Editor's Note: Gasparilla Magazine Joy Rides are designed to spotlight attractions within driving distance of Gasparilla Island. This month's subject is the a Mote Marine Laboratory exhibit in Sarasota just 50 miles from Boca Grande.
The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory plans an edgy new live December offering: "Sea Lions: On the Water's Edge." ??
The limited engagement exhibit opens Dec. 1 and closes in spring 2013.
The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory plans an edgy new live December offering: “Sea Lions: On the Water’s Edge.”
Sea Lions: On the Water's Edge offers viewers the rare chance to see California and Patagonian sea lions up close.
Protected by the 1972 U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, California sea lions have rebounded over the decades. Pategonian sea lions - native to South America and not covered by the 1972 law - have also rebounded.
The sea lion species continue to face threats similar to iconic Florida species, particularly dolphins and sea turtles. Threats include injuries from fishing gear and marine debris, along with complications from living near humans.
What: Sea lions viewings included in regular admission to The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory
When: Open 10 a.m. 5 p.m. daily, including all holidays
Where: 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway in Sarasota or about 50 miles from Gasparilla Island
Costs: $17 for adults, $16 for seniors over 65, $12 ages 4-12 and free for children age 3 and under.
You should know: Mote members always get in free.
Go to: mote.org
Sea lion attributes at a glance
A quick primer to these fascinating marine mammals:
By land or sea:?Pinnipeds can hear, see and communicate on land and underwater.
Mobility: Sea lions are highly agile in the water, thanks to streamlined bodies and sleek fur. They look a bit clumsy on land, but they have no trouble exploring - on Ao Nuevo Island near California, sea lions have climbed stairs in an old house.?
Acute hearing: Under water, some pinnipeds can hear frequencies higher than 70,000 Hz (the human hearing range is about 20 to 20,000 Hz). Sea lions and fur seals have small external ears, while true seals do not.
Highly sensitive: Whiskers connect with 10 times as many nerve fibers as land mammal whickers, which help pinnipeds sense water movements to find prey and navigate dark or murky waters. ?
Warm-hearted: Thick blubber, fur or both help them stay warm in cold water. They can also retain warmth, or disperse excess heat, through special blood vessel networks are arranged to optimize body temperature regulation. ?
Deep divers: California sea lions can dive deeper than 880 feet and other pinnipeds can go even further down. Adult female elephant seals have been documented diving to 4,100 feet.?
Acute vision: Most pinnipeds have good vision in and out of the water. Their eye retinas have a high numbers of rods - a type of light-sensing cell - so they can see underwater at night or at depth. They even have a light-reflecting layer that helps the eye make better use of low light. It also causes their eyes to "glow" at night like a cat's.?
Smart cats: Sea lions can learn complicated behaviors and some California sea lions have been trained to communicate with humans similar to dolphins.
Sea lions belong to the scientific order Pinnipedia, along with seals, fur seals and walruses. This group name means "wing-footed" or "fin-footed" or even "flipper footed" in Latin.
There's a lot to love about these animals who live on land and in the sea.
Sea Lions: On the Water's Edge will include special narrated demonstrations that highlight their intelligence and natural abilities.