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“Le Navi”

 by Francesco Zezza

This marine aquarium is located inside the “Le Navi” Park itself (for those interested in geography: Cattolica, Emilia-Romagna - Northern Italy) a – sort of – entertainment park well kept and cared of, housing, among othes, many interesting shows: at the day of our visit there were two interesting events on the go: “The sound of the sea” (a digitalized show) and “Venoms”, an exhibition dedicated to snakes and their venoms. We, regrettably, skipped both because of lack of time.

BTW: literally “Le Navi” stands for “Ships”; it’s said the original position of those buildings was thought to resemble a fleet ("the Navy")

Basically the aquarium is divided in two sections: Geopolis dedicated to fossils and leftovers of previous ages and Aquapolis dedicated to the sea and its inhabitants. The images below will give you a quick tour in the second section of this facility (Aquapolis). Let's start the tour then …

 

The entrance

 

Leonardo and Stefania (in the darkness of the aquarium corridors, forgive me for the slightly blurred picture!) It’s been the first experience of Leonardo with so many and so big fishes … It looks like he is enjoying it a lot!!!

 

Believe it of not this IS a (real) shark! A nice close-up of Heterodontus portjacksoni (Port Jackson’s Shark) named after Port Jackson (Australia) the place where this benthic shark was – for the very first time – found.

 

Another “odd” shark Rhynchobatus djiddensis (tentative identification! In Italy it’s known with the common name "Squalo Chitarra" which becomes "Guitar Shark" in English). It lives on sandy bottoms (possibly ALSO in the Mediterranean sea), feeding on benthic crustaceans and fishes … This specimen was about one meter in total length.

 

This is actually a wrong picture, as a matter of fact my camera “cheated” me … but since the effect is quite interesting I decided to post it. The shark (please not the HUGE parasitic fish on his head: a remora - probably Echeneis sp.) is a member of the Carcharhinidae family. You can also see the reflection of Leonardo’s face on the glass …

Another tank, another environment (a Mediterranean rift this time). In this photo you can see a Palinurus vulgaris (Lobster). We have found them many times during our dives in the Mediterranean at depths greater than 35 meters. They like cool waters and shady areas.

 

Two – unidentified – hermit crabs crawling along the front glass of this tank which resembles a Mediterranean sandy coast.

 

Yet another spot: two large specimens of what is commonly called “pencil sea urchin”, I was NOT able to identify them positively despite my efforts …

 

Ahead we go: a remarkable choice of benthic animals: you can see, among the rest, an Eunicella sp (possibly Eunicella cavolinii: the hard, yellowish coral) and Asterias sp. (the red sea-star). This was – of course – another separated tank.

 

The unmistakable proof of a well kept tank is the sign of spawning activity! These eggs belong to a small  shark, possibly a Scyliorhinus canicola specimen. Many sharks use to “tie” their eggs to the rocky surface, substrate and/or corals, very often in areas of clear, cool, well oxygenated water. In this respect, it is not strange that this water outlet pipe was their actual choice …

 

Also a sea turtle Caretta caretta was thriving in one of tanks of “Le Navi” aquarium … This given specimen  lacks of lower jaw almost completely (having been hit by a boat’s propeller), After having been rescued and fully recovered at Naples aquarium (Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn) it’s been taken to “Le Navi” aquarium. Now it is hand fed daily by the aquarium crew. If you look carefully the (part of) missing jaw should be easily detectable. A sad, silly story I regret to report ….

 

Another, closer, shot ... nice, cute creature (above).

 

A specimen of Homarus gammarus (European Lobster). Note the actual size of its crushing claw: beware of your fingers … Interesting info on this “bulldozer” are available here.

 

 

And finally the real “highlight” of the day - the so called “Touch Tank”. The pool, as big as, roughly, 25x15 meters (or thereabout) hosts many LARGE specimens of Dasyatis violacea (Pelagic stingray).

Visitors are allowed to freely “pet” these rays – some specimens are over 1 meter in disc size – this meaning gently touching and scratching (on both sides of the disc) them … and – to my surprise – fishes seem to like it. If you stand close to the edge of tank, without dipping your arms in the water, rays themselves approach, stay at surface, pull their “face” (eyes are on upper side of the disc while the mouth and gills  are on the bottom side) out of the water and even splash water at you using they disc’s edge to get your attention … and the story goes on and on!

Needless to say – as you can probably guess by the photo! – this was Leonardo’s favourite stop and, by the way, the last part of the visit. Exit is on the right … I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

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