Looking for a fun day with aquatic animals? Check out the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago!
The city of Chicago is often called the Windy City because of all of the wind, but it's also home to something that's more wet than windy. The Shedd Aquarium sits right on the shore of Lake Michigan, and it's home to lots of different animals, like stingrays, sea otters, turtles, and even penguins! In fact, there are 32,000 animals to see and learn about.
Did you know that dolphins have names? They whistle through their blowholes to make a unique sound to identify themselves. At the Shedd Aquarium, there are many dolphins to watch. Even though they look like fish, dolphins are actually mammals, like humans. They can live up to 40 years, and they travel in groups called pods. To find things underwater, they use something called echolocation, which is the same kind of thing that bats do. By making a very high-pitched noise, a dolphin can listen for the echo to tell where an obstacle is. Dolphins are very smart: They know how to use tools, like covering their noses with sponges to protect them, and they love to play, even with other kinds of animals.
- Bottlenose Dolphin: Habitat and Distribution
- Voices in the Sea: Meet the Bottlenose
- Dolphin Identification by Fin
- Amazon River Dolphin
- Dolphin Facts for Kids
- Bet You Didn't Know This About Dolphins!
You don't have to go to the beach to touch a stingray. You can do it right in Chicago, at the Shedd Aquarium's Touch Tank. It's true that stingrays can sting humans, but they only do that if they're feeling scared, and rays in touch tanks have their barbs trimmed. In the wild, stingrays use their barbed tails to defend against predators like sharks.
Stingrays don't have any bones in their body. Instead, they have cartilage, which is the same stuff that keeps your nose and ears in the right shape. A stingray's mouth is on the same side as its belly, and they love to eat shrimp, oysters, and crabs. Stingrays can live up to 20 years, and certain species of stingrays can grow to be heavier than a piano!
- Overview of Stingrays
- Stingray Bay: Facts About Stingrays
- Southern Stingray Facts
- Round Stingray
- Giant Freshwater Stingray
- Meet Ray: Learn About Stingrays and Their Relatives
Beluga whales are the smallest type of whale. They're entirely white in color, and they have big foreheads. Unlike other whales, belugas can turn their heads in different directions. They don't swim very fast, but they can dive as far as 2,300 feet below the surface of the water. In the wild, belugas live in cold waters, like the Arctic and the coastlines of Russia and Greenland. To fight the cold, belugas have a thick layer of fat called blubber that helps keep them warm.
Like dolphins, belugas travel in family groups called pods. They communicate through whistles and clicks, but they can also imitate other noises. Because they're so noisy, belugas are sometimes called "sea canaries." They can live to be 50 years old.
- Fast Facts About Beluga Whales
- Cool Critters: The Beluga Whale
- The Beluga Whale: Nice or Deadly?
- Meet the Beluga Whale
- Beluga Whales: Canaries of the Sea
- How Long Do Beluga Whales Live?
These fun animals aren't always stuck in the ocean. Sea lions can walk, climb, and gallop on land with their flippers. They eat a lot of different things, from anchovies and salmon to squid and octopus. To communicate with each other, sea lions bark, honk, roar, and even make a noise like a trumpet.
- Facts on Sea Lions
- California Sea Lion
- Information on the California Sea Lion
- Stellar Sea Lions
- What Do Stellar Sea Lions Eat?
Even though they might look a little weird, octopuses are incredibly smart. They belong to a special family of animals called cephalopods, which includes squids. Octopuses learn quickly and can solve problems like opening jars or escaping from a tank. To protect themselves in the wild, octopuses can change their color or body shape to blend into their environment. Octopuses only live a few years, but they make sure to hatch thousands of babies before they die.
- Up Close With a Giant Pacific Octopus
- North Pacific Giant Octopus
- Octopus Fact Sheet (PDF)
- Red Octopus Facts and Stats
- Ocean Activity Kit: Octopus Game (PDF)
Sea Horses and Sea Dragons
Sea horses and sea dragons are some of the coolest-looking fish in the ocean. Sea horses swim upright, using a little fin on their back to propel them through the water. Their curled tails can grab onto seaweed or sticks to keep them from being swept away in a current. Sea horses have two eyes, and they can use them to look in two different directions at the same time.
Sea dragons are a cousin of the sea horse, since they both belong to the animal family called Syngnathidae. They suck food in through their mouths and don't have any teeth. Leafy sea dragons have evolved to look like they have leaves growing out of their body. Because of this special trait, they can hide from both predators and prey. A sea dragon can't use its tail to grab onto anything, but they're happy to drift with the kelp and seaweed that they live in.
- Sea Horse Facts
- Is There Something Fishy About These Horses?
- Animal Bytes: Sea Horses
- Knysna Sea Horse
- Dwarf Sea Horse
- Sea Horse Fact Sheet (PDF)
Despite the name, jellyfish aren't actually fish at all: They're a type of plankton. To get around, they typically hitch a ride on ocean currents. Like fireflies, jellyfish give off their own light through a process called bioluminescence. They can use this light to either attract prey, like zooplankton or tiny fish, or scare off predators. Jellyfish tentacles can sting, so avoid touching them, even if they've washed up on the beach.
- Jellyfish Stings
- The Upside-Down Jellyfish
- 11 Cool Jellyfish Facts
- Jellyfish: Cnidaria
- The Portuguese Man O' War
Turtles existed at the same time as the dinosaurs, and they're still swimming today. There are many different species of turtle, but sea turtles live in warm water all around the world. Most of their 80-year lives are spent in the water. Female sea turtles will leave the ocean to lay their eggs on sandy beaches. When the babies hatch, they dig themselves out of the sand and enter the ocean to start their new life. Green sea turtles are herbivores, which means they eat plankton and sea grass but no meat. Other turtles, like the leatherback sea turtle, are carnivores and eat things like small fish.
- Top 10 Weird Turtle Facts
- Facts About Turtle Shells
- All About Sea Turtles
- Common Snapping Turtle
- Loggerhead Sea Turtle Quick Fact Sheet (PDF)
- Leatherback Turtle Info