Made popular by the new Disney moving Finding Dory, whale sharks like Dory’s childhood friend, Destiny, (voiced by Kaitlin Olson) can be viewed in the World’s Largest Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia Aquarium houses not one whale shark or even 2, but four of the largest sharks in the world.
The whale sharks in the Georgia aquarium were flown in as juveniles from Asia with some difficulty. Special holding tanks were built and the landing and take off the transporting airplanes needed to be as shallow and level as possible so as not to spill all the precious water out of the specially built tanks.
Built by Home Depot, the whale sharks new home, the Ocean Voyager, is a 6.3 million gallon tank in downtown Atlanta, Georgia that houses “schools of predatory Trevelyan jacks, squadrons of small and large stingrays, sea turtles, enormous Goliath groupers and several other types of sharks.”
Blue Tangs, like in Finding Dory, are also found in the waters of the Ocean Voyager Exhibit. The whale sharks four foot long mouth and 300 teeth make it unlikely that Dory and Destiny would be friends except for one thing.
The whale sharks throat is the size of a quarter making it only able to digest zooplankton (krill, larvae, jellies, copepods, etc) and small fishes (sardines, anchovies, etc).
In the Georgia Aquarium the whale sharks are fed from small rafts by divers dropping krill into their waiting mouths. Each whale shark has a specific “lane” like a lap lane that it must swim in to get fed.
Get out of your lane and the feeding stops until the whale shark returns to its proper lane. How is that for a lunch line?
In the movie, Finding Dory, Destiny is constantly bumping into walls and recognizes Dory by her voice not by sight.
Are whale sharks really unable to see well? Scientist at National Geographic are unsure. In a whale sharks huge body that can grow to over 32 feet in length, its eyes are only the size of a golf ball. In the video you need to look closely for the black spot on the side of the head.
Whale sharks eyes can rotate back into their heads for protection and do have ” a cornea, iris, lens and retina – but they also feature a unique mirror behind the retina that increases their sensitivity to low-light environments (similar to a domestic cat), ” according to National Geographic writer Jodi Kendall.
If whale sharks don’t see well, what about “the most powerful pair of glasses” used by Dory’s new friend, Bailey, the Beluga Whale. Just around the corner from the Ocean Voyager exhibit in the Georgia Aquarium is a tank full of playful Beluga Whales.
Echolocation is only one of the ways these white whales communicate. Super social animals, they communicate by facial expression, touch and sound. Just watching them play with their enrichment toys is worth the price of admission.
Never fear Nemo is here! The Tropical Diver Exhibit is host to a lots of Nemo cousins swimming in and out of their anemones.
These four species are just a small drop in the bucket in the enormous Georgia Aquarium. The best and most cost effective way to see the Georgia Aquarium is with an over night stay.
That’s right, sleep with the fishes in Atlanta, Georgia. This is our awesome experience with the Georgia Aquarium sleep over.
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