Open 9 am - 6 pm
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A western pond turtle stretches its neck and stares at the camera

Islands and Lakes

Island and lakes are both unique ecosystems — islands because they're isolated from mainland communities, and lakes because the water stands still. Because of this, they're filled with beauty found nowhere else — from turtles to cichlids. A walk through Island and Lakes will take you through environments and animals found around the world!

  • A Cuvier's dwarf caiman's head shown in partial profile, highlighting the dramatic eye ridges and the flat top of its snout.


    Explore how these ambush predators blend in with their surroundings.

  • A juvenile Barbour's map turtle peers interestedly at the camera, the sharp ridges at the top of its shell's dome distinctive.


    Get close to the intricate pattern of the ringed map turtle.

  • An orange and white Midas Cichlid is recognizable by the large hump on its head.


    Find out more about why cichlids thrive in Africa's lakes.

Ecosystems bursting with life

Islands and lakes are unique ecosystems that can be both isolated and cosmopolitan. The great African rift lakes sequestered a few kinds of cichlids that evolved into hundreds of specialized species, a colorful sampling of which you can see in this exhibit. While islands’ nearshore waters attract fishes found elsewhere, mainland species that wind up on islands can gradually change through adaptation to new environments. 

Map turtle

Moonlight gourami


Western Pond Turtle