Did you know Georgia is home to 65 threatened and endangered plant and animal species? Many of them can be found in your own backyard and at Georgia Aquarium in several galleries, like Southern Company River Scout, the Aquarium’s only freshwater exhibit. Georgia has an abundance of freshwater which includes 70,150 miles of streams and rivers, over 425,000 acres of lakes, and over 4.5 million acres of freshwater wetlands. It’s no wonder so many aquatic animals live in Georgia’s vast waters!
Let’s take a look at some of the resident Georgia animals found at the Aquarium!
The American alligator can be found camouflaged in swamps, marshes, rivers, lakes and small bodies of water. American alligators are typically dark green and brown, however, Georgia Aquarium is home to two albino American alligators. The difference between American alligators and crocodiles are their teeth. In alligators, the large, fourth tooth is not visible when it closes its mouth. Alligators are incredibly fascinating animals, and are as old as dinosaurs, approximately more than 150 million years old!
The Brown trout is not native to Georgia and was introduced to the U.S. This species is found in streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. Brown trout prefer to be near rocks, undercut banks and can get up to 110 lbs. and a maximum of 55 inches! Brown trouts are not just large, but also very important to our ecosystem because they eat mollusks, crustaceans and small fish.
Eastern river cooter
The Eastern river cooter is a small turtle living in coastal marshes, rivers, ponds and lakes. The females are larger than the males and the males have longer tails. You can tell the Eastern river cooter apart from other turtles by their C-shaped figure on their shell. They also have O-shaped spots on their skin and their eyes are joined by five light stripes. Eastern river cooter are omnivores but their main diet is plants. Eastern river cooters rarely go on land, and only do so to lay eggs. They can breathe underwater without having to come up for air, which has made researching Eastern river cooters in the wild very difficult. By having these mysterious creatures at Georgia Aquarium, we can provide vital research that is almost unattainable in the wild.
This prehistoric species dates back to 100 million years ago and is the most abundant of the gar species. The longnose gar enjoys area of vegetation and can be found in brackish, or a mixture of salt and fresh water, waters. The longnose gar’s snout is long, thin, and can be 18 to 20 times its width and its scales produce a “suit of armor” that protects it from virtually all predators. Like the Eastern river cooter, the longnose gar females are larger than males.
Robust redhorse sucker
This endangered species can be found in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It is one of the most threatened species in Georgia and North America. The robust redhorse sucker inhabits pools, rivers and impoundments. Its lifetime is long, approximately 25 years.
Yellowbelly slider turtle
The yellowbelly slider turtle is like the name implies; yellow! These turtles have streaks of yellow on the shell, a yellow blotch behind the eye and streaks of yellow on its skin. As the yellowbelly slider gets older, the turtle’s coloration begins to fade, meaning young yellowbelly slider turtles are very colorful and adults are commonly brown and green. The yellowbelly slider turtle is invasive and inhabits rivers, ditches, sloughs, lakes and ponds and can be seen basking in the sun on logs or other surfaces near water.
Wherever you are, be on the lookout for these Georgia resident species. Each one is unique with special qualities and Georgia is diverse in wildlife! Remember, never approach wild animals and observe them from a distance.
To see more of our aquatic species that inhabit Georgia, visit: http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/animal-guide/georgia-aquarium.