Fresh Water, Fresh Fun
Our cute Asian short-clawed otters, Mia and Smudge, have long been favourites with our visitors. Many of you return to Lakeside again and again to see them playing, rolling around in pretend fights and popping in and out of their holt. Great news for all our otter fans is that two of our daily otter talks will now include a feeding demonstration.
Otter feeding will be at 10.30am and 3.00pm each day with the 12 noon talk still taking place. Otters are carnivorous and Asian short-clawed otters feed on fish, crabs, frogs, shellfish and crayfish, when in the wild. With claws more retracted than those of other otters, they manipulate food in an almost human manner.
Asian short-clawed otters live in mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands in countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, China, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines, where habitats are being lost because of environmental issues. Pollution and hunting are also putting this type of otter under threat.
We now have a couple of pygmy marmosets which arrived at Easter from Blackpool Zoo. They are
tiny – only about 15cm long. The Pygmy Marmoset is a monkey native to the rainforest canopies of western Brazil, southeastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador, and eastern Peru. It is one of the smallest primates, and the smallest monkey.
The Pygmy Marmoset has claws which are specially adapted for climbing trees, a trait unique to the species. They are omnivorous, feeding on fruit, leaves, insects, and sometimes even small reptiles. Their small weight allows them to reach the very highest leaves of a tree, and to exploit the otherwise little- used food sources there. Much of their diet, however, comes from tapping trees for sap. The pygmy marmoset can live up to 11 years in captivity.
Lakes Aquarium plans to breed these two little critters so watch this space for any developments on baby monkeys!
Look out in our news and events section for the monkey naming competition!
Piranhas, native to Amazon lakes, are most easily recognised by a row of sharp teeth in both jaws which are interlocking and used for rapid puncture and shearing the flesh of prey.
The piranha is widely known as a vicious species that hunts in large schools. In fact, it is now known that piranhas swim in large schools as a defense mechanism against natural predators such as dolphins, caimans and giant pirarucu. Not all types of piranha eat meat, but those that do, like our red bellied piranhas, often attack animals smaller than themselves, including other piranhas, fish, frogs, insects or birds. They do, however, attack larger animals if they are very hungry or the victim is weak or injured.
Piranhas occasionally bite and sometimes injure bathers and swimmers, but truly serious attacks are rare and the threat to humans has been largely exaggerated.
The Lake District
The Lake District is one of the most spectacular landscapes in Britain, idealised by Victorian poets and painters as a rural idyll and an escape for city dwellers.
It is the largest national park in the UK and contains 16 lakes. Lakes Aquarium is located on the southern tip of Lake Windermere; the largest natural Lake in England and home to an array of creatures as beautiful and fascinating as they are diverse. Over time, sediment and rock from the surrounding hills and mountains, slowly fills the lakes.
Although this is a natural process, it is exacerbated by humans in the form of land erosion through farming and, increasingly, climate change. Then there is pollution, in the form of human waste, along with invasive species such as rhododendron, and toxic alga which are very detrimental to the wildlife of the Lake District.
The Amazon is a region of both sublime beauty and extraordinary facts. It is the world's largest river basin and holds one-fifth of the Earth's river water; it spans the borders of eight countries; it has the world's greatest diversity of birds and freshwater fish; it is the planet's largest and most luxuriant rainforest and home to more than one third of all species in the world.
Many parts of the Amazon conains oxbow lakes which are crescent-shaped lakes, formed when a river changes its course and follows a straighter path, leaving the curved lake behind.
These oxbow lakes are surrounded by reeds and covered with free-floating plants including Bladderwort and Common Water Hyacinth. This creates the stunning effect of a floating carpet of foliage and colour.
In eastern Africa, nestled in and around what is known as Africa’s Great Rift Valley there are three Great Lakes. This valley contains some of Africa’s most spectacular scenery, being flanked by volcanoes and mountains including Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, at 19,340 feet.
There are only two species of hippopotami and they both live in Africa: the common hippo and the pygmy hippo. The common hippo can weigh up to 3 tonnes, while the pygmy is much smaller. The pygmy is a solitary forest-dweller, found in the rainforests of the West African lowlands. The larger species was formerly found everywhere south of the Sahara where adequate water and grazing occurred. Now the common hippo is confined to protected areas but still survives in many major rivers, lakes and swamps. Hippos were in abundance on Lake Malawi until recent times, before poaching and shooting dramatically reduced their numbers.
The Water Cycle
Millions of years ago there were no oceans on Earth. The surface of the planet was so hot that water simply boiled away. However, volcanoes poured huge amounts of steam into the atmosphere and as the Earth cooled down the steam turned to water vapor that condensed as droplets and began to fall as rain. This downpour lasted for many thousands of years filling great hollows in the land and thus forming the world's first lakes and seas.
It would be fascinating to follow a drop of water on its complex journey. The sun and wind lift tiny particles of moisture from the ocean surface. These invisible particles of water vapor mix with air. If the air cools, vapor particles join up as water droplets that form clouds. Clouds shed rain onto the mountains and this is where gravity would start our drop of water on its long journey to the coast through a myriad of fast moving streams.
Streams form waterfalls into valleys below where they join main rivers and lakes. If our droplet of water had by now become part of a river it would witness a slowing down in the pace of freshwater life as the river widens and meanders towards the mouth of the estuary. At last the drop of water has completed its journey and finds itself, once again, in the ocean.