May the Fourth Be With You | South Carolina Aquarium

May the Fourth Be With You

May 01
two river otters play in water, one upside-down facing the other

May the Fourth Be With You

In an Aquarium not so far, far away… we seek to connect people with one of our favorite trilogies: water, wildlife and wild places. Put on your robe, grab a lightsaber and pour a glass of blue milk because we’re rounding up some out-of-this-world facts about South Carolina wildlife, as told by the quotes of Star Wars. 

“Episode I – The Phantom Menace

“There’s always a bigger fish.” – Qui-Gon Jinn

If you’re after that bigger fish, you can find it off our shores (or in the Coast gallery at the Aquarium). We’d like to introduce you to the goliath grouper! Reaching 800 pounds and lengths of eight feet, these fish have a foreboding presence and are remarkable if spotted in the wild.

These giants of the ocean may look menacing, but as long as they’re treated with respect, they pose little threat to humans! They’re also a keystone species, meaning they are critical to maintaining a balanced ocean ecosystem.

“Episode II – Attack of the Clones”

“Blind we are, of creation of this clone army we could not see.” Yoda 

While they may not be “clones” in the literal sense, the thousands of rapidly reproducing invasive lionfish that swim below the ocean’s surface comprise a formidable army. Did you know: These voracious sea creatures have no natural predators!

Armed with venomous spines, they can easily disrupt the food chain in a native food web.

“Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”

It’s over, Anakin. I have the high ground.” Obi-Wan Kenobi 

No offense to Obi-Wan, but sometimes adaptations make the low ground a place to thrive. Changing one letter of the Dark Side’s Sith, we can illustrate the evolutionary fighting power of the pith… well, the bald cypress tree which contains pith.

These residents of the blackwater swamps of South Carolina are resilient fighters, having formed “knees” that rise above the swamp water that buries their roots. These knees carry air and nutrients to drowned horizontal roots, while also keeping the tree firmly in place.  

“Episode IV – A New Hope”

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Darth Vader 

When presented with a conservation crisis — like when a species is designated as critically endangered it’s difficult to hold out hope for realistic solutions. Don’t let your faith in conservation-minded communities slip. When we come together with actionable steps toward change, we can save these species.

Such is the case of the bald eagle, which in 2007 was officially removed from the endangered species list.

“Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”

“Punch it!” Han Solo 

While they may not have a spacecraft to pilot, river otters are surprisingly powerful creatures! Don’t let that Ewok-esque cuteness fool you; river otters have a bite force of over 600 pounds per square inch. In addition to strikingly strong jaws, river otters are armed with non-retractable claws on all four feet and a not-so-secret weapon: their tail.

Their tail accounting for 40% of total body length is extremely muscular and can propel river otters through the water at up to eight miles per hour! Combined with their flexibility, this makes them exceptional predators in the water. 

“Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

“Here we go again.” C-3PO 

Déjà vu: the feeling of having already experienced the present situation. For some, like C-3P0, reliving things can be a drag, but that’s not the case for the robust redhorse! This native fish was lost to science for 100 years, only to be rediscovered in 1991!

And while it’s not quite the Galactic Republic, the Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee works diligently to ensure this species can thrive for decades to come (without having to rely on carbonite). 

“Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Chewie, we’re home. Han Solo 

Throughout miles upon miles of travel, there’s a comfort and belonging in returning home. Sometimes our ties to home are based on pure instinct, like in the case of loggerhead sea turtles. Did you know female loggerheads nest on the very beach they hatched on?

This worldly sea turtle is the South Carolina state reptile and one of the species frequently admitted to the Sea Turtle Care Center™! We treat sick and injured sea turtles from all along the South Carolina coast (and sometimes, from out-of-state).

“Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

“This is not going to go the way you think.” Luke Skywalker 

No matter how many animals you’ve encountered or learned about, there’s always more surprises in store. What creature do you think of when we describe it as having skin with color in shades of tan, orange and red, large golden eyes and a tall domed head? Be careful thinking the answer is Admiral Ackbar — that’s a trap! This smart cephalopod is actually the common octopus, but its adaptations are anything but ordinary. Boasting eight tentacles, three hearts, nine brains and one beak, these stealthy cephalopods make formidable foes in the ocean.

“Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

“Nothing is impossible.” General Leia Organa 

We’re used to watching movies and reading stories filled with fantasy. We know it’s not possible to lift boulders with your mind or fight aliens with a beam of light. Sometimes it’s even hard to find common ground with one another (looking at you from a sand-filled coastal city, Anakin). Despite the wild ups and downs of the world, we can all connect to water, wildlife and wild places. 

Whether you’re a Star Wars fan, more of a “Trekkie or have no interest in sci-fi at all, you’re bound to have an amazing adventure meeting the diverse wildlife of South Carolina at the Aquarium. Visit us today (remember, do or do not there is no try)! 


Published May 1, 2024

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