As Halloween approaches, our thoughts often turn to costumes and parties. Imagine you are invited to a costume ball. What kind of costume would you choose—an elegant old Hollywood star, a modern sci-fi hero, a spooky specter or something else entirely? Whether we choose to be a modern superhero or a more traditional ghost, we usually pick our costumes to serve a purpose. Sometimes we want practicality as we will be trick-or-treating through the neighborhood; other times we want to impress friends and family with our costume or even fit in to a group theme.
Marine animals may not celebrate Halloween but some make “costume” choices based on their biology while others look like they are permanently attired in fantastic creations. Join me for a look at three of our Aquarium residents and find out what they would wear to a costume ball in the sea.
The DIY Costume:
Decorator urchins would be popular on Pinterest boards for their upcycling prowess and resourcefulness. These urchins cover themselves with small shells, plants, and other debris they find on the bottom of the ocean. They hold onto these items with tube feet in between their relatively short spines and can reposition the items any time. This choice in costume is not to impress a potential mate or even camouflage against predators, though. These urchins are thought to be sensitive to intense light. Covering themselves acts as a type of sun protection, especially in their preferred habitat of shallow, clear waters.
The Traditional Tactic:
Old-movie characters like Frankenstein’s monster and the Creature of the Black Lagoon may be conjured when looking at a green moray eel. Green moray eels look like a traditional Halloween monster due to their massive size, their greenish hue and their fearsome mouth full of teeth. But like some of those movie monsters, these eels are a bit misunderstood. They may seem menacing with mouths continuously opening and closing, yet they need the motion to push water across their gills and breathe. A green coloring usually signifies a monster in the movies but for the eel, it is a trick of the color wheel. A green moray eel’s skin is not green but a bluish-gray color. They secrete a yellow mucus to cover their body to protect them from parasites and bacteria. The blue and yellow together make the green we see.
The Fantastic Beast:
We all have that friend who takes great pains to recreate a fantastical costume from a movie or video game. Lucky for the lionfish, they do not have to go to all that trouble. They already have quite the impressive form. With striking bands of white and maroon, fanned pectoral fins and serrated dorsal spines, it is easy to see why lionfish are sought after for home aquariums. The scariest thing about these fish, though, is not their appearance but rather their invasiveness. They are native to the Indo-Pacific region but made their way into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Lionfish have no predators in these waters. The species reproduces unchecked and any potential predators are usually dissuaded by those venomous dorsal spines. They can outcompete native fish for resources and prey on species vital to a reef ecosystem. Try a taste of lionfish if you see it on a menu. There is a concerted effort by people to spear-hunt for the fish and reduce populations in this area.
Come out and see these animals and more at the Aquarium’s Halloween celebration, Trick or Treat Under the Sea. Advance tickets only and more information can be found on our website here.
Our yearling turtles have been released but we have new hatchlings. The updated measurements for turtle A are 148.2 grams and 9.2 centimeters. Turtle B is 125.2 grams and 8.9 centimeters. You can follow along with their weekly progress here and check here for a lesson plan on how to use those measurements.