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Tarpon Rodeo

By: Dee, Aquarist at The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

If you are visiting the Aquarium this week, you may notice our Caribbean Tunnel seems a bit empty.

In preparation for restocking the Tunnel with new fish, we have removed all THIRTY of the large tarpon and two large rainbow runner and moved them to our Gulf of Mexico exhibit. These tarpon and the ones in the Gulf of Mexico exhibit are extremely special to the Husbandry Staff, as our tarpon are one of the only fish species to survive Hurricane Katrina.

Tarpon are extremely hardy fish, able to survive in brackish water with varying pH, as well as habitats with low dissolved oxygen content, because of their swim bladders, which they use to help them breathe. Unlike other bony fish, if tarpon are not able to access air at the surface, they will die. Fortunately for them, during Katrina, when the dissolved oxygen level in the exhibits was diminished, they were still able to gulp air at the surface. In addition to their modified ‘lung,’ they possess distinctive large, shiny silvery scales that cover most of their body, large eyes and a broad mouth with a prominent lower jaw that juts out farther than the rest of their face.

With the existing tarpon in the Gulf of Mexico, this will bring the grand total to forty-seven and will give us the largest group of schooling tarpon in captivity. It is truly a sight to see.

Moving these tarpon was no easy task. On Monday, the day of our rodeo, it took ten husbandry staff members an hour and a half to move all of the fish.

If you’re visiting the Aquarium in August or September, please bear with us while we restock the exhibit. By October it will once again be full of colorful tropical fish!
 

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