Friday, May 29, 2009


I knew Australia had wacky wildlife, but here’s a creature I didn’t know about: The dugong. These look like manatees, and I never did find anyone to tell me if they’re the same creature we have in North America. In any case, I’ve never seen a manatee with my own eyes, so this was a new experience.

These dugongs live in a deep tank in the Sydney aquarium. You can look down at them from a walkway around the edge of the tank, or you can walk through Plexiglas tunnels at the bottom of the tank and watch them swim above you.

That might sound scary, but even small children seemed to love it. Dugongs are the size of park benches, but so roly poly that it’s just hard to take them seriously. They look like they’re smiling as they happily Hoover up romaine lettuce left on the bottom of their tank in an approximation of the naturally growing sea grass they would normally eat.

(Lettuce! They got this big on lettuce! What in the world do they eat when they’re dieting?)

The aquarium has two large tanks. The dugongs live in one, and Great Barrier Reef creatures live in another. In one part of the second tank I saw a coral shelf surrounded by lots of little dentist-office fish. That was nice but we’d seen so many angelfish by this time that I was ready to move on pretty quickly. Just as I was about to walk away, a giant potato cod (“sofa cod” is more like it) drifted out from under the shelf and scared us half to death. Pipi and I both sort of shrieked, and as we looked around nervously to see who’d noticed, it slunk back under the rock to wait for the next victim. I almost think it was doing this on purpose. I guess it probably gets pretty boring swimming around the same tank day in and day out.

On an unrelated note, I want to apologize for being out of touch. Everything’s fine; it’s just kind not as easy as I’d hoped to get an internet connection and, as I think I mentioned, I’m on vacation! I won’t be for much longer, though, so posts should pick up soon.

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