Brown shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus
The Brown shark, also known as the Sandbar shark is commonly found in public aquariums. The genus name Carcharhinus is derived from Greek words meaning "sharpen nose". It is a coastal-pelagic shark that lives in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. It is naturally a bottom-dwelling shark found in shallow coastal waters, and is known to be highly migratory. The Brown shark is an important species in commercial fisheries along the Eastern United States, and is the primary targeted species in this area. Because of its age at reproduction and the fact that it reproduces every other year producing a small number of young, the Brown shark is vulnerable to over-exploitation. Although rarely associated with attacks on humans, the size of the Brown shark makes it a potential threat.
Freshwater Sawfish, Pristis microdon
The Freshwater sawfish, or Largetooth sawfish, is a unique cartilaginous fish that is a member of the order Rajiformes which includes stingrays and guitarfishes. It is named for the long rostrum that bears "teeth" on either side. The sawfish uses this rostrum to swipe at and stun schooling fish and other prey items such as benthic invertebrates. The Freshwater sawfish is found in shallow estuarine waters in Africa, Asia and Australia and can live in both fresh and saltwater. It closely resembles the small tooth sawfish Pristis pectinata which is found off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo
The Bonnethead shark is the smallest member of the Hammerhead family, reaching only about four feet in total length. It is found in tropical waters of the Atlantic coast from New England, through the Gulf of Mexico and well into South America. It is also found from the Baja peninsula through the west coast of Mexico and Central America. Bonnethead sharks usually occur in small schools of up to 15 individuals. When migrating, they can be found in schools of hundreds or thousands. Scientists believe that the Bonnethead shark contains a specialized type of cerebrospinal fluid that helps Bonnetheads communicate chemically when another Bonnethead is nearby. They are considered harmless to humans.
Spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari
The Spotted eagle ray is named for the spots on the dorsal side of its body, and for the way that it appears to "fly" underwater. It is also known as a Duckbill ray because of the unique shape of its nose which is used to locate its prey in sandy sediments. Spotted eagle rays can be found in large schools in bays or coral reefs, but spend a great deal of time in open water. When being pursued by a potential predator, it can be seen leaping from the water. The Spotted eagle ray possesses a venomous spine at the base of its tail and can inflict a serious wound. It is protected by law in the State of Florida, but is not considered an important commercial fisheries species.
Goliath grouper, Epinephelus itajara
The Goliath grouper, also referred to as a Jewfish or Giant seabass, is found in the Western Atlantic Ocean, through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and into South America. It is also found off the west coast of Africa and from the Baja peninsula through Central America. It occurs in shallow, inshore waters as an adult and can be found as a juvenile in mangroves and brackish estuaries. It is territorial in nature and can be seen displaying an open mouth and quivering when approached by unwanted intruders. The Goliath grouper can also produce a rumbling sound by contracting the muscles of its airbladder. It is the largest of the Sea basses and can weigh more than 800 pounds. It is an important commercial species, especially in the sport fishing industry. It is protected by law in US waters, and fishing for this species is prohibited.
Temple of the Jaguar
Jaguar, Panthera onca
Visitors at the DWA often refer to "Pintada", the resident Jaguar, as a "cheetah" or "leopard". Of these three cats, only Jaguars have spots inside spots. They are also bigger, some weighing over 300 pounds (tigers and lions are the only bigger cats). Jaguars have a much stockier build and are excellent swimmers. They have massive jaws, with twice the biting power of a lion. They live alone, except when a female raises cubs. Found from Arizona to Argentina, they are endangered, due to hunting for their pelts and habitat loss. They often live 20 years in zoos.
Hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata
Among the seven species of sea turtles, this one is unique for feeding heavily on sponges. Many sponges contain toxins, which does not affect the turtle, but may render its flesh deadly. While Hawksbills are not as prized for food as the plant-eating Green sea turtle, they are exploited for the keratin from the shell, long prized as jewelry and ornaments. Though found in all tropical and temperate seas, it is now classified as Critically Endangered. The two at The DWA were found on Texas beaches with damaged flippers, making them nonreleasable.
Rooster hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus
Though dwarfed by its six-foot long, 300-pound Pacific relative, the Napoleon wrasse, at nearly three feet, and over 20 pounds, the hogfish is the largest wrasse in the Caribbean. Like the Napoleon Wrasse, it is threatened by overfishing. Considered delicious, it is a prime target for spear fisherman. It is classified as Vulnerable to Extinction over its range from Bermuda to Brazil. It remains abundant in some habitats, such as the Florida Keys. Its powerful jaws and teeth equip it to consume crabs, sea urchins and mollusks.
Queen angelfish, Holocanthus ciliaris
One of the first salt water tropical fishes to be kept in aquariums, this beautiful fish was exhibited live by P.T. Barnum (of circus fame) at his American Museum in New York in the 1860s and has remained a popular species in public aquariums ever since. In the 1930s, the New York Aquarium sent specimens all the way by ship to East London, in South Africa, in exchange for turkeyfish. In parts of its extensive range in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Tropical Western Atlantic, it is a food fish. Its wild diet is almost exclusively sponges.
French angelfish, Pomacanthus paru
Easily growing over a foot in length, this is one of the most popular fishes with divers in the Bahamas, Florida, and other places in the Tropical Atlantic. It is a typical sight in Texas' Flower Garden Banks sanctuary. While adults are black with golden edging to their scales, juveniles have a pattern of broad yellow bands, which serve a "Barber's Pole" purpose, since young French angels are "cleaners" of much larger fishes that do not harm them. Adults eat mostly sponges. This has been a favorite aquarium exhibit for more than a century.
Lookdown fish, Selene vomer
Reaching a length of a foot-and-a half and weighing less than five pounds, this is one of the smaller members of the Jack family, which includes such well-known game fishes as the Amberjack, as well as the Yellowtail featured in Sushi bars. Despite its small size, it is considered delicious, like its relative the Pompano. It is found in large schools in the Tropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and is common along the Texas coast. The peculiar head structure which gives it its name, has made it popular as a public aquarium animal for many years.
Blue parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus
Parrotfish are named for their brilliant colors and their beaks, formed by many teeth fused together in a mosaic. Once classified in their own family, the 90 or so species are now considered highly specialized wrasses. They are a vital component of the ecology of coral reefs, pulverizing coral to extract algae and producing vast amounts of sand. Of the fourteen species found off North America, the Blue parrotfish, found widely in the Caribbean, is one of the most recognizable, adult males being solidly blue. Almost all parrotfish begin life as females.
Birds (including free flight)
Black hawk-eagle, Spizaetus tyrannus
The biodiversity of New World rain forests is demonstrated by the abundance of eagles that can be found in one place. This species (in addition to the Ornate hawk-eagle, the Guiana crested eagle, the Harpy Eagle and the Black-and-white Hawk-eagle) all range from Meso-America, through Amazonia and beyond in South America. All five are kept at the DWA, the only place to now do so. Also called the Tyrant hawk-eagle, this rarely-kept species has not yet bred in collections. Fertile eggs have been laid at the DWA.
Ornate hawk-eagle, Spizaetus ornatus
This beautiful bird has always been a rare exhibit. The DWA has had unusual success propagating this species. Young birds have white heads. Weighing less than four pounds, it easily takes such large prey as monkeys, curassows, and macaws. Like the Near Threatened Harpy and Crested eagles, they prefer building nests in Ceibas and other huge trees, but are more tolerant of disturbed forest and not yet considered threatened.
Guiana crested eagle, Morphnus guianensis
Some of the few captive specimens have been mistaken for the much larger Harpy eagle. This remarkable resemblance extends to juvenile plumage -- newly fledged birds of both species have white heads. Crested eagles usually eat smaller monkeys than Harpies, and more often hunt reptiles. Like the Harpy eagle, it is considered Near Threatened, since it requires mature forest. Those at the DWA are now the only birds outside of Tropical America, though this species bred at the Oklahoma City Zoo some years ago.
The 216 species of woodpeckers are found across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, of which 109 live in Mexico, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean. They are important components of the tropical American ecosystem, as other birds, such as trogons, use the nests they excavate in trees. True to their name, their skulls, beaks and tongues are uniquely adapted to extracting insects from trees. Tropical American woodpeckers are uncommon in zoos, but the DWA has done well with four species: Red-crowned woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus), Puerto Rican woodpecker (Melanerpes portoricensis), Panamanian acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus striatipectus) and the Black-cheeked woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani).
Species Survival Plan (SSP) indicates species that are listed as endangered by USFWS