Here at the Aquarium, we have creepy, crawly, and spooky creatures of all shapes, sizes, and species. In honor of Halloween this Saturday, we made a definitive list of our official creepiest critters - tell us what you think, then be sure to come visit Saturday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. for our third annual Green Halloween where you can SEE them in person!
5. Brutus, Eurasian Eagle Owl
Eyes as big as half dollars and as yellow-orange as a harvest moon stare straight into yours, the intense gaze of the apex predator creeping into your soul…or at least that’s how some may feel. The long look a Eurasian Eagle Owl can give you is not one you’ll soon forget. These owls are native to Europe and Asia, and are among the biggest in the entire world – they can reportedly boast a six-and-a-half-foot wingspan! Within this impressive wingspan are serrated (like the teeth on a knife) wing feathers that enable the owl to glide almost silently through the night, stalking its prey – unbeknownst – from the sky. Eurasian Eagle Owls hunt using their silent flight, keen eyesight, and impeccable hearing. Brown says that like other species of owl, eagle owls have facial disks, or groups of feathers around their ears, that actually direct sounds toward their ears. Owls can raise these feathers slightly when on the hunt, enabling them to hear the rustle of a mouse in the grass, the flapping of feathers in the night, or the slithering of a snake in a tree branch. These sounds give away the location of prey animals, making it easy for these owls to swiftly swoop in to catch a meal – and their pointed, powerful talons can exert 500 pounds of PSI (pressure per inch)! Compared to the human hand’s 30 lbs of PSI, that’s scarily strong. The scariest thing about this creature, however, is its history. During the first half of the 20thcentury, Eurasian Eagle Owl numbers declined radically as humans over-hunted and nearly poisoned the whole population. Local European governments began increasing protective measures regarding the owls, and they are now back to a healthier number, though not as populous as they once were. TSA’s resident Eurasian Eagle Owl, Brutus, will be one featured creature you can meet at Green Halloween this Saturday!
This invasive species not only looks scary, with its tiger-striped coloring and venomous spines, but the fact that it has been introduced into nonnative habitats where it has no natural predators is truly terrifying. Thought to have been dumped by hobby aquarists into Florida waters in the mid to late 80s, lionfish have spread like a disease and can now be found as far south as South America. The problem lies in that they feed on coral reef fish and similar coral-supporting species. With no natural predators, their numbers are increasing too rapidly to replenish the species they feed on. Scientists have been keeping tabs on the alien fish and trying to track how their influence is affecting marine ecosystems and it comes as no surprise that the end results don’t look good. Fortunately, many U.S. states encourage lionfish hunting and ridding them of your local waters. An added bonus: If you are well versed in cooking venomous fish, rejoice, because lionfish are considered to be quite tasty!
3. Julius Squeezer, Red-tailed Boa Constrictor
One of the most storied and legendary creepy critters to ever slither is the snake! Feel squeamish? You’re so not alone. From their cold, scaly skin, to their forked tongues and tendency to eat rodents in one gulp, it’s no wonder these reptiles have secured legendary creep out status. Boa Constrictors are scary in part due to their large size and the way in which they sometimes kill prey – by coiling around it and squeezing so tight as to suffocate it. However, more often, they will strike their prey first, and then coil around it, causing it to die by cardiac arrest. Their jaws are lined with small, hooked teeth perfect for grabbing and holding prey while they squeeze around it. Very large, strong boas can cause spinal fracture due to the huge of amounts of pressure they can apply to prey. Boas will eat almost anything they can catch, be it birds, rabbits, monkeys – even wild pigs, their jaws stretch extremely wide, enabling them to swallow large prey whole. Being native to the warm, tropical climes of North, Central, and South America, boas like to dwell in humid places and partially enclosed spaces like hollow logs; news stories depicting an elderly couple in Florida who discovered a slithery surprise in their garage one day are not at all uncommon. Squeezer Slither
2. Great White Shark
With row upon row of razor sharp serrated teeth designed to shred and rip through flesh, along with the fact that they can grow to be 20 feet in length and weigh around 5,000 pounds, it’s no wonder many humans have a fear of the great white shark. While pop culture and movies like JAWS and Sharknado do nothing to dispel these fears, the fact remains that the great white shark is a scarily effective predator. Using the countershading of its body, its ability to pinpoint prey, and super speedy swimming skills, the great white was born to be an apex predator. Unfortunately, these attributes don’t stop it from becoming bycatch in the unsustainable fishing trade, or finned for soup in Asia. Much is still unknown about these misunderstood creatures, such as their mating and breeding habits, and their migratory patterns. Scientists like those from our own Harte Research Institute and members of OCEARCH, a research and expedition team who tag sharks and other apex predators around the world. The Aquarium’s newest exhibit, Saving Sharks, incorporates research from OCEARCH and HRI regarding shark conservation, because the scariest thing about great whites is how quickly they’re disappearing from our world’s oceans.
And, finally, drumroll please: the most terrifying, horrific, scream-inducing, bloodcurdling animal out there? Go take a look in the mirror. That’s right, it’s the human being. Though it’s the most intelligent creature in the world, this animal has a penchant for overpopulating, overusing (and abusing) the earth’s natural resources, and even littering the only home they have. They’re not all bad, though. They’ve created cures for diseases, they have extremely advanced technology, and many are humanitarians who try and help other animals and causes they find deserving. If more of them begin to treat the earth and their fellow animals with more respect, they’ll definitely take a dive down the creepiest creature list, but until then; they’ve got some work to do.
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