Oceans

​​​NOTE: Areas of our Oceans building​ will be temporarily closed for renovations.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Oceans exhibit allows guests to get up close with a diverse collection of animals of unusual shapes and brilliant colors. The Firestone Gallery features the nation's largest shark touch pool where guests can touch our smooth dogfish sharks. In addition to the many species of water-breathing aquatic an​imals, our Oceans collection also includes air-breathing marine mammals. The St. Vincent Dolphin Pavilion features multiple daily presentations, and guests can go 17 feet under water to meet the dolphins in their own environment in nation's first underwater dolphin viewing dome! These are the Oceans animals guests can meet at the Indianapolis Zoo:

Atlantic Bottl​enose Dolphin

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Average size: 7 to 9 feet in length, between 350-600 pounds

Median life expectancy: 51.6 years

Key physical characteristics: Long, sleek, blue-gray bodies with a dorsal fin atop their back, pectoral fins at their sides and a long tail fluke; a beak, called a rostrum, protruding from the face with blowhole at the top of the head.

Native region/habitat range: Tropical oceans and warm waters across the world

Eating habits: Cooperate as a pod when hunting, encircling schools of fish or trapping them in shallow water; feeds on fish and squid.

Conservation status: Stable

Fun facts: Groups of dolphins are called pods, and communicate using sound.  A dolphin produces all of its sounds from its blowhole, not its mouth. Because they are air breathers living in the water, sleeping can pose a challenge.  We are not sure how they sleep but we know they take small cat naps because they are conscious breathers. ​[close]

California S​​​ea Lion

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Average size (male): 5.5 to 7.25 feet in length, 610 to 860 pounds

Median life expectancy: 35.7 years

Key physical characteristics: Pinniped (fin-footed mammal), ear flaps, sleek bodies

Native region/habitat range: Coastline of the Pacific Ocean

Eating habits: Dives and uses vibrissae to locate food, swallows whole or eats in chunks; feeds on squid, fish, sometimes clams.

Conservation status: Least concern

Fun facts: Sea lions can hunt continuously for up to 30 hours and can remain underwater for nearly 10 minutes during each dive. They are faster than other seals or sea lions and are able to swim nearly 25 miles an hour. Although their bodies may appear cumbersome, they are actually quite agile and adept at climbing rocks, which line the shores where they live. Huge colonies are known as rookeries.​ [close]

Coral

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Average size: 0.25 to 12 inches

Average life span: Polyp, two years to hundreds of years; colony, five years to several centuries

Key physical characteristics: Some coral have hard protective limestone skeleton at base called a calicle, which forms coral reef structures; tiny soft bodied organisms.

Native region/habitat range: Tropical waters throughout the world; near the surface for the sun's rays; some species live in cold water as well.

Eating habits: Various coral will extend tentacles or secrete films to collect organic particles, often nocturnal feeders; most nutrients come from the algae's photosynthesis, but they also eat zooplankton and even small fish.

Conservation status: Depends on species

Fun facts: Corals cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, but support about 25 percent of all marine creatures. Corals get their vibrant colors from the hosted algae. [close]

Cownose Rays

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Average size: Up to 48 inches wide

Average life span: 13 to 18 years

Key physical characteristics: Forehead resembles a cow's nose with an indented groove around the front of its head; dorsal (backside) ranges from brown to olive and the ventral (underside) is white in color; pectoral fins or wings are long and pointed; whip-like tail with two barbs at the base. 

Native region/habitat range: Coastlines of the Atlantic Ocean from New England to the South Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico

Eating habits: Kick up underwater sand storms, uses modified fins to produce suction and is able to draw in food; eats oysters, clams, snails and crabs.

Conservation status: Near threatened

Fun facts: They travel in large groups, called schools, which can include as many as 10,000 rays.​ [close]

Gentoo Penguin

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Average size: 30 inches, 12 pounds

Average life span: 15 to 20 years 

Key physical characteristics: Red-orange beaks, white-feather caps, peach-colored feet

Native region/habitat range: Antarctic Peninsula

Eating habits: Feeds at sea, swallows whole while swimming; eats primarily fish.

Conservation status: Near threatened

Fun facts: The gentoo penguins' paddle-shaped flippers propel them through the water at speeds of up to 22 miles an hour — faster than any other diving bird. An adult gentoo may make 450 or more dives a day foraging for food.​ [close]

Green Moray Eel

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Average size: 6 to 8 feet in length, up to 64 pounds

Average life span: 20 to 25 years

Key physical characteristics: Green color; continuous fins, giving the appearance of one single fin

Native region/habitat range: They hide in cracks and crevices along shorelines and reefs from the Western Atlantic to the Northern area of the Gulf of Mexico.

Eating habits: Nocturnal hunter, uses its sense of smell to hunt; eats fish, crabs, shrimp, small squid

Conservation status: Least concern

Fun facts: The green moray is actually brown — the mucus that covers its body is yellow tinted and gives the fish its bright color.​ [close]​

King Penguin

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Average size: 3 feet tall, 40 pounds

Median life expectancy​: 26 years 

Key physical characteristics: Orange oval along side of face and a neon yellow patch at the base of neck

Native region/habitat range: Lives in the waters and on the shores of islands above the Antarctic

Eating habits: Feeds at sea, swallows whole while swimming; preys on small fish, squid

Conservation status: Least concern

Fun facts: This is the second largest species of penguin, next to the emperor, and it is the largest penguin on exhibit at the Indianapolis Zoo. 

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Lionfish​​​ 

​​​​​Average size: 11 to 15 inches​

Median life expectancy: Up to 15 years

Key physical characteristics: Distinctive brown/red and white stripes covering the head and body; long, fan-like pectoral fins and needle-like dorsal spines

Native region/habitat range: Lionfish are native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, also known as the Indo-Pacific region.

