Did you know that some sea turtles blow bubbles out of their noses and eat them?

It's one of the many fascinating things I learned at the new Sea Turtle Cove exhibit at Adventure Aquarium. You can feed Stitches, Bob, and Old Green, and meet the hatchling, Koopa. You can also find out about conservancy efforts and what you can do to help the turtles.

Here are a few more unexpected things I discovered while visiting the exhibit:

1. Adult sea turtles can be massive

What surprises people most when they first see the turtles up close is their size. The largest turtle weighs 450 pounds. That's almost as much as the aquarium's 10-foot, 500-pound shark. They can be a little intimidating when you first see them up close. Almost a quarter-ton is a lot of turtle.

But the turtles, for all their size, are surprisingly graceful in the water. "For as slow and dopey and massive as they look, they're pretty fast," said Nicole Gioia, senior biologist at the aquarium.

2. Not all sea turtles are alike


There are seven species of sea turtles.

The aquarium's Old Green and Stitches are green sea turtles, and they are herbivores. They only eat greens in the wild (though, strangely enough, they do love fish chunks at the aquarium). Bob and Koopa are loggerheads, and they're omnivores.

But there are five more species in the wild. Six of the seven are considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.

Sea turtles are in trouble. That's why Adventure Aquarium has Koopa, who is part of a nationwide hatchling rehab and release program. If a hatchling doesn't make it out of its nest, or it's under other shells, it's rescued. By letting the hatchlings get bigger and stronger, they have a higher survival rate. A tracker is put on them when they are released. The turtles are tracked for awhile to see how successful they are.

3. Sea turtles are sort of like cats and dogs


Their personalities are unique. Stitches, the male green sea turtle, loves to blow bubbles. "Every day," said Gioia, "Stitches blows bubbles out of his nose and eats them at the surface of the water."

Bubble, bubble, chomp.

Bubble, bubble, chomp.

Over and over.

Stitches is also the only one who loves his veggies. He's the least picky eater.

Old Green, the female green sea turtle, "likes to have her head scratched. It's relaxing for her. She also likes when we're diving, she'll come up and nuzzle her head and her fin on you and rest there," Gioia said.

Bob, the loggerhead, is the biggest sea turtle. "She kind of pushes the other turtles around, mostly because of her size." Gioia said. "Bob is very particular with her food. If you feed her two pieces of herring at once, she'll spit one out, because that's just not what she wants. She's a little bit of a diva."

Bob also seems to like attention. She's in a lot of visitor photos because when she's not sleeping (which she does off and on throughout the day - like a cat) she spends time peering out the glass at people peering in at her.

4. You can get up close and personal with the turtles


You can meet the spiky and awkward hatchling Koopa (who I think is not as cute as his massive sea turtle neighbors, though I'm pretty sure I saw him blow bubbles and eat them - just like Stitches - so he does have potential). Koopa swims up and down in his tank, sometimes eats lettuce and fish, and sometimes eats the small marine friends in his tank (that's a good thing - he's training to be a big, wild sea turtle).

You can watch Bob, Old Green, and Stitches swim around, interact with the other marine animals, and sleep. You can even pay for a chance to feed the sea turtles, the best part of a visit to Sea Turtle Cove.

You can also learn what you can do to help protect these ancient, endangered animals. The exhibit has interactive activities to demonstrate what humans do to harm the turtles - and what we can do to help.

cgilman@philly.com
215-854-5502

@CaseyAGilman