When the Tennessee Aquarium reopens to the public on Thursday, five new additions will be awaiting the visitors.
The Aquarium is beginning phased reopening that includes several changes in an effort to protect guests and staff members such as limited daily attendance, timed-entry ticketing, daily staff health screenings and numerous adjustments to exhibits, according to a news release.
The Aquarium has been closed since March 13 to assist in slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the Chattanooga. Days later, it was announced that over 100 part-time employees had been laid off due to financial hardship.
Here are some things visitors can look forward to as they walk through the doors:
* Turtles of the World gallery — This brand new gallery showcases turtles from all over the world. The collection of habitats emphasizes "hotspots" of diversity in the Southeastern U.S. and Southeast Asia and includes a working turtle nursery where guests can see dozens of toddling turtle hatchlings, many representing critically endangered species.
* New lemurs — The red-ruffed and ring-tailed lemurs in the Lemur Forest have new roommates. Two red-collared brown lemurs now call the towering gallery home. Like all lemurs, this tree-dwelling species is only found in Madagascar, but unlike most other lemurs, red-collard lemurs display visible differences between males and females. Visitors will have no difficulty telling the Aquarium's male, John, apart from his aunt, Jessie, thanks to his fluffy white muttonchops.
* Disco jelly light show — New color-changing LED lights have been installed on the Moon Jellyfish tanks for a more psychedelic vibe. The ghost-like, translucent bells of the jellyfish take on the color of the lights as they cycle, creating a hypnotic display for guests to enjoy.
* Touchable newcomers in Stingray Bay — A Japanese Horn Shark and three Fiddler Rays have arrived at Stingray Bay, the Aquarium's most massive touch tank and home to several species of tropical fish, swooping stingrays, miniature sharks and tank-like horseshoe crabs. Fiddler Rays are a species of guitarfish — a cousin to sharks and rays — with shark-like tails and ray-like flattened heads and mouths on the underside of their bodies. The Japanese Horn Shark is able to mainly eat shellfish and sea urchins due to a bite with more power, for its size, than any other shark species.
* Return of the seadragons — The seadragons are back! The weedy-looking creatures are now on display in Ocean Journey's Boneless Beauties gallery. They are found in kelp forests off the coast of Southern Australia and their bizarre, leaf-like fins help them to become nearly invisible to predators.
Guests can get timed-entry tickets on the Aquarium's website at https://www.tnaqua.org/welcomeback.
The Aquarium will also be offering expanded "Early Bird" hours when all guests must wear masks every day from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
All guests, ages three and up, are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings while visiting.
Tennessee offers new financial support due to coronavirus pandemic for families who qualify for free, reduced school meals