On The (Egg) Hunt
Nature astounds in spring as green buds grow anew on trees, flowers reach for the sun as they push up past the soil and animals bring forth new life. From baby blue robin’s eggs to speckled white penguin eggs, eggs of all shapes and sizes represent new life and rebirth.
We’re bringing the egg hunt to you as a surge of life is springing up at Shedd, too. Learn about animal eggs you can find here at Shedd and the aquatic animals that lay them!
Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) carefully tuck their 20 to 30 round white eggs deep within a rocky crevice away from predators’ watchful eyes. The female will coat the eggs with a protective sheath and cement them to the roof or top of a rock ledge to develop on their own.
Similar to their cephalopod relatives like octopuses and squid, flamboyant cuttlefish don’t care for their young once they hatch. Newly hatched cuttlefish — like adults — are capable of changing colors for camouflage, undulating brilliant shades of brown, black, white, red, yellow and pink along their bodies. Soon after all the eggs hatch the female dies and the life cycle begins again.
See the flamboyant cuttlefish in Underwater Beauty before the special exhibit closes on April 17!
Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) are warm-weather penguins native to South America. In the wild, they gather in large nesting colonies along the coasts of Argentina, southern Chile and the Falkland Islands. They are known to usually mate with the same partner each year, and the males will often reclaim their nests from the previous year after arriving at their nesting sites. These flightless birds make their nests in a variety of landscapes, burrowing everywhere from the middle of sandy plains, under shrubs or tucked below rocky ledges.
In the wild, once the eggs are laid, the females sit on the eggs as the males venture for about 15 to 20 days into the open ocean to hunt. When the males return, similarly the females fish and return in time for the eggs to hatch. While raising their offspring, the adults take shorter trips, about 24 to 48 hours at a time, to eat closer to land.
Shedd’s animal care experts traveled to Patagonia last year to see penguin nesting in action. They lent their expertise to research what a specific colony of Magellanic penguins are eating on their hunting trips during nesting season, which can inform efforts later to best protect those food sources and penguin species at large.
Visit Shedd’s penguin colony in Polar Play Zone soon for a chance to see them building nests and pairing up this spring!
Unlike other sharks that give birth to live young, zebra sharks (Stegostoma tigrinum) lay eggs in thick, brown, husk-like egg casings, nicknamed mermaid purses. The eggs are covered in a sticky material that the female produces to secure them to a solid place on the ocean floor. The eggs hatch after about four to six months and juveniles can forage for food on their own soon after hatching.
More than 100 zebra shark pups have hatched at Shedd since 2004 through our robust, scientifically managed breeding program. Recently, we’ve lent our expertise to a new, international and collaborative effort to recover threatened sharks and rays around the world called ReShark, which is taking immediate action to bolster zebra shark numbers in Indonesia.
Spot the spotted zebra sharks in our Wild Reef exhibit during your next visit.
Caiman lizards (Dracaena guianensis), semi-aquatic reptiles native to South America, will dig a hole along a riverbank to lay five to seven eggs, then cover the eggs for protection from predators. The eggs will remain underground for about five to six months before small, independent hatchlings emerge.
Although not much is known about caiman lizards’ reproductive behaviors, Shedd was the first aquarium in North America to successfully breed the species beginning in 2005. Every young lizard hatched here is 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.
You can see the caiman lizards swimming in their habitat or perched on trees in Amazon Rising.
Poison Dart Frog
Anthony's poison arrow frog (Epipedobates anthonyi) is a species of poison dart frog native to Ecudor and Peru. Females will lay about 15 to 40 eggs on the ground among leaf litter, and the male will guard them until they hatch in about two weeks. He will then carry the tadpoles on his back to a safe body of water where they will develop into frogs in about 2 months.
See if you can find this brightly-colored amphibian in Amazon Rising.
Like their seahorse relatives, male weedy seadragons (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) are responsible for carrying the eggs. Typically, a female will lay 250 to 300 eggs and pass them off to the male to be fertilized. Without a brood pouch like seahorses, seadragons carry the eggs on the underside of the tail on what’s called a brood patch. The eggs will grow for six to eight weeks before the male releases the miniscule animals a few at a time.
Visit the weedy seadragon in Underwater Beauty before the special exhibit closes on April 17!