can lead to invasive species. One especially harmful invasive species that can be viewed at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is the sea lamprey. While its appearance isn’t the prettiest, its effect on lake ecosystems is even uglier. With its round, suction-disk mouth filled with sharp teeth, this lamprey has the ability to kill 40 or more pounds of fish during its parasitic lifetime. They’re not picky either, so their impact on the fishing industry in the Great Lakes has been extreme.