Featured Image Credit: BRONTE WITTPENN | Times
Pool noodles have more uses than we may have thought. Yes, they are great for lazy days floating in the pool or ocean, but the Florida Aquarium has recently figured out that they can save tiny animal lives, too.
These tiny lives are three baby sea dragons that arrived at the Florida Aquarium in April. Due to developmental issues they were unable to swim properly. The three new sea dragons were struggling to float due to low gas levels in their ‘swim bladders’. Without this gas to keep them afloat, sea dragons must use their small fins to try to swim, an exhausting task for these sea dragon babies. Eventually, they get so tired from constantly swimming to stay afloat that they sink to the bottom, exhausted.
Normally, leafy sea dragons rely on their ability to swim stealthily past their predators. Since they resemble seaweed, predators are often unaware of their presence. Sea dragons need to float above the seafloor to attain the appearance of floating seaweed and to eat plankton and other small snacks. Essentially, floating is essential for their survival.
The Florida Aquarium realized that this was an issue that needed to be solved. Their three sea dragons were unlikely to survive in the state they were in. If the sea dragons could just stay afloat, they would be able to eat and use their camouflage to dodge predators.
The scientists at the Florida Aquarium got creative and cut strips of neoprene foam from a wetsuit. These thin strips were then wrapped around each each tiny sea dragon. When they were let loose to test out their ‘pool noodles’, they were able float around easily.
As the babies grow, their ‘pool noodles’ need to grow with them. So, scientists continue to make more pool noodles that gradually get bigger. They are also working on a permanent prosthetic (pool noodle) for the sea dragons to wear once they are fully grown. Not to mention they are probably the first sea dragons to ever wear prosthetics. How cool is that?