Eating habits: Lionfish rely on camouflage and quick reflexes to ambush prey. Lionfish can eat almost anything smaller than themselves, but they mainly eat fish and crustaceans. Their massive mouths let them swallow prey in a single gulp, even fish two-thirds their own size!

Conservation status: Least concern

Fun facts: Also called zebra fish, turkey fish and dragon fish, lionfish are one of the top predators in many coral reef environments. Because lionfish are slow-moving, they rely on their coloration and spines to discourage predators; their venomous sting, which can last for days, is purely defensive.​ 
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Pacific Walrus

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Average size: 7.25 to 11.5 feet in length, up to 1.5 tons

Average life span: 40 years

Key physical characteristics: Large, ivory tusks (used to pull themselves out of the water and to break holes in the ice), whiskers (known as mustacial vibrissae) and blubbery bodies

Native region/habitat range: Arctic Circle, Northern seas off Russia and Alaska, migration to Chukchi from Bering Sea

Eating habits: Forage on the bottom, rely on vibrissae to locate food; feed on clams, mussels, bottom dwelling organisms.

Conservation status: Least concern

Fun facts: Their scientific name is Latin for "tooth-walking sea horse." Although their bodies appear very cumbersome, they are very agile in the water and swim very gracefully. Walrus are very social animals, and a group of walrus is called a herd or pod.​ [close]​

Reef Fish

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Average size: A few inches to several feet

Average life span: Depends on the species

Key physical characteristics: Varied; colorful and adapted sizes, shapes and features due to food sources and predator protection

Native region/habitat range: Worldwide oceans; along coastal, temperate and tropical reef  environments

Eating habits: Prey on coral polyps, small invertebrates, small fish, algae

Conservation status: Susceptible to coral reef endangerment

Fun facts: The world's oceans are filled with thousands of different species of reef fish. There are hundreds of reef fish at the Zoo including favorites like clownfish and blue tangs. [close]

Rockhopper Penguin

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Average size: 22 inches, 4.4 to 6.6 pounds

Average life span: 15 to 20 years 

Key physical characteristics: Crest of yellow and black spiky feathers above their eyes

Native region/habitat range: Islands adjacent to Antarctica, from Chile to New Zealand

Eating habits: Feeds at sea, swallows whole while swimming; eats primarily fish

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Fun facts: Rockhoppers often burst from the water at the shoreline and land with a belly flop. [close]

Sea Anemone

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Average size: 0.5 inches to 6 feet diameter

Average life span: 50 to 80 years

Key physical characteristics: Adhesive pedal disc (foot), cylindrical body and tentacle-surrounded mouth

Native region/habitat range: Throughout oceans worldwide

Eating habits: Stings passing prey with venom-filled tentacles; eats small fish

Conservation status: Susceptible to climate change and coral reef endangerment

Fun facts: Clownfish, covered by a protective layer of mucus, can live within the protection of the sea anemone's tentacles, while the anemone feeds on the scraps from their meals. [close]

Sea Horses

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Average size: 0.6 to 14 inches

Average life span: One to five years

Key physical characteristics: Unusual equine shape, prehensile tail used to latch onto sea grasses and coral, elongated snout

Native region/habitat range: Shallow waters, both tropical and temperate throughout the world's oceans

Eating habits: With their tail, anchor to seaweed and coral while using their snouts to suck in prey; eat plankton, small crustaceans

Conservation status: Several species vulnerable to extinction

Fun facts: Male sea horses have a brood pouch, and he carries the eggs until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water. Fins on their back can flutter up to 35 times per second as they propel themselves through the water.​ [close]

Sea Star

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Average size: Ranges from 0.4 inches to 25 inches across

Average life span: Varies by species from 10 to 30 years

Key physical characteristics: A marine invertebrate, usually have a central disc and five arms, though some species have more arms; wide variety of colors; the upper surface can be bumpy, spiny or smooth; the underside contains thousands of tube feet for movement, eating and breathing. 

Native region/habitat range: Found in all the world's oceans, including the Arctic; live in all types of terrain, including coral reefs, rocks, seagrass, sand bottoms, mud, and elsewhere; different species are adapted to survive at a range of depths, from shallow tidal pools to deep-sea depths of 20,000 feet or more.

Eating habits: Opportunistic feeders; hunt on sense of smell; feed on algae, sponges, bivalves, coral polyps and small invertebrates

Conservation status: Stable

Fun Facts: Although sea stars are often referred to as starfish, they're not related to fish at all! A sea star's mouth, which is on the underside of its body, has no teeth. When feeding, sea stars wrap their arms around their prey and then push their stomachs out of their mouths to consume their food. If captured by a predator, sea stars have the ability to drop an arm to try to escape. They can then regenerate lost arms and even regenerate an entirely new sea star from a single arm and a portion of the central disc. [close]

Smooth Dogfish Shark​

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Average size: Up to 5 feet, up to 27 pounds

Average life span: Females 16 years, males 10 years

Key physical characteristics: Slender, elongate body, large eyes and blunt-ended snout; small flattened teeth used for grinding their food

Native region/habitat range: Western Atlantic Ocean, typically found in inshore waters, prefers areas with muddy or sandy bottoms

Eating habits: Feeds on crustaceans, small fish, mollusks

Conservation status: Near threatened.​

Fun facts: The sharks in our pool at the Indianapolis Zoo are all males. Females and pups are kept off display. Also known as a smooth dogfish shark or a dusky smooth-hound. They can change their color from dark to light to camouflage themselves from predators. They often hunt in packs, part of the reason they got their name.​ [close]