Aquarion is proud to sponsor the Aquarion Beluga Cams at Mystic Aquarium’s Arctic Coast Exhibit and the Aquarion Penguin Cams at Mystic Aquarium’s Roger Tory Peterson Penguin Pavilion. Click on the players below during daylight hours to watch the beluga whales and the African penguins feed and play.
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Belugas can live to be 25-30 years old. Under human care, they can live well into their 40s.
It takes five to seven years before females can give birth; males reach maturity in eight to nine years.
Belugas are slow swimmers and mostly swim between two to six miles per hour (mph). Some have been seen swimming as fast as 17 mph.
Belugas swim in groups called “pods” ranging from two to 25 animals. The pods sometimes congregate, bringing thousands of belugas together.
Belugas vocalize from their blowholes, emitting everything from low, foghorn type sounds to high-pitched, bird-like clicks and squeaks. This has earned them the nickname “Canaries of the Sea.” Mystic Aquarium’s belugas know over 50 different vocalizations.
Each year belugas molt, losing a thick layer of skin. The new, smoother skin makes it easier for them to swim and catch their food.
In the 1800s, a fossilized beluga skeleton was found in Vermont approximately 150 miles from any ocean, mystifying naturalists. The site was later discovered to have been beneath an Ice Age extension of the Atlantic Ocean. The skeleton is now Vermont’s official state fossil.
As a species, belugas are not threatened or endangered; however, in some areas they are in danger of disappearing. The population in Canada’s St. Lawrence River has high rates of cancer due to chemicals being dumped upstream. And, like many other arctic species, the loss of ice now underway threatens their survival.
Belugas feed by diving deeply to the seabed in search of fish, squid, worms, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, clams, mussels, and zooplankton. Unlike most other whales, they have a flexible neck. This allow them to scan a broader area of the sea bottom, where they spit and suck water to sweep sand away to expose their prey.
Mystic Aquarium’s belugas are hand-fed 50-80 lbs. of herring, capelin, mackerel, squid, and sardines per day.
Belugas get all their fresh water from the fish that they eat.
Belugas use their teeth not to chew food but to grasp their prey, which they swallow whole.
In the wild, belugas are food themselves for polar bears and orca whales. Belugas and their predators have coexisted for millions of years, but the major threat to beluga survival today comes from human impacts.
The white and light grey color of the skin helps belugas camouflage themselves in the arctic environment. It might also help reduce the rate of heat loss from their bodies.
Belugas have a thick layer of insulating blubber. This layer can be 4 inches thick and constitutes approximately 40-50% of the whale’s body weight.
Belugas have no dorsal fin, which reduces heat loss and avoids the possibility of it being injured by the ice floes that they frequently swim under.
The bulging forehead of the beluga is called its “melon,” and is filled with a semi-liquid fat. The melon is thought to focus and direct sonar-like sounds that help it navigate and find food. Belugas interpret their environment by sending out a series of clicks and whistles that bounce off surrounding objects using a technique called “echolocation.” After bouncing off of an object, the clicks and whistles are received through the lower jaw and transmitted to the middle ear and brain. The time lapse between click and echo enables the beluga to evaluate the distance of an object and what it is.
The beluga’s melon may also act as a cushion when the animal pushes through the ice to create a breathing hole.
Mystic Aquarium’s belugas live in the Arctic Coast exhibit in one of the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibits in the U.S. It has three interconnected pools holding 750,000 gallons of water and is surrounded by rocks, glacial streams, and northern evergreens.
Mystic Aquarium reuses 90 percent of the water in the exhibit. The water is constantly being filtered and treated before being cycled back into the pools. Technicians keep a close eye on clarity and bacteria content to keep the quality high and the whales thriving.
Visitors can watch the whales close-up through three 20-foot-long underwater windows or from outdoor overlooks of the pools. There are caves built into the rockwork and the belugas can be viewed swimming inside through bubble-shaped windows.
You can also watch Mystic Aquarium’s staff working and playing with the animals. For even closer experiences, the Aquarium offers a variety of beluga encounter programs.
African penguin fast facts
The only penguin to breed in Africa, the African penguin can be found in 27 breeding colonies, mostly surrounding islands along the coasts from Namibian to South Africa.
African penguins have a robust, torpedo-shaped body with black feathers on their back, flippers, and head while white feathers cover their front with the exception of a horseshoe-shaped black stripe on the chest. Following a penguin’s first few molts, a white stripe will develop around its cheek and throat. These birds have a bare patch above their eyes to assist with regulating their body temperature.
African penguins range from 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 11 pounds. When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas.
More information about the beluga exhibit and the many other attractions at Mystic Aquarium can be found at www.mysticaquarium.org.