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Visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Recently we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.  We learned about marine life and conservation.

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Here’s a view of the Orca whale display near the Monterey Bay Aquarium‘s gift shop.

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There were many helpful displays and information boards to accompany almost all of the exhibits and tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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Here’s a Monterey Bay Aquarium information board about cephalopods, or the taxonomic group known as Cephalopoda.  Cephalopoda is the class of marine animals that includes the octopus, nautilus, squid, and cuttlefish.  Did you know that cephalopods actually belong to the phylum Mollusca?  That means they are closely related to other mollusks like bivalves and sea snails.

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Here is a photo of a squid from one of the tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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Also a member of the cephalopods is the nautilus.  Here is a Monterey Bay Aquarium display board educating the public about the nautilus.

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As for this Monterey Bay Aquarium cephalopod, it is a cuttlefish.  Its name belies the fact that it is a mollusc and not a fish.

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This Monterey Bay Aquarium information board informs folks about the octopus, another member of the cephalopod class.

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Cephalopods are known for having camouflage abilities.  This Monterey Bay Aquarium information board explained how the cephalopod camouflage strategy helps this class of marine animals survive. The display board even simulated how the camouflage patterns would look on humans.

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We next learned about jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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Jellyfish belong to the taxonomic phylum Cnidaria.  Jellyfish are noted for being the oldest living multi-organ animal around, having existed on our planet between 500 – 700 million years.  A group of jellyfish is called a bloom.  Here’s an example of a jellyfish bloom at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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Jellyfish are known for having stinging cells on their tentacles.  Some species of jellyfish also have stinging cells lining their mouths and stomachs.  And then there are certain species of jellyfish that are known to have stinging cells which are NOT harmful to humans.  For instance, the island of Palau in the Pacific Ocean has a lake full of jellyfish that are relatively innocuous to humans.  But at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the jellyfish on display have stinging cells that hurt humans, like this tank reveals.

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Another interesting thing we learned about jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is that they are radially symmetric, as this picture demonstrates.  Radial symmetry means that no matter which way you try to half a jellyfish along the main axis, it will still be symmetrically balanced.

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium also taught us about marine conservation.  In this photo we visited an ecosystem tank that provided a unique view of how things look like above the surface and below the surface.

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium is renowned for being the first aquarium ever in the world to successfully grow California Giant Kelp in aquariums.  Here’s a photo of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s kelp forest with some fish in it.

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Giant kelp is actually a species of brown algae.  It can grow up to 2 feet per day.  Some have measured as much as 175 feet in length!  Many marine animals depend on kelp forests for food sustenance and shelter.  Here’s a Monterey Bay Aquarium moray eel amongst the kelp.

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Giant kelp keep afloat thanks to gas-filled bladders.  Giant kelp are tough, but flexible, thereby making them able to move with the current.  Also, we learned from the Monterey Bay Aquarium that giant kelp don’t have a regular root system; rather, they depend upon holdfasts that anchor them to substrates. Here’s another Monterey Bay Aquarium photo of the kelp canopy with a fish hiding within it.

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And this is a leopard shark meandering through the kelp forest at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It was amazing being so close to it!  Leopard sharks are in fact harmless to humans, unless they are provoked. They are also amazing because their young hatch live within them and then are nourished by yolk sacs inside the mother.  Scientists have documented as many as 37 pups in a leopard shark litter.

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Meanwhile, we thought it was really cool that the Monterey Bay Aquarium had a kelp forest maze for kids to solve as a way of mimicking the intricacy of the kelp forest.  Here we are entering it.

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There were many different types of tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Here’s one of a school of fish.

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Here’s one featuring the coral reef.  There’s a Monterey Bay Aquarium starfish and a lionfish in it.  See if you can find them in the photo.  Starfish belong to the phylum Echinodermata, and they have tube feet that work thanks to a hydraulic system.  Lionfish have venomous fin rays that can lead to serious reactions in humans who are allergic.

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Here’s another view of a lionfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Lionfish belong to the genus Pterois. And, there are at least 12 recognized species of lionfish.  Both the common lionfish (P. miles) and the red lionfish (P. volitans) have become aggressively invasive species in US coastal waters.

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Luckily, we had the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s tank glass to keep us protected against the lionfish. Interestingly enough, the National Oceanic and and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began the “Lionfish as Food” campaign in 2010 as a means of controlling the lionfish population by encouraging its consumption.

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium likewise featured live marine birds.  Here’s one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium penguins.

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And, these are the Monterey Bay Aquarium puffins.  There are three different species of puffins:  the Atlantic puffin, the horned puffin, and the tufted puffin.  All puffins belong to the genus Fratercula, which translates from the Latin as “little brother” — because their black and white plumage appear to be reminiscent of monk robes.

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And, of all the sea critters we learned about at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which did we find to be the coolest?  The nudibranch.  Seen here in blue and orange, nudibranchs are soft-bodied gastropods.  Gastropoda is the taxonomic class that sea snails belong to.  However, nudibranchs do NOT have shells — hence their Latin etymology of “nudus” for “naked.” Sometimes nudibranchs are called sea slugs, but not all sea slugs are taxonomically related to nudibranchs.  An analogy is that Missouri denizens are called Americans, but not all Americans are Missouri denizens.  At any rate, nudibranchs have evolved defense mechanisms that concentrate toxins on their skin.  Their bright coloration consequently warns predators of their toxicity.

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We had a wonderful time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we learned about different marine organisms.  We especially liked the conservation lessons that taught us about the importance of caring for our world’s oceans.

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If there were ever the opportunity to spend a night at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we’d certainly take it.

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And, here’s our video from the Monterey Bay Aquarium that showcases the rhythm of ocean life:

Mariecor Agravante

Mariecor is a military veteran’s wife and a mother of two. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA), and has a strong California Grad School background in Organizational Leadership. Continually sought as a professional writer and freelance editor, Mariecor has been published in USA Today, Medium.com, Studio D Media (formerly Demand Media Studios), Toovia.com, CampTrip.com, and other media channels. She has several books under both her name as well as a pseudonym. To learn more about Mariecor Agravante, visit her website at www.WriterMariecor.com

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