IF YOU GO
When: 7-10 p.m., today, Feb. 14
Where: Tennessee Aquarium, 1 Broad St.
Admission: $15 members, $30 nonmembers (includes voucher for regular admission on another date)
While wandering exhibits in the Tennessee Aquarium, animals sometimes engage in, um, compromising activities, but generally speaking, the facility's staff isn't at liberty to explain what's going on.
Tonight, however, the gag order is on temporary hiatus.
To shed a little light on the reproductive habits of the animals in its collection and to encourage a new demographic to come in the doors, the Aquarium is hosting Uncensored, an after-hours, adults-only event during which all the hard questions can be put to staff members.
"Typically, when people come to the Aquarium, they get a third-grade experience because we have to keep everything G-rated," said Aquarium educator Thaddeus Taylor. "We thought there are probably a good number of people out there who are interested in knowing more or have questions in subjects we can't talk about on a day-to-day basis."
Taylor and fellow educator Carrie Howell will be on hand during the evening getting down to the nitty-gritty details about mating habits of animals such as rabbits, horseshoe crabs, sharks, sea stars and snakes.
In the process, Howell said, they hope to clear up some glaring misconceptions.
"When I was putting up posters for Uncensored, I had an older gentleman in a bar tell me that possums make babies by sneezing into their pouch," she said, laughing.
"Just because some of their [possums'] anatomy is surprising has led to some folklore that is absolutely inaccurate about their reproductive habits," Taylor added.
In addition to educational animal demonstrations, the evening will feature a DJ, cocktail bar -- each admission includes one drink ticket -- and a 20-minute loop of humorous documentary footage. The evening will conclude with a round of team trivia in the lobby and a drawing to win an Aquarium membership.
Uncensored isn't just about having fun looking under the sheets. As with all its special events, the Aquarium's ultimate goal is educational.
Reproduction isn't just a fact of life for biologists and animal caretakers; it's the primary goal of any facility that exhibits wildlife. By showing people that mating animals are engaged in a supremely natural act, Howell said, the Aquarium hopes to point out the success of its programs.
"We've had some success in breeding species that aren't doing so well in the wild," she said. "Reproduction is a big part of what we do here; it's just not something we get to talk about a lot."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@times freepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.