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Welcome to Mote!

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First opened as the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in Placida in 1955, the Lab was renamed to honor a major benefactor, William R. Mote.

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Dr. Eugenie Clark started shark research at Mote in 1955. From that initial program, the Laboratory and Aquarium has expanded into 25 diverse programs focusing on everything from tiny plankton to the ocean's top predator. Dr. Clark passed away earlier this year.

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Information about many aspects of the oceans is available at every turn. And if you can't find it written on the wall, staff and volunteers are excited to answer your questions.

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Mote's Aquaculture Park distributes sturgeon caviar to restaurants locally and statewide.

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Mangroves act as a habitat to more than seven different species.

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Don Marshall, a 20-year Mote volunteer. His favorite animal in Contact Cove? Sea cucumbers.

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A sea urchin in Contact Cove. Not as spiny as you might think.

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Sharks and rays swim together peacefully.

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Follow the path to the manatees and sea turtles. Residents include manatees Hugh and Buffett and Loggerhead turtles Shelley, Montego and Bellatrix.

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Intern Virginia Woo of the University of Calgary with Hang Tough. “It’s gratifying to see animals kept in captivity so happy,” she says.

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Microphones attached inside the aquarium allow visitors to get a visual and aural experience. (Pro tip: head over here during feeding times to hear Hugh and Buffett munching on lettuce!)

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Mote’s current popular exhibition is Oh Baby! Life Cycles of the Sea. The family-friendly educational exhibit explores ocean animal “romance” and the babies of many different species—seahorses, pipefish, garden eels, jellyfish and sharks to name a few.

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Shark egg sac.

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Here in Oh Baby! is the jellyfish reproduction area. Sometimes you'll have the opportunity to see researchers working with these delicate sea creatures through the glass.

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Garden eels slip in and out of these tiny caverns all day long as they wait for a meal to come by.

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These reef fish are a combination of Green Chromis (the green/blue ones), Striped Dottybacks and Orchid Dottybacks (the purple ones). Commonly, males choose a spawning site — perhaps in a cave or beneath a rock — then clean out debris and attract females. In some species, males approach females horizontally and quickly swim back to their spawning sites. Males may also signal jump, darting upward and back down, showing off their vigor to potential mates. Many kinds of fish also use color and even sound to attract mates.

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Baby potbelly seahorses born between May 4 and May 20. Mote will send them to other zoos and aquariums across the country for education and conservation, allowing the public to learn while lessening the need to collect them from the wild. The pink rings are props for these little seaponies to learn how to anchor themselves with their tails.

We sunshine-spoiled Sarasotans may not be used to all the rain we got this week, but as photographer Robert Castro proves with this week's collection of iShots, sometimes the gray days really can be beautiful.

All photographs by Robert Castro, enhanced with Instagram.

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