52 Weeks of Fun

Not Just Destination Finders, But Destination Storytellers


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Oklahoma Aquarium


The Oklahoma Aquarium opened its doors to the public on May 28, 2003, although the facility was a dream and a passion for founders Dr. P.R. Ramey and Doug Kemper in 1984. The Oklahoma Aquarium Foundation settled on a plot of land on the west bank of the Arkansas River in Jenks—now home to the Oklahoma Aquarium and its world-renowned bull shark collection.

The Sooner State may be landlocked but that doesn’t mean it is devoid of aquatic resources and wildlife. With more than 160,000 miles of rivers and streams and 1,401 square miles of lakes and ponds, Oklahoma is teeming with aquatic life. These freshwaters serve as habitats for many amphibians, reptiles, fish, and even some mammals. In the Aquatic Oklahoma gallery, visitors can learn about noodling, feed the smaller turtles, and visit an alligator snapping turtle that is older than Oklahoma itself! Oklahoma is home to 176 species of fish, including many species of bass, gar, and catfish. With so many fish and abundant lakes, rivers, and streams, Oklahoma is an extremely popular fishing destination.

The Shark and Ray Touch Tank is a safe and fun way to learn and interact with a few of the ocean’s most feared creatures. The tank houses young bat rays as well as spotted bamboo sharks and spotted cat sharks. None of these animals are capable of harming humans. Similar to the painless clipping of fingernails, the aquarium has clipped the barbs from the rays so they are perfectly safe to touch. Additionally, the sharks pose no threat to humans as they only feast on tiny invertebrates and have minuscule teeth that are about the size of velcro hooks. The “teeth” one should really pay attention to are the ones in their skin. All cartilaginous fish, including sharks and rays, have a form of small, modified teeth on their skin. These tooth-like structures are called dermal denticles; their purpose is to help cartilaginous fish swim faster and quieter, but they also make sharks and rays feel extra nice to pet!

Another popular exhibit is the 58,000-gallon tank in Sea Turtle Island. It is home to the aquarium’s loggerhead sea turtle and many other fish friends. The multi-leveled exhibit allows visitors to enjoy marine life from above and below; adventurous visitors can even go into an underwater observation station where they can come face-to-face with Sea Turtle Island’s inhabitants, such as a fish with a “beak,” and the hammerhead shark’s smallest cousin.

There are seven species of sea turtles, six of which can be found in the United States. The Oklahoma Aquarium houses the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), which is the species that most commonly nests in the United States. Loggerheads are equipped with large, powerful jaws that enable them to eat hard-shelled crabs, conch, and whelks; the breakdown of these shells is what creates nutrients for other animals. The Oklahoma Aquarium is proud to be home to two loggerheads born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on November 4, 1994. Because their eggs were laid so late in the year, outside temperatures were too cold for optimal survival so the Virginia Marine Science Museum sheltered them from the cold. Once the loggerheads hatched and grew large enough to release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noticed the sea turtles were accustomed to human care, and that they would be better suited in a safe place that could properly care for them.

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A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Oklahoma Aquarium

Sea turtles cannot pull their heads into their shell as other turtles can.

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  • Oklahoma Aquarium
  • Jenks
  • (918) 296-3474