Nearshore portrays life at the shoreline, where sand dunes and mangroves meet shallow saltwater habitats.

Barrier islands lining the Texas coast allow river and Gulf water to mingle, creating a unique marine habitat where the majority of marine life spends at least part of its life. In these environments, many fish are born and grow before moving into the open ocean, while shorebirds set up a permanent base to forage for crustaceans, shellfish, and insects among the murky waters.  In a swampy marsh, look for the tiny shapes of juvenile American alligators floating at the water’s surface or basking on shore. A clear acrylic display reveals even the diverse life swimming below the water, from freshwater species like largemouth bass and catfish to sea life such as southern stingrays and spotted seatrout.

With two-thirds of all marine animals spending their lives in marshes and estuaries, these nearshore environments are critical to local wildlife. These marsh plants also trap and filter pollutants that would otherwise damage the ocean. Learn here how important these ecosystems are, and how we can work can work together to preserve the Texas coast’s wetland habitat and the wildlife that depend on them.

Animals in this Exhibit

  • Green Heron

    This small heron species is often seen with its long neck pulled in tight against its body. It inhabits small low-lying wetlands, where they feed actively on small fish, frogs, and invertebrates

  • Southern Stingray

    This stingray is common to the Atlantic ocean. Its flat body allows it to conceal itself on the seabed, and a serrated barb containing a mild toxin in its tail can be used for defense.

  • American Alligator (juvenile)

    These alligators hatched about 6 inches long and weighing a few ounces, but can grow to be as much as 16 feet long and over 1000 pounds

  • Sheepshead

    The sheepshead, recognizable by its broad vertical stripes, gets its name from their mouth shape, which resembles that of a sheep.

  • Rio Grande Cichlid

    Also known as the Texas cichlid, this freshwater species is the only cichlid native to the United States. It can grow over 33 centimeters in length, and males can develop a protrusion known as a nuchal hump on their head.