This is the first video of the new series, “Video of the Week”. It is a brief underwater tour of the Cypress Swamp Habitarium. Immediately you may notice a very…uh…healthy amelanistic channel catfish, then a pair of shy largemouth bass, and most prominently several longnose gar Lepisosteus osseus. This ancient species has been around for over one hundred million years and they retain several characteristics of “ancient” fishes: heterocercal tail, ganoid scales, and the ability to gulp and utilize surface air. This last trait makes them very well suited for survival in low oxygen environments such as a swamp or slow moving rivers such as the Chickahominy., the upper Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers.
By mounting a Panasonic Lumix waterproof camera on a PVC pole (pictured above), we are able to film underwater in many exhibits without having to SCUBA dive, but also get further into the exhibit than from outside the exhibit. In the future, I will use this rig to film a variety of feedings and animals that I have been previously unable to film properly; the videos will then become video of the week!
Back to the Swamp. This exhibit features carp, chain pickerel, largemouth bass up to 10 lbs., huge redear sunfish, black crappie, flier, bowfin, channel catfish (the common morph and the amelanistic one) white catfish, and eleven longnose gar (many of which are in the video). In addition to the fish, there are many turtles: red and yellow bellied sliders, and a separate enclosure featuring an alligator. The VLM is very near to the Great Dismal Swamp – among many others – which are unique and exceptionally rich ecosystems that feature these and many other interesting species. In addition to the aquatic portion, this exhibit also attempts to recreate a terrestrial cypress swamp ecosystem, complete with live cypress trees, woodpeckers and bobwhite quail.