An Special Section FRIDAY, MAY 14, 1999
Hours, prices, and other information were current at time of publication and may have changed.


- Introduction
- Going there
- The murals
- The music
- Shop and Eat
- Beginnings


- World Rivers
- Shore Gallery
- Touch Pool
- Bizarre & Beautiful
- Dangerous & Deadly
- Riverbank
- 'Gator Bayou
-Amazon Rain Forest
- Coral Reef
- Jellyfish Gallery
- Kingdom of Penguins
- Ray Nursery
- Repopulation
- Surrounded by Sharks


- Staff and keepers
Oceanic Adventures Newport Aquarium] [Building image]
Touch Pool
Come close to crabs, shells in aquarium's truly hands-on exhibit

        The Touch Pool, in front of the Shore Gallery's sunset scene, is one of the areas in the aquarium that offers close contact with the animals. Here visitors can touch and examine creatures and shells found in the Atlantic Ocean.

        Check out the rough, spiny skin of a Forbes Seastar and see the swirl on top of the Channeled Whelk's shell. Count the legs on a Horseshoe Crab. (Hint: They are closely related to spiders).

        The pool is in the top of a semi-circular stone wall. The water is deep enough to keep the animals submerged, but shallow enough to be reachable. Some animals rest on the sandy bottom.

        The bright orange, yellow and red sunset behind dark swaying palms provide a backdrop that gives the feel of wading along the shoreline and fishing out these creatures.

        Additional animals are available for viewing under the microscope on the Wet Table. Fish that swim in deeper waters — but still near the shore — can be seen in the recessed tanks around the gallery.

        Fiddler Crabs range from Cape Cod to Texas. Spider Crabs live along shores and in bays especially in the Mediterranean and Europe. Channeled Whelks are found from Cape Cod to northern Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. The Forbes Seastar ranges from Maine's Penobscot Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Skate Egg Cases are found from Massachusetts to northern Florida. Horseshoe Crabs live from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico.

        The semicircular stone wall that makes up the Touch Pool stands about 4 feet off the floor, with a step up so kids can get as close as possible to the animals. The rock work cost $30,000.

What you won't see
        No animal could stand to be “touched” day in and day out and survive, so they are rotated in an out of this exhibit. To make sure no animal is over-handled, a special holding tank filled with “rested animals” is kept those doors marked Employees Only. All animals get days off, and for those “on stage,” the staff closely supervises the area to make sure no animal is out of the water for too long.

Exhibit by the Numbers
        4,226 Gallons of water in the Touch Pool.

        1,000 animals

        15 species

        1,500 pounds of sand

        55 degrees is the water temperature

What animals eat
        Fiddler Crabs dine on bacteria and algae. Spider Crabs munch whatever they manage to scavenge from the bottom. Channeled Whelks eat primarily bivalves. A Forbes Seastar will eat practically anything it can get its arms on but prefers barnacles and mollusks, especially oysters. Horseshoe Crabs dine on worms and mollusks pulled from the substrate.

How big do they get?
        Fiddler Crabs are small, growing to only about 11/2 inches. Spider Crabs can reach 1 foot from leg tip to leg tip. Channeled Whelks will grow to 7 inches. A Forbes Seastar can grow to 5 inches. Skate egg cases vary in size where Horseshoe Crabs will reach 2 feet in length.

Stars of the Tank
        Horseshoe Crabs: Harmless Horseshoe Crabs' ancestors date back 350 million years. Calling them crabs is not entirely correct. They are more closely related to spiders. Horseshoe Crab eggs serve as a food staple for migrating birds. Fiddler Crabs: Male Fiddler Crabs have one claw that is considerably larger than the other. Though they cannot swim, Fiddler Crabs use the over-sized claw to attract females. They live along shores in temperate and tropical waters and in mangrove swamps and mud flats.

        Skate Egg Case: These bluish brown cases are the product of Skates, the largest group of Rays. The cases are often called “sea purses” or “mermaid purses.” Strong light from behind the cases will enable visitors to see the developing embryo inside.

        Channeled Whelk: The largest sea snails on the coast, the Channeled Whelk is often prepared and marketed in restaurants as conch. Served a great deal in the West Indies and Eastern Europe, chefs find it difficult to overcome a whelk's rubbery texture.

The Tristate is Goin' Fishin'
Going to the Aquarium
Murals bring seascapes to life
Music sets the mood for 16 exhibits
Shop, eat and watch a movie
The making of an aquarium
World Rivers
Shore Gallery
- Touch Pool
Bizarre & Beautiful
Dangerous & Deadly
'Gator Bayou
Amazon Rain Forest
Coral Reef
Jellyfish Gallery
Kingdom of Penguins
Ray Nursery
Surrounded by Sharks
Meet the staff and keepers

Copyright 1999 The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.
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