Photos by Asia Morris.
The Aquarium of the Pacific will open two new summer exhibits, featuring species the aquarium has never displayed before, to the public on Friday. Horses and Dragons, a wondrous look into the world of about a dozen species of seahorses and seadragons, and Vanishing Animals, a call to arms to prevent ocean extinctions.
The two exhibits present highly contrasting themes, the glorious and the not-so-glorious, the glamorous leafy sea dragon with its leaf-like, papery appendages, juxtaposed with the neighboring aquarium exhibit where the once at-risk American alligator and hefty Atlantic cod remind you that the ocean and its creatures maintain a fragile existence with us humans consistently posing a threat to its healthy existence.
“Actions we take now can help reduce the rate of extinctions occurring on land and in the ocean,” said Jerry Schubel, aquarium president and CEO. “We hope this new gallery inspires people to get involved at a time that we have the opportunity to shape the future of life in the ocean.”
With Vanishing Animals, based on a 2015 study published in the journal Science by Dr. Douglas McCauley, the aquarium seeks to educate and call on its viewers to act now, in an effort to prevent permanent, damaging changes to our ocean, by displaying a number of endangered, once-endangered and currently at-risk species, including the “vanishing” Atlantic Cod and even a success story, that of the American alligator.
“In the past 500 years we’ve seen on land over 500 animal species go extinct, in the same time period in the oceans, we’ve only seen about 15 animal species go extinct, but things are changing very rapidly,” said McCauley
The Atlantic Cod is one of the species more vulnerable to becoming endangered featured in the exhibit. The fish had a major economic impact in several regions, with the collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery in 1992 putting 40,000 people out of work, according to the local institution. Hunting of the American alligator caused a steep decline of its population, however, conservation efforts over decades have been able to bring the alligator to a “least concern” status, ranked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“A lot of the wildness that was once alive on land has been lost for compromise, but that wildness is still alive in our oceans,” McCauley said. “The realizing of this presents an amazing opportunity, an amazing sense of hope, and yet it also highlights an amazing and important responsibility for us.”
“We’re hoping that you and all who visit will think about ways that we can protect these animals and conserve their habitats that they and other marine species depend upon,” Schubel continued. “It’s a particularly important opportunity to learn about conservation and the status of marine animals.”
The marine life featured in Vanishing Animals are not the only lives at risk to be shown at the aquarium this summer. Aquarium goers visiting the Horses and Dragons exhibit will get the chance to learn more about Syngnathids, a group that includes the sea moth, also known as Pegasus, seahorses, seadragons, pipefish and razorfish.
“Syngnathids have existed on the planet for about 50 million years, but face many environmental threats today. It is our hope that people walk away from this exhibition in awe of these beautiful animals and wanting to learn more about what they can do to help,” stated Dr. Sandy Trautwein, aquarium curator of fish and invertebrates.
Both Horses and Dragons and Vanishing Animals will be open until March 31, 2017. For more information about the aquarium and its summer exhibits, click here.