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Experience the Rainbow: Vibrant Animals for Pride Month

A tiny but colorful cuttlefish spreads its tentacles striped in maroon, yellow and white.

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

The aquatic animal world is effervescent. It’s vibrant, thrilling, varied and expansive, much like the human world. There is much more in common than we think between life above and below the surface: diversity makes both stronger.

As we encourage and embrace all identities, and hoist our Pride flags high especially as we celebrate Pride Month, take inspiration from these animals that represent the bright and beautiful colors of the Progress Pride flag.

A giant pacific octopus in its classic red coloring.
The arms and suckers of giant pacific octopus.

Red: Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)

Giant Pacific octopuses are generally a reddish-brown color, but are very well-known for their expert ability to change colors and even textures to match the environment around them. This intelligent cephalopod can use its well-developed brain, eight arms and hundreds of suction cups — about 280 on each arm! — to solve puzzles and mazes, open jars and more.

There’s much to love and learn about giant Pacific octopuses! Visit Shedd’s resident giant Pacific octopus in the Oceans Gallery.

A small blue fish with yellow dots
A spotted Longnosed Filefish swims in a rocky habitat.

Orange: Orangespot Filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris)

The orangespot filefish is a fascinating animal found among coral reefs in the Indian and west-central Pacific Oceans. For protection, they absorb and use chemicals in the Acropora coral they eat to take on its smell, which natural predators like cod stay away from. Their brilliant orange spots and blue body resembles the coral that they eat, which serves as perfect camouflage.

See if you can spot the orangespot filefish in Wild Reef.

A vivid orange fish with black markings
A striking yellow and orange fish with smooth skin

Yellow: Philippine Yellow Tang (Acanthurus pyroferus)

The Philippine yellow tang is known by several other common names, like the mimic lemon peel tang for its vibrant yellow color as a juvenile, or chocolate surgeonfish for the deep brown color that develops as the fish gets older.

This beautiful fish gets the “surgeon” part of its name from a sharp spine that looks like a scalpel near their tail fin that they use for protection. As for “mimic,” the yellow tang has an uncanny resemblance to pygmy angelfish, which is used to their benefit to blend in when other territorial animals would otherwise shoo them away.

You can see the gorgeous Philippine yellow tangs in Wild Reef.

Moray eels have a thin coating of yellow mucus on their bodies that makes them appear a vivid green color.
A green moray eel swims in its habitat.

Green: Green Moray (Gymnothorax funebris)

Green moray eels get their green color from a protective layer of mucus covering their scaleless bodies. Underneath this mucus layer, the green moray is actually brown! This species is one of the largest morays, with the biggest recorded at 8 feet and 65 pounds. They are nocturnal, spending most of the day sedentary and solitary hiding among cracks and crevices along rocky shorelines and in coral reefs.

Look among the rocks to see Shedd’s resident green moray in Caribbean Reef.

A blue hyacinth macaw sitting on a branch and biting its claw.
A woman holds a blue hyacinth macaw on her arm.

Blue: Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

Hyacinth macaws are a brilliant, bold blue, with bright yellow surrounding their eyes and beak. They can be found in South America, specifically in parts of Brazil, eastern Bolivia and northeastern Paraguay. Unlike most parrots that live in tropical rain forest habitats, hyacinth macaws prefer lightly forested areas such as palm swamps and flooded grasslands. Here, they can find nuts from native palms to eat, as well as fruits and vegetables. Their beaks are strong enough to crack coconuts!

Filius, Shedd’s resident hyacinth macaw named after a blue variety of pepper, is an engagement animal, which means he lives behind the scenes and will occasionally greet guests, participate in school field trips and visit other educational programs for people to learn about the importance of his species.

Two Piranhas swim in large leafy aquatic plants
A fish with glittering silver scales and a purple stripe on its head.

Violet: Geryi’s Violet Line Piranha (Serrasalmus geryi)

Geryi’s violet line piranhas are native to rivers in northeastern Brazil and get their name from the prominent purple stripe running from their lower jaw along the top of their body to the dorsal fin. They often live in groups near the river bottom and will prey on smaller fish and insects. Unlike how piranhas are often portrayed in media, these fish are fairly peaceful.

The shiny violet line piranhas can be seen dazzling guests in the Rivers Gallery.

Dolphins often travel together in groups, or pods, swimming close behind one another to save energy.
Pacific white-sided dolphin frolic in the Abbott Oceanarium.

White: Pacific White-Sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)

Pacific white-sided dolphins, distinguished by the white or light gray stripe along their side that gives them their name, are found in the northern Pacific Ocean. In the wild, Pacific white-sided dolphins travel in groups at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour! This species is known for being athletic and playful, jumping, somersaulting or even spinning up to 20 feet out of the water.

Visit Shedd’s resident Pacific white-sided dolphins in the Abbott Oceanarium, or see their incredible jumps during an Animal Spotlight.

A small pink fish swims among fronds of anemone.
A small pink fish swims among long fronds of anemone.

Pink: Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)

The pink anemonefish, also known as the pink skunk clownfish, is a beautiful peachy pink color with a white stripe behind its eye and along the top of its body. Related to the more commonly recognized orange and white clownfish, the pink anemonefish also has a symbiotic relationship with the anemones it lives in. They are one of few species that can survive the sting of a sea anemone due to a layer of mucus that protects their bodies. They make anemones their homes for protection from predators and for food.

Keep your eye out for a bubblegum-pink fish in Wild Reef.

The green chromis is a small, narrow-bodied and lemon-shaped fish with shiny, green-blue scales.
Green chromis have narrow, lemon-shaped bodies with trailing, double-pointed tail fins.

Light Blue: Blue-Green Chromis (Chromis viridis)

Large schools of this iridescent, light blue and apple green fish live among branching Acropora corals in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and the Indian and west-central Pacific Oceans. They largely graze on phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are tiny plants and animals, as well as algae, larval fishes and fish eggs. When breeding, the males will fiercely guard the nest to protect the eggs.

Find the beautiful blue-green chromis in Wild Reef.

Sea otter Luna peers interestedly at a visitor behind the scenes in Shedd's Oceanarium. She has her long body comfortably wedged into a large rubber bucket.
Sea otter Luna rests comfortably in a rubber bucket behind the scenes, her long body coiled to fit.

Brown: Southern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris nereis)

Sea otters are born with dark brown fur that lightens as they age. Luna, Shedd’s oldest resident sea otter, can be easily distinguished from the younger otters in the group by her graying face and head. No matter the color, sea otters’ fur keeps them insulated from cold water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, unlike other marine mammals like beluga whales that have blubber to keep them warm. Sea otters have the densest fur of any animal — up to 1 million hairs per square inch. They spend a lot of time grooming and cleaning to maintain that thick waterproof coat.

See Shedd’s resident sea otters swimming in the Abbott Oceanarium.

Two blacktip reef sharks in Wild Reef at Shedd Aquarium
A Blacktip reef shark swims among fish and other sharks.

Black: Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

Blacktip reef sharks are named for the characteristic black tips on each of their fins. They are one of the most common reef sharks throughout the Indo-Pacific region, from Africa to Hawaii and Japan to northern Australia, although overfishing is threatening the species. These sharks inhabit shallow waters near reefs where they can find fishes, crustaceans, cephalopods and mollusks to munch on. They are obligate ram ventilators, which means that they have to keep swimming to push oxygen-carrying water over their gills to breathe.

Watch the blacktip reef sharks glide through the shark habitat in Wild Reef.