Warm sun, white sandy beaches, snorkeling in crystal clear waters – yes, its spring break time! Can’t get away for a Caribbean island adventure? Don’t worry, you can still see much of the breathtaking wildlife you would expect to see at some of the best dive locations right here in Chicago. Shedd’s Caribbean Reef habitat contains approximately 900 animals representing 80 species commonly found in the Caribbean. So if you can’t snorkel away this spring break how about a quick dive highlighting a few of the amazing animals you’ll see here at Shedd! We are even extending our hours to give you more opportunities to enjoy Shedd, for a full listing of our spring break hours click here.

Atlantic Tarpon 

Atlantic tarponAtlantic Tarpon, which are one of just two members of the family Megalopidae whose similar but extinct species can be found very far back in the fossil record are a common fish in coastal waters and estuaries ranging from North Carolina to Bahia, Brazil along the Western Atlantic. They can also be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Atlantic tarpon are Large and herring-like in appearance, with silvery scales and a large superior mouth. 

Black durgon 

Black durgonBlack durgon are triggerfish and part of the Family Balistidae. This group of tropical reef fish have compressed, diamond-shaped bodies and they propel themselves through the water by movement of a large dorsal fin and an equally large anal fin. Separate from the large, rear-situated dorsal fin is a small group of dorsal spines that can be raised to "lock" the fish into a secure spot along a reef, protecting them from predators. Black durgon are known by dozens of different regional names. The name "black durgon" is common in the Carribbean, Bahamas and Florida. Other names include "blackfish", "black oldwife." In Hawaii, they are also known as "humuhumu-‘ele-‘ele."

Bonnethead shark

Bonnethead sharkThe smallest shark in the Family Sphyrnidae, averaging 4 feet, the sharks are known for the "hammer" shape of the head. This structure is known as a cephalofoil, however the function of the cephalofoil is much debated. Proposed functions include increased stabilization while swimming, improved olfactory sense and better electroreception. (Electrorecption is the ability found in many shark species to sense electrical fields in water, helping them detect prey and possibly aiding in orientation or navigation.) They are typically found in warm waters close to shore and tend to inhabit water above muddy or sandy bottoms or above coral reefs. Bonnethead shark jaws are adapted for both hard and soft prey, with sharp teeth in front and broad crushing molars in back.

Cownose ray

Cownose rayCownose ray is easy to spot with its broad head with wide-set eyes. They are also typically brown-backed with a whitish or yellowish belly and a venom-coated stinger (also called a spine) at the base of the tail, close to the ray's body. However, they are not considered dangerous to humans both because of the weakness of the venom and the fact that they seldom rest on the bottom, reducing their likelihood of being stepped on. They tend to live in warm or temperate coastal waters over sandy or grassy beds or coral reefs and are found as deep as 75 feet often in large schools with thousands of individuals.

Green Moray Eel

Green moray eelThe green moray eel is a true eel and part of the Order Anguilliformes as opposed to some fishes with "eel" in their common names, such as the electric eel, which are only eel-like in appearance and taxonomically unrelated. It lacks pectoral and pelvic fins, but it has an elongated dorsal fin that increases its efficiency when swimming. It also lacks scales, having a smooth skin instead. The skin is brownish, but a coating of yellow mucus makes the body appear green. Due to its size and sharp teeth, it can inflict dangerous bites when provoked or disturbed. Green morays eat a variety of invertebrates and fish, hunting mainly at night. Their narrow bodies allow them to forage from within narrow crevices, either to ambush prey or to root them out of their hiding places. In order to tear prey effectively, they contort their bodies for leverage.

Green Sea Turtle

Green sea turtleGreen sea turtles are the largest hard-shelled sea turtle. Like other turtles, they are air-breathing reptiles. They start life on land, but hatchlings immediately enter the ocean. They spend the rest of their lives in the water, returning to land only to lay eggs. This species is unique among sea turtles for being almost entirely herbivorous as an adult. Adults are usually found in shallow marine waters, especially reefs and inlets. They venture further out at sea when migrating between feeding grounds and nesting grounds. This journey can cover hundreds of miles, with individual turtles returning to the same nesting site at which they hatched. Juveniles feed on a variety of small plants and animals near the surface of deep offshore waters. Once they are large enough to be safe from predators, adults move to shallower waters and feed almost exclusively on algae and sea grass. Learn more about Nickel, Shedd’s famed green sea turtle.

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