MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH)– There are a couple of things people don’t realize when they come to the penguin exhibit at the Mystic Aquarium. First of all, the penguins don’t really like the cold, and secondly, the pool they swim in is heated.
The water is comfortable 60 to 65 degrees but that’s not all, radiant heat keeps the beach area at a toasty 90 degrees. Mystic Aquarium’s penguins are African penguins, and unlike Emperor penguins of the arctic, which have feathers down to their ankles, these birds are made for warm weather.
“You can see our birds’ ankles,” said Laura Macha. “That’s one of their adaptations to release heat.”
When the mercury drops to 25 degrees or below, like it did earlier this week, the birds are brought inside. Fur and Harbor Seals, on the other hand, love the cold and the snow.
“Not sure if it’s the staff or the pups that like playing in the snow more,” said Macha.
No heated tanks needed there or for the Beluga whales. In fact, in the summer, the Beluga tank has to be kept cold. Now, nature takes over.
They do though change up the food a bit to help the seals better cope with the cold.
“We buy special fish that is really high in fat and high in calories,” said Macha. “It helps them to maintain their temperatures in the colder temperatures.”
The sting ray display is outside year-round, but in a heated tent and pool.
When the penguins are brought inside there’s a few places they go. One is the Penguin Discovery Zone, where they can be observed though a window. They are also used for the trainer days program, which allows people to directly interact with the animals. Visitors can enroll in that program every weekend in January.