By Molly Behan, development intern
Down at the Save The Bay Exploration Center in Newport, R.I., staff and volunteers embrace a mission to educate locals of and visitors to Rhode Island alike on the creatures that inhabit our beloved Narragansett Bay. The aquarium is home to not only animals that we expect to find in the Bay, highlighting multitudes of spider crabs, sea stars, and the common periwinkle, but also hosts some other more unexpected creatures: sharks and skates! These creatures are the theme at the Center next month; July is Shark Month at the aquarium!
Narragansett Bay is home to a few different types of sharks and skates. The blue shark, mako shark, spiny and smooth dogfish, and little skate are a few of the most common. These critters are all a part of a group of marine life, called elasmobrachs, which have skeletons made entirely of cartilage, rather than bone. Some of these sharks, the blue shark, for example, are known to be dangerous (don’t worry, they generally stay away from people), while other sharks, like the spiny and smooth dogfish, are completely harmless to humans. The little skates of the Bay, though they look like small stingrays, are also harmless, feeding on a diverse diet of squid, small fish, shellfish, crabs, and other organisms.
Guests can see, and even touch, many of these fascinating creatures at the Exploration Center and Aquarium. The smooth dogfish shark in the back room is always a favorite critter among visitors, as it bobs up and down at the surface of the water to observe its environment. The chain catshark that hangs out at the bottom of the same tank is a crowd pleaser as well. Also in the back room is a touch tank with little skates, where guests love to feel the different textures that make up the skate’s skin. The aquarium has a little skate hatchery, filled with mermaid’s purses, or little skate eggs, all getting ready to hatch into juvenile little skates!
Next month is Shark Month at the aquarium, which means the spotlight will be on our shark and skate friends. In addition to seeing and interacting with the sharks and skates that are usually at the aquarium, guests will be able to join in a number of shark themed activities, including a fun and educational shark scavenger hunt, and the unique “RoboShark” art project, challenging children and adults to use their imaginations to create a shark that one might find on a future Earth.
The Exploration Center is open from 10-4 every day this summer, and is always a fun time, rain or shine.We can’t wait to see you there!