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Notable Births and Expected Arrivals at Shedd Aquarium

June 05, 2020

A tiny penguin chick held in a gloved hand.

Shedd Aquarium is honoring World Environment Day, June 5, by underscoring its commitment to protecting the aquatic animals across the globe. The aquarium is doing so by sharing a handful of significant births, including penguin chicks, caiman lizards, bonnethead shark pups and more. Several of these animals were born while the aquarium has been closed to the public. Shedd is also excited to share details on three pregnancies - two beluga whales and one Pacific white-sided dolphin.

“New life gives us hope and informs our growing understanding of aquatic animals and how we can successfully safeguard their future,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at Shedd Aquarium. “Every birth is significant and represents Shedd Aquarium’s leadership in aquatic science and our impact on sustaining aquatic biodiversity.”

Safeguarding our freshwater and marine environments requires collective action. The aquarium is encouraging the public to join collective action efforts, with a call to protect aquatic habitat that thousands of species from seahorses, to sharks, to whales, dolphins and beyond call home. By supporting Senator Tom Udall and Representative Deb Haaland’s Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature, individuals can add their voice to a growing chorus of nature advocates pressuring our elected officials to mandate the protection of 30 percent of the world’s natural habitats (terrestrial, freshwater and marine) by 2030. Anyone can read through and support the “30 by 30” effort by clicking here to urge their representatives to support the “Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature.”

“We look forward to welcoming guests back to the aquarium soon, to provide them with the opportunity to look nature in the eye and to experience the spark of hope brought by our newest arrivals,” said Sloan.

Since the aquarium closed its doors to the public on March 13, Shedd’s essential staff members have been making sure the animals are cared for, water systems are maintained, and important research continues.

Although a reopening date has not been set, Shedd is asking for the public’s support as plans for reopening are under way. Contributions will allow the aquarium to continue its critical work from welcoming the community back to the building to caring for resident animals and stewarding the next generation through experiential learning programs. Visit the Aquarium’s website for more information on how to get involved.

“We look forward to welcoming guests back to the aquarium soon, to provide them with the opportunity to look nature in the eye and to experience the spark of hope brought by our newest arrivals.”

Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at Shedd

Notable Pregnancies

Beluga Whales

As Annik, the healthy and energetic beluga calf born at Shedd in 2019 inches closer to his first birthday on July 3, Shedd is happy to report that there are two belugas expected to deliver calves this summer. Bella, a 13-year-old beluga, and Naya, a 31-year-old beluga, are due just a month apart from each other in early and late summer. As with any cetacean birth, the aquarium remains cautiously optimistic and laser focused on the health of both mothers and their developing calves. Caring for beluga mothers and calves has provided Shedd with the skills to lead and participate in several wild beluga rescue operations and gives the aquarium the expertise to advise on conservation management policies that safeguard wild beluga populations.

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin

A 33-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin at Shedd, Katrl, is also expecting a calf later this fall. The aquarium has not welcomed a dolphin calf since 2016 and is eager to share this journey with the public. Animal caretakers and Shedd’s veterinary team are checking in on Katrl regularly and performing sonograms to watch the calf’s development. Shedd is one of the few places where a Pacific white-sided dolphin birth has been observed, providing scientists and the public with an opportunity to connect with and understand this rarely-studied species of dolphin.

Notable Animal Arrivals

Magellanic Penguins

The penguin colony at Shedd is in the thick of nesting and breeding season. Shedd is happy to report that the colony has welcomed four healthy Magellanic penguin chicks! The chicks are being raised by penguins in their nests, though the animal care team continues to monitor the parents to make sure they are looking after the chicks appropriately.

Caiman Lizards

Two caiman lizards, semi-aquatic animals native to South America, hatched behind the scenes at the aquarium in April. Shedd Aquarium has a rich history with caiman lizards and was the first aquarium in North America to successfully breed the species in 2005. These young lizards are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) within the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA), which provides science-driven breeding recommendations that ensure healthy, genetically diverse animal populations for generations.

Cownose Stingrays

Caretakers at Shedd have welcomed six cownose ray pups since February. The young rays are born fully formed – ready to swim and explore! Cownose rays are one of many types of rays at the aquarium, which houses both freshwater and marine species.

Bonnethead Sharks

Six bonnethead shark pups arrived just as Shedd began closing to the public. The pups were born live in a nursery behind the scenes, where animal care teams could watch over them and provide regular veterinary check-ups. These check-ups include taking blood samples, collecting weights and performing rapid sonograms to ensure the pups are hitting important growth milestones. Bonnethead sharks can be seen in the popular Caribbean Reef exhibit.


Four different species of seahorses were born in large numbers at Shedd between March and May. The species born included longsnout seahorse, yellow seahorse, Barbour’s seahorse and White’s seahorse. Seahorses are unique to several other animals because the males will carry fertilized embryos until the babies are ready to be born. With no parental care, the fully-formed seahorse babies are on their own after birth.

Barrens Topminnows

Shedd announced recently that the aquarium joined a head-start program to help an endangered species of fish that has been devastated by the introduction of invasive species. Supporting our partners at Tennessee Aquarium, Shedd will spawn and raise topminnows in the safety of the aquarium and return them to Tennessee after a year, once the topminnows are mature and can help bolster wild populations. Shedd has already seen incredible success, with more than 30 topminnows hatched so far and potentially more to come.

VISUALS: High-resolution images of the recent animal arrivals at Shedd and sonogram footage from the pregnant animals can be viewed and downloaded:

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin