Critter of the Month: Leedsichthys

Meet Gulper. He’s the biggest, most easy-going fish in the sea.  All he wants in life is to drift through nice sunny waters.  He’d love it if you joined him for a swim, and you’re welcome to hitch a ride on his fin. 🙂

gulper

Dr. Pete Diggle checked the mail this morning, and he showed me a letter with a very interesting question…

Dear Mr. Diggle,

I have a question for you. Last week I visited the Paleo Aquarium with my family and saw a giant fish that looks just like Gulper. How do they get a fish that big into the tank?!

Thank you for answering my question.

–  Jimmy Fisher

 

Dear Mr. Fisher,

Thank you for your question! It’s a delight to answer questions, and I’ll do my best to give you a good answer.

Usually we try to transport fish as large as Leedsychthis when they are still quite young, and a much more manageable size. But sometimes these giant fish need to be moved when they are older, and much bigger.

 

leedsichthys_size comparison

 

It can be a bit tricky to safely transport a fish that’s 50 feet long, so we start with months of planning. Depending on the length of the trip and the size of the fish, like Gulper here, just the planning and preparation stages can take up to a year!

When moving day comes, the divers go into the tank and use nets and treats to encourage the giant fish to swim into a padded sling. The sling is thick and spongy so that Gulper will be comfortable in it, and strong enough so that a crane can lift him out of the water and into a large tank made specifically for his safe travels.

 

gulper transportflat.jpg
The giant Leedsychthis is carefully lifted by crane in a specially made sling…

 

The tank is only as big as Gulper himself, and he stays in the padded sling to make sure he is safe during the trip. Like you wear your seat belt in the car. The tank is then carefully loaded onto a flatbed trailer of a semi truck.

The truck takes Gulper to the train station, and there the tank is carefully loaded into an insulated boxcar, where Gulper’s team of caretakers have a small lab with all the tools they need to make sure he is comfortable and safe on his way to his new home. The boxcar is a slightly more roomy 60′ long, compared to the semi trailer’s length of 53′. So space is tight, but Gulper’s caretakers have a little more space to move around.

In the train car, Gulper and his caretakers have everything they need to make their travels as safe and comfortable as possible. Extra oxygen in the water, a hose in case Gulper needs water squirted into his mouth to help his gills collect all the oxygen they need, tools to test the quality of the water. They even have a special heater attached to the tank to make sure the water is the temperature Gulper is most comfortable with. The tank has a specially designed, clear lid to keep water from splashing out.

The train engineer also has instructions for his special cargo. He accelerates and breaks the train slowly, and only takes the tracks with no dips or hills, and slow, wide turns. This way the water in the tank doesn’t slosh very much, and Gulper is calm and comfortable. This way it is also safer for Gulper’s caretakers.

When the train arrives at the station, then a crane loads the heavy tank onto the flatbed trailer of another truck. Everything is ready to go in advance, even to make sure there is no traffic or football game going on that night that might make Gulper’s journey more difficult.

At the aquarium, everything is ready for the new arrival. It would be impossible to bring a fish as big as Gulper through the doors, so they have to lower him in through the roof. It doesn’t take long for the giant fish to start exploring his new home! Since the aquarium tank holds 6.8 million gallons of water, there is plenty of room to explore.

Don’t hesitate to write back if you have any more questions!

Stay curious,

– Dr. Pete Diggle

……………………………………………………………….

This was inspired by a question someone asked in a comment quite some time ago. It really gave me food for thought, and it turns out that the aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia transported 4 whale sharks all the way from Taipei, Taiwan! They rescued the 30′ sharks from fishing nets, two males and two females, and the sharks now live in an exhibit that holds 6.8 million gallons of water!

Pete would love to answer more questions like this, and I love to chat with you in the comments!

Making progress…

All the eggs are colored in! You know what that means…Babysaurus will arrive any day now! In fact, if he doesn’t come tonight, I’ll be heading to the hospital tomorrow to give him a little help.

eggs_9.jpg

The reason he needs to come early is because of a condition called Cholestasis. I’ll spare you the details, but without medication it’s miserable for Mama, and even with medication it’s dangerous for Baby. Baby has to come early in these situations because he’s basically swimming in a toxic bath. Not good, but a good thing about modern medicine is that we can help him come early if we need to. 🙂

It would be more than awesome if he decided he was ready to come out tonight though, because that would be better for both of us. Helping him come early with medicine is no picnic.

So with all the craziness involved in getting things ready for Baby…I’ve had to recycle an older post that we haven’t seen in a while.

I’ll be taking a hiatus to focus on Babysaurus until September 1st. 

On September 1st, I hope to have a special post to make it worth the wait. It may not be much, but we might just meet a new addition to the shop. 😀 I’ll also let you know how things are going, and what will happen to the shop from there. I’m not quitting by any means, but things may look a little different depending on how the new normal is like with 5 kids. 🙂

Thank you so much for your patience and understanding! I truly appreciate your comments and read them all, even if I don’t always get the chance to answer them right away. 🙂

See you on September 1st!

8 thoughts on “Critter of the Month: Leedsichthys

  1. Yay, Gulper! And my, I’m sure he can certainly gulp with that massive mouth. 😛 It’s so cool to see the mechanics of transporting such a huge aquatic animal, I can tell you put a lot of thought into it! I never really thought of how zoos do it until I read the post–it’s pretty interesting stuff.

    And all the little eggs are colored in! So exciting. 😀 Have a restful break, until next time!

    So Pete, how do you transport those colossal land-dwelling animals, like Elmer? 🙂

    Like

    1. Hi Brownie, thank you for stopping by! Hehe, I love watching behind-the-scenes shows about what zoos and aquariums do to take care of their animals. There’s really a lot of challenges they have to figure out, even with something as deceptively simple as how to feed all those different animals! There’s a show on Animal Planet called The Secret Life at the Zoo, or something like that, and what I’ve been able to watch has been really inspiring! 😀

      Hmm, I don’t know how anyone could transport an animal as big as Elmer, I’ll have to see if Pete can answer that one in another letter. 😀

      Thank you for waiting so patiently! 🙂

      Like

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