Open Waters

Ray of Light: Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium is open again with new exhibits after a January sabbatical. Photo by Tim Robison.

Ray of Light: Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium is open again with new exhibits after a January sabbatical. Photo by Tim Robison.

Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium, Hendersonville’s downtown aquatic oasis — and, indeed, Western North Carolina’s only public aquarium — opens it doors again on February 6, after a month-long respite for January maintenance.

The Main Street marine center is a classroom for interns and student volunteers who care for the fish and reptiles living in more than 21 habitats, among them sting rays, eels, “decorator crabs,” anemones, lion fish, bamboo sharks, red-footed tortoises, lizards, and geckos. A “touch tank” allows visitors to get up-close-and-personal with the aquarium’s more benign residents. One popular new addition is Charlotte, a California ray.

Last fall, the aquarium made international news when one of its resident bamboo sharks, Epa, laid an egg that turned into an embryo — without the assistance of a mate to fertilize it. It was an amazing case of parthogenesis (Greek for “virgin birth”), a type of asexual reproduction common among the simplest forms of aquatic life such as plankton, but much rarer in fish and amphibians.

Sadly, the much-watched shark died before it was fully formed, but since then, Epa has laid many dozens of more eggs, among them another “virgin baby” who is thriving. “We have high hopes for this [one],” Team ECCO founder and leader Brenda Ramer recently posted on Facebook.

 511 North Main St. 828-692-8386. bjramer@teamecco.org. See Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium on Facebook for more updates.

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