Research & Conservation

A sea turtle’s point of view

Can you spot a jellyfish from a plastic bag?

With many of us preparing for Easter and eating ridiculous amounts of chocolate eggs after a long fast, The Malta National Aquarium has had a very busy month of March which saw us welcome new species of jellyfish to a newly constructed home.

The first thought of many people when they hear the word jellyfish is one of panic and perhaps a fear of getting stung, but we do have a question: Have you ever taken the time to admire just how majestically beautiful these floating skirt-like creatures really are?

We might spend our summer months swimming away from them as fast as possible, but in our new exhibit you can view them from a safer perspective, knowing full well a pane of perspex is protecting you from a little sting. The Upside down jellyfish (Cassiopea andromeda) jellyfish will sting you with its 5cm long tentacles if you do get close, but it does not do so to harm you. It is such a fragile and delicate creature that nature gave it a sting to protect it from being eaten or harmed by any other species underwater. We also have the beautiful White Spotted jellies (Phyllorhiza aurita) to wow us and the Moon jellies (Pelagia noctiluca) named after the brilliant white hue it emits underwater.

Moon Jellyfish at the Malta National Aquarium
The beautifully twisted Moon jellyfish

Jellyfish, despite being notorious are of fundamental importance to the Mediterranean Sea. Apart from being so mesmerising, they are the staple diet of the sea turtleand let’s be honest: everyone loves a good old sea turtle. Turtles can live to over 100 years and we have five species swimming around the Mediterranean. They simply love catching jellies, so think twice before fishing them out with your bucket this summer – you wouldn’t like it if we stole your easter eggs after all! Can you mention all five species we have in our seas?

Alarmingly, however, at the Malta National Aquarium we have helped many sea turtles who have wrongfully ingested plastic bags instead of a jellyfish. It may seem unlikely to our trained human eyes – but turtles struggle to differ between jellyfish and plastic bags and can choke very easily when making the simple mistake. Reducing our need for plastic bags while grocery shopping is one way to help our marine life. Our tip is to go grocery shopping with your backpack, and re using that over and over again, rather than increasing the demand for plastic bags while shopping. Be proud and tell your green grocer the reason you are refusing his plastic bag! You can find out more information on how your small actions can save the planet over at our friend’s.

Sea turtle taking its first swim
Welcome to the world!

We mentioned eggs before, and while we are busy hiding yours for the Easter Egg hunt at the end of March, we wanted to share with you a little success story happening right now at the Malta National Aquarium. Four gorgeous Lesser Spotted Sharks have hatched successfully and can be seen this Easter at our Baby Station. Beware though, even if they can not bite you… these sharks might just steal your heart! We will nurture these pups until they are ready to be released back into the wild in a few months time, so come and visit them while you still have the chance.

Shark eggs at the Malta National Aquarium
Our heroes are growing stronger every day.

As we speak, the Mediterranean basin is welcoming spring, after a long cold, wet and windy winter. Spring brings about new beginnings – many of which hatch from tiny eggs. Here at the Aquarium we are currently waiting for our new arrivals that include the awesome Dancing Indian Stick Insect, and how about that for an incredible name and sticking to dry land our African Painted Beetle eggs are just about ready to hatch and welcome the tiniest of babies to the world.

Our South American population of cichlids is about to boom this spring, and we can’t wait to tell you how this magic happens. A cichlid can lay up to 1600 eggs at one time and you would not believe where the mother keeps the eggs for fertilisation. She’ll keep them in her mouth so don’t confuse this for an English breakfast. She will patiently keep them there for 28 days, until the little swimmers are ready for the world. The babies will stick close to their mothers until they brew enough confidence to find their own little ways around their reef environments.

Also keep any eye out for our blog next month as we will delve into the exciting world of our good friends at Sharklab as they continually help us give Nursehounds a second chance via their hard work.

This Easter has been extremely exciting for us as we are proud to showcase a new home for our Tegu Salamanders. These are the Argentine Black Tegu we won’t give you any points for guessing where they come from. These reptiles are huge and very adaptable to new environments. When trained they tend to be quite docile and are also omnivorous, meaning they would make a decent pet, if your parents wouldn’t mind having one around the house. But remember, a Tegu is for life, and not just for Christmas.

Argentine Black Tegu at the Malta National Aquarium
Moving out! This Tegu got himself a new home at the Malta National Aquarium

Tegus can grow over 1.2 meters in length and require a very large vivarium and the Malta Aquarium is working very hard to build a new home for them in a new 360 exhibit where you will be able to study the relaxed creature from all angels.

Because they are so adaptable, they inhabit very diverse environments in the wild, but do tend to thrive in moderate to high humid zones with high humidity levels and a temperature gradient. They enjoy a difference between day and night times and their vivariums must be big enough to give them all the space they need to feel comfortable.

We will continue our hard work here at The Malta National Aquarium and look forward to welcoming you to see our newest additions and babies which will one day grow strong enough to take on the world.

In our blog next week we will show you the whole process of the Nursehound pups and we will also keep you up to date on any more exciting new additions we have coming to our wonderful aquarium next month!

 Until next time, remember to reduce the use of plastic bags, and keep those jellyfish in the sea where they belong and you can also read more about how to protect our fish at Project Aware’s great initiative.

Rainbow Cichlid at The Malta National Aquarium
The Rainbow Cichlid is waiting for you to visit